Category Archives: Peter’s Weekly

Peter’s Weekly – extra 10/7/16

Dear friends,

I won’t be putting out a weekly for the next two weeks, so a bit extra now might be in order.

Today, we pondered the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

You’ll remember my puzzle: does it change anything in this story for you if the traveller in this parable – the one whom the robbers strip, beat, and leave half dead – if this traveller is Jesus?

Or maybe you’ve always thought this. But what does it do to the story for you to think of it this way – say if you are in a position to help someone in this situation, or if you’re in that situation as the one needing help?

I tried to work with these ideas in the sermon today, so I include it below for those who might be interested in exploring the idea further. And one other thing that I recommend highly is that you click the link to the YouTube video or its more fully explained original from Amnesty – it’s in the sermon text.

Every blessing,

Peter

Peter Balabanski
Parish Priest
Anglican Parish of Stirling

Luke 10.25-37    The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Sometimes I miss what’s right in front of me – miss it for years on end. And it’s usually to do with something I know really well, like the good Samaritan.

I’ll explain. Today someone asks Jesus a very important question – who is my neighbour. Jesus replies with a story of a traveller; a traveller on a dangerous road who gets beaten, stripped, robbed of all he has, then left for dead.

I know this story – we all know this story so well. Yet what I’ve missed over the years is this. Where was Jesus when he told this story? He told it when he was travelling a road which was filled with danger for him. Travelling this road could easily see him beaten, stripped, robbed and left for dead. And we all know that at its end, it did.

So Jesus is consciously the wretched traveller of this parable. He’s walking the road to Jerusalem with its terrible end weighing on his mind. Anything he says on this journey will number among the last words he’ll get to say. So every word must count. The message of this parable is, then, vital to his mission. Its message – loving-kindness can end feuds and bring reconciliation. Jesus tells a story to help heal the feud that surrounded him right there and then: the ancient feud between Jews and Samaritans; children of the very same God.

Over the past weeks, we’ve dipped our toes in the hot water of this feud. We’ve been focussed on the Elijah/Elisha stories. But I’ve tried to keep us up with this other story in our gospel readings; Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples have been travelling through Samaria on their way from Galilee up to Jerusalem. Maybe you’ll remember how very unwelcome they were made by the Samaritans. That was because Jesus and his disciples were headed to the place the Samaritans hated most; the rival Temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans worshipped God at Mount Gerizim – Shechem. They still do.

Two disciples even asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans for their lack of hospitality. That’s quite a feud – to be prepared to see a local population destroyed over a religious difference; the same tragedy we’ve seen at work in the lands of Islam in recent years. Jesus knows the antagonism there in the villages he visits, and he feels this poison festering even among his own followers – and all as he journeys to his death.

In the midst of all this, today a lawyer challenges Jesus with a cynical rhetorical question – And who is my neighbour? The lawyer’s trying to get Jesus to affirm his religious prejudices; who’s out and who’s in – the very division confronting Jesus in Samaria. And who is my neighbour? Jesus doesn’t angrily rebuke the man. Jesus responds with his best remembered parable. He tells this gentle parable which has the power to transform – to end the feud by revealing the emptiness of prejudice.

In this parable, the beaten up traveller is Jesus himself. I heard this in a sermon over 35 years ago, and it electrified me then. But now that I’ve finally noticed what I missed for so long – Jesus was himself on the road to his death – It’s even more amazing. And on the way, he felt the tribal hatred between his deeply loved children – some of the most corrosive hatred you can experience. And he responded from within this double pain with his healing story about a compassion which crossed the bridge and still stuns the world with its power.

What it makes me think of immediately comes from another Gospel – where Jesus describes the last judgement in Matthew 25, and people are welcomed into the Kingdom for the kindnesses they’ve offered to people in need.

35I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. … 40 Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. Mt 25.35-36, 40

The beaten up traveller of this parable turns out to be the one with the keys to the Kingdom. Jesus asks the lawyer who was neighbour to half-dead traveller. The lawyer concedes that the outsider – the despised Samaritan – was the one who showed mercy. Jesus tells the lawyer, Go and do likewise – be neighbour to someone you’d normally have nothing to do with.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7XhrXUoD6U      Or see this in its original context at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/05/look-refugees-in-the-eye/

We tend to read this only one way; make sure we’re kind to people in strife even where we’d normally despise them. And that’s partly right. We should show mercy to outsiders. That’s what Jesus has revealed: God does this for us. In Jesus’ death, God has come to where we are; reached out and taken hold of us. Through Jesus’ death, God has reached out to take hold of us outsiders. So in Jesus resurrection, God has given us new life too. God has shown us mercy.

But hang on – the mercy has come through the action of the one who suffers. Who brings on this kindness; challenges the feud to end; challenges the prejudice to be abandoned? It’s the one who suffers; it’s the injured person’s need. Help is needed; whoever it comes from, help is needed. There’s no option for being picky – beggars can’t be choosers, they say.

And that’s what’s behind the gospel too. We need mercy, regardless of who offers it to us, because of our mortality; our vulnerability; our need; our humanity; our pain. That’s what inspired the Samaritan’s mercy just as surely as all those weaknesses of ours are the occasion of God’s compassion for us. They are the means of our receiving God’s grace.

