Ubuntu – Who is my neighbour? Sermon 14th July 2013

The story of the Good Samaritan I imagine is very well known to most of us. It’s probably one of the first stories we learn as children and one that we grow up with, we’re familiar to it, and we know what’s going to happen…

Our reading from the gospel today starts and ends with a question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’

‘Who is my neighbour?’

And we know the answer; the story for us has lost the shock factor that it would have had back when Jesus was telling it. This story really shook those who were listening because the hero of the story was not who they were expecting.

Jesus’ story had a twist, because the hero was not one of their own, the hero was not someone who was seen as good and honest. The hero was a Samaritan, a people who were separated from the main stream and looked down upon, they were the lowest, unclean and it was believed that no good could come from them. They were despised and written off.

We might question why Jesus would even mention the Samaritans when there was a good chance that his audience would just stop listening to him, why risk turning these people away?

Because they needed shaking up, Jesus needed to waken them up

Who is my neighbour?

These people would not even help one of their own in need. How could they just walk away from those who are suffering, and half dead, and let the stranger and the outsider, and even their enemies take care of them???

This is a question for us, ‘Who is my neighbour?’

Today we’re reminded of the law, reaching back from the Old Testament, and stretching into our lives today, we’re reminded ‘To love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.’

‘Who is my neighbour?’

When I started thinking about what I was going to talk about this morning, I picture came into my head that I’d seen on the internet a few weeks back. It was an image of a group of African children surrounded by the green forest, all sitting in a circle with their legs stretched out in front of them. I remember first seeing this picture and how simple, but how beautiful it was, and then I remembered the story that went along with it.

An anthropologist had been studying an African tribe to learn about their culture, he’d finished his study but had some time to kill while waiting for his lift to the airport.

He’d been surrounded by the people of this tribe for weeks, and especially the children, so he thought he’d play a game with them to help pass the time.

He’d brought lots of sweets with him to the village, and had a lot left over, so he put everything in a basket with a ribbon attached and put the basket under a tree. Then he called all the kids together.

He drew a line on the floor, and told them to wait for his signal. When he shouted “GO!” they were all to run and the first one to reach the basket would win everything inside.

He shouted “GO!”, but instead of all running, they joined hands, and ran together as a group towards the basket. When they got there they shared the sweets out equally and happily ate what they had.

After the weeks of study the anthropologist thought he knew everything there was to know about the tribe, but this behaviour surprised him, and so he asked them why they has all gone together especially when one of them could have had all the sweets to themselves.

A young girl replied “Ubuntu! (oo-boon-too) how can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?

Ubuntu is a term for humaneness, for caring, sharing and being in harmony with others and all of creation.

Ubuntu means, “I am because we are” and it’s the essence of living together as a community. I am, because we are. How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?

Who is my neighbour?

The parable of the good Samaritan allows us to think about who our neighbour is, but it also leads us to question what type of community that God has called us to be, and the type of society we want to live in?

And this, I think, brings us back to the law, ‘To love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.’’

What type of community do we want here in Llanbedr, Dyffryn and Talybont? Do we want one where we divide and separate? When we leave those in need for others to care for? Or do we take the spirit of Ubuntu, and follow the will of God for us to love.

“I am because we are”

When others are happy, we will be happy.

So let us be that loving neighbour to one another.

Let us help those in need and share the happiness of life with one another.

Let us make a difference in this world that tends to be indifferent.