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Sermon by Archdeacon Thami Tembe (Luke 10: 25-37)
I greet you all on this 5th Sunday after Pentecost, the fifteenth Sunday of the year.
And today we celebrate the day of all Seafarers.
The gospel reading for today is the gospel according to St Luke, chapter 10:25-37. I will read for you verse 36 and 37, which reads thus: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed his mercy.” Jesus Christ said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Today, people of God, we are celebrating Sea Sunday. It is the day on which we remember and pray for seafarers and their families.
It is the day when most Christian communities give thanks to God for all seafarers who sail the high seas transporting goods all over the world. On this day, as the church of God, we give thanks for seafarers’ lives and work and we ask God to continue to bless them. On this day, people of God, we are also praying for all those who support and work with seafarers. Chaplaincy to seafarers, people of God, is ministry; it is not work. It is not about climbing up and down gangways and entering mess rooms of different vessels, distributing pamphlets and Bibles. It is about ministry. It is a ministry that deals with people as a whole in their work situation.
When one does ship visits you open yourself either to be trusted, loved, ignored or not taken seriously by the men and women of the sea when you enter their vessel. It is a ministry that opens or closes doors of friendship the minute you enter that vessel. In today’s gospel reading we hear about Jesus talking about the parable of the Good Samaritan. And in verse 36 and 37 he says which of these showed good friendship. In this verse, people of God, we hear Jesus Christ saying which of these three was a good neighbour to the man that was hurt. Then at the end he says “Go and do
The words of Jesus Christ remind me that in life we need to reach out to each other with compassion. When we minister to seafarers we encounter many types of situations that seafarers live in. Most of these situations we are not used to. We encounter situations when salaries are not paid for months. We encounter situations of unsafe working conditions, and a lack of healthy food supply. We encounter the situation where vessels will be arrested and abandoned and owners and seafarers suffer. We encounter situations of long hours of work without breaks that leads to stressful situations. We encounter situations of fighting on board and many more situations. In those situations we need to come as good neighbours to bring about peace where there is discord. That is the situation in that world of the world that we call the sea.
When you come across these situations you need to be a neighbour to the seafarers who are away from their homes, who know no one in that country except the missions. You need to be the hope in these hopeless situations. We do all these things, people of God, because we are commanded by Christ Jesus, because we are commanded to do likewise.
If you look at the history of the setting about which Jesus Christ was talking, he was talking about the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Those roads were long and lonely. They were a favorite spot where robbers would attach people and kill them. People of God, as a seafarer once said to me, “as seafarers we are not loved by anyone. Our families don’t love us or care about us; they only care about the money we give them. Ship owners do not love us or care about us; they only care about their vessels. Agents too – they don’t like us and they don’t care about us; they only care
about cargo that the vessels carry. Even the sea don’t like us or love us because at any time it feels like it it swallows us and we perish. But when we see you as chaplains we see love and hope.”
People of God, we do what Christ says we must do and do what we must do because we love the sea. In this parable, people of God, Jesus Christ shows us three types of people and their response to the person who fell into the hands of robbers, who was beaten, who was left half dead.
Those three people were a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan. What I am going to say now I know you have never heard before. The priest was probably on his way to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple. He thought the bleeding man by the side of the road was dead. This explains why he walked away. He did not run away. He knew that if he touched a dead person he would become ritually unclean and would be temporarily banned from the Temple. So the priest chose not to become involved not because he didn’t want to get involved; it was because of the history and the culture.
How many times has your history and culture made you who you are? How many times has your religion pushed you from who you are to the community? How manytimes have you ignored your responsibilities because of your religion? The second person, people of God, was the Levite. He was something like a modern deacon in a modern church of God. If is not clear why the Levite walked away. Perhaps his reasoning was the same as the priest’s reasoning. Or perhaps he feared the man was only pretending to be hurt so to rob him. Yes, the Levite too decided not to get involved.
Maybe the culture again and the religion and things that they do to each other made him not to get involved. Finally, the Samaritan saw the man and he wanted to help. Jesus Christ here, people of God, is making a Samaritan a hero of this parable and many people listening to him talking were shocked. Why did Jesus Christ make the Samaritan a hero in this parable? Many people shunned the Samaritans; they shunned them because they
thought they were renegades who had compromised their faith for many things.
Samaritans were even banned from the Temple; their religious contributions were refused and their testimony was not accepted even in a court of law. Samaritans were treated as nobodies but Jesus Christ knew what he was doing by making a Samaritan the hero of the day in this parable. He wanted to teach his Jewish friends and listeners that love knows no colour, love knows no boundaries and love reaches out to anyone in need. Just go and do likewise.
Love, people of God, does not walk on by; its stops to help, it gets involved regardless of who the person is. That is what we do as chaplains when we minister to the men and women of the sea. We don’t care about colour or creed. We care for them as people, as people of God who need help.
This parable invites us to look at this parable in relationship with others. It invites us to ask ourselves a simple question. How do we respond to people in need? How do we respond to friends in need? How do we respond even to our enemies when they are in need?
People of God, today’s parable does not invite us to go out, it does not invite us to risk our lives and become heroes, but it invites us to reach out, it invites us to risk our pride and become human beings and stoop to the level of people in need. So I ask you, do you ever stoop to the level lower than the level you put yourself in? Today’s gospel again invites us to ask people around us if we can help. People of God, the first thing we ask is how can we help. Are you paid, how long is your contract, are you enjoying your work? We are taking the love of Christ to those who are unloved.
In this parable, people of God, Jesus Christ asks us to care for one another unconditionally. Heartless and violent men prayed on this man and they left him half dead; but the comes to the rescue, he even paid for his stay in a hotel. Can you do that to people who are not the same as you? Can you do that to a person who is of another religion? Can you do that to a person whose class you feel is lower than yours?
So people of God, we are called to minister. We are called to be light to seafarers in their darkest hours. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho represents the road of life that we encounter wherever we are. Jesus Christ is saying to us today go and act like the Samaritan. Do to others what you would love people to do to you. Move out of your comfort zone and serve because we are serving Jesus Christ who served. Do what others are afraid to do. Do what others are not comfortable to do. Just do what God has called you to do. Love and serve one another.
From today, people of God, I want you to ask yourselves this question, what kind of a neighbour am I in this parish, what kind of a neighbour am I in my workplace, what kind of a neighbour am I even at home? Let every little action shape our character. In life everything goes smoothly and sometimes unexpected things happen. The important thing is how to turn a problem into opportunities and help others. Reach out and help someone.
I want you to ask yourself this question in closing. If you were on trial for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you or would you be discharged because you don’t have the values of Christians. So go and do likewise, so says Christ.
Grace and peace. Amen
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