Who are you not prepared to receive help from? Is there anyone whose help you’d so despise that you’d rather suffer than receive their compassion? For the Jewish professor of New Testament at Vanderbilt University,  Amy-Jill Levine, the Samaritan would be a member of the Hamas militia.

Who is the Samaritan for us? Who would you least like to help you out of a terrible situation? Because that’s the gospel’s other great challenge to us today. Amen

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Peter’s Weekly 8/7/16

Dear friends,

Things are starting to move as we prepare for the hall building project to start soon. Rob Field has been very hard at work moving Rhododendrons from the path of the extension. Many thanks Rob!

Tomorrow at 2.00pm, there’s the Packing Day for Refugee Welcome Boxes in the Crafers hall. I know Katrina’s reminded us of this with the pewsheet email, but I understand some regulars won’t be able to join in this time. So if you have any time at all tomorrow, please come along.

On Sunday, we have the well-loved Parable of the Good Samaritan.

My puzzle this week has to do with a matter of perspective. Does it change anything in this story for you if the traveller in this parable – the one whom the robbers strip, beat, and leave half dead – if this traveller is Jesus?

Or maybe you’ve always thought this. But what does it do to the story for you to think of it this way – say if you are in a position to help someone in this situation, or if you’re in that situation as the one needing help?

Just wondering. I’ll be interested in your thoughts.

On Sunday, I’ll be at Aldgate and Crafers, and Jeff will be at Bridgewater. We’ll see you there

Every blessing,

Peter

 

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Peter’s Weekly 1/7/16

Dear friends,

We have two opportunities at a sausage sizzle and cake stall this Saturday – at our monthly market, or at the local polling booth. I know which one I prefer. J So once you’ve voted, pop along to the market for the real goodies – or some more if you’ve already indulged.

This Sunday is the beginning of NAIDOC week (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee). The ecumenical NAIDOC week service will be held this Sunday at 6.00pm at Pilgrim Church in the city, where Aboriginal Bishop Chris McLeod will be the preacher.

You can find out more about NAIDOC week here http://www.naidoc.org.au/about/theme-and-host-city and you may like to consider attending one of the local events marking this week in Adelaide http://www.naidoc.org.au/event/kungkarangkalpa-seven-sisters-songline.

Shekayla leaves today for her term holiday back in Papunya, so she’ll be observing NAIDOC week on her own country. She’s certainly been looking forward to it!

For this week, I’d like to share with you the attached, very moving re-write of Psalm 23 by Kaurna woman, Katrina Power. Katrina wrote this for her “beautiful, precious late Mother”, the very wonderful Alma Ridgway.

Katrina has since offered this Psalm in the face of other tragedies – she used it to pay tribute to Jo Cox the murdered British parliamentarian.

Vicky and I were deeply struck as we heard Katrina read it out as part of her welcome to country at the recent launch of Christobel Mattingley’s latest book, Maralinga’s Long Shadow. This is the story of Yvonne Edwards’ family’s suffering as a result of the British nuclear test programme on their country.

Katrina has given me permission to share this very special Psalm with members of the parish. Of course we would need her permission to show it to any other friends. I believe you will find it as moving and striking as I do.

This Sunday will be the last one where our readings include the Elijah / Elisha cycle of stories from 1st and 2nd Kings. I’ve certainly enjoyed looking at them again, and I hope you’ve also found them inspiring. Our lectionary has to cherry pick the highlights from the stories it tracks with. This is necessary if we are to finish services within a time frame that doesn’t require a visit to a chiropractor on the way home. J But we do miss some juicy details along the way. So I thought we’d have a quiz, and make sure you have a fuller picture of the story before coming to church this Sunday.

The set reading from 2nd Kings 5 only goes officially from verse 1-14 – I hope we can stretch it to verse 15. But we still miss out something wonderful by stopping there. As you’ll read below, the great Aramean (Syrian) general Naaman is miraculously cured of his skin disease after taking advice from Elisha and some of his servants. And as verse 15 tells us, he comes to believe, as a result, that the God of Israel is the only God there is.

But as we read on beyond the official lesson, we see Naaman try to offer Elisha thank-you gifts, which Elijah declines. But then he asks for something very strange; two mule-loads of earth to take home with him. The quiz questions are a/ why  does he want to take this soil home with him? and b/ what do you think he’ll do with it?    One clue he gives: it has something to do with him not worshipping the gods back home any more.

Then it goes on to the lovely bit where Naaman tells Elisha that as a general, he’s going to need to appear as if he’s worshipping the Aramean thunder god, Rimmon, in solidarity with his king. But he really won’t mean it – is that okay? Elisha tells him that will be fine. It’s gorgeous, isn’t it – your new God is broad-minded Naaman: ‘Go in peace’.

Anyway, here’s the passage, and I look forward to your quiz answers on Sunday.

2 Kings 5.1-19     The Healing of Naaman

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’ So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. And the king of Aram said, ‘Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’ So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’ 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’ 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.’16 But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing!’ He urged him to accept, but he refused. 17 Then Naaman said, ‘If not, please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt-offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord.18 But may the Lord pardon your servant on one count: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow down in the house of Rimmon, when I do bow down in the house of Rimmon, may the Lord pardon your servant on this one count.’19 He said to him, ‘Go in peace.’

 

On Sunday, I’ll be at Aldgate and Crafers, and Caroline will be at Bridgewater. We’ll see you there

Every blessing,

Peter

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