10th July 2022
I was listening to a podcast talking about museums and commenting that they were places where one could discuss the big questions. The question in today’s gospel is about the meaning of life. The lawyer phrases this by asking what he must do to attain eternal life, to live a life of total fulfilment.
Jesus sets out a parable and invites his questioner to consider what is the behaviour that marks out the neighbour?
The answer to the meaning of life is not 42 but love. When the way we live our life is so full of love – love for our neighbour and our creator – that there is no room for hate, or despair, or prejudice, or selfishness, or bias, or thoughtlessness, or dishonesty , or greed – then we experience eternal life.
On Friday I joined a prayer vigil outside the Central Hall at York University where synod was meeting to discuss, amongst other things, care for the environment. As delegates came past, we handed them leaflets calling on the Church of England to divest from fossil fuels and explaining why this was a crucial way of showing love for our neighbour – including those in the global south who are suffering greatly from the effects of the climate change crisis for which we in the north are the cause – and for our creator.
Some delegates responded with thanks and concurred that what was being asked was was right and proper and indeed was what they hoped the Church would do. Some hastily took the leaflet and walked on. Others averted their eyes so as not to have to engage at all.
I wondered what it was that prevented some of the delegates from recognising both the importance of tackling the climate crisis and the importance that the Church should be seen to be leading the way rather than supporting the industries that perpetuate the cause of the crisis. What was probably true for them, is probably true for many others who are not members of synod. Here are three possible reasons.
- The scale of the problem of climate change seems overwhelming. How is it possible that humans have either caused this rise in temperatures, or that humans can possibly limit any further in rises? How can humans affect weather patterns, change the climate or stop sea levels rising? How can humans ensure that everyone has access to food, fresh water and clean energy?
- How can we make a difference if other people/ other countries continue to invest in and use fossil fuels? What is the value of one person walking rather than driving, if the other 32 million cars remain on the road? What is the value of the UK swopping entirely to renewable energy if other countries continue to run coal fired power stations?
- How can we change the system? If the Church divests from fossil fuels, other investors will make up the shortfall – for without the profits of the oil companies, how will our economy finance pensions, insurance claims, mortgages?
These are real concerns but they are not insurmountable. There are enough wise and inventive people out there, and there are solutions but not always the commitment and determination to act upon them in a selfless way. Like the Samaritan in the story, we need to be brave, we need to be risk takers, and we need to step outside our comfort zone. Like the lawyer, we need not just to know the law, but to,act upon it. We need to love our creator with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbour as ourself.
This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,
“See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;
the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very centre of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said,
`Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
and Israel must go into exile
away from his land.'”
And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, `Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
“Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.
You say, `Do not prophesy against Israel,
and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’
Therefore thus says the Lord:
`Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
and your land shall be parcelled out by line;
you yourself shall die in an unclean land,
and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'”
1 God takes his stand in the council of heaven; *
he gives judgment in the midst of the gods:
2 “How long will you judge unjustly, *
and show favour to the wicked?
3 Save the weak and the orphan; *
defend the humble and needy;
4 Rescue the weak and the poor; *
deliver them from the power of the wicked.
5 They do not know, neither do they understand;
they go about in darkness; *
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 Now I say to you, ‘You are gods, *
and all of you children of the Most High;
7 Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, *
and fall like any prince.'”
8 Arise, O God, and rule the earth, *
for you shall take all nations for your own.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”