Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 30:9–14 | Psalm 25:1–10 | Colossians 1:1–14 | Luke 10:25–37
What a beautiful day to celebrate our first ever Churchyard Cemetery Service here at St. Luke’s: an opportunity to step outside our wall and pray together in the presence of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone on before us into God’s rest, and are now awaiting the fulfillment of the promise of resurrection. Our sisters and brothers of the faith, who have sought, in their own days, to love and serve the Living God, and also to love and serve their neighbours… whose lives and legacies can inspire us and give us strength to do the same today.
We gather in prayer, not only remembering our Christian brothers and sisters who have died, we also look forward in hope to being reunited with them again… as those separated just for a season, knowing we will one day share with them in renewed and restored fellowship and love… sharing in the eternal life of Jesus Christ the Risen Lord.
After all, at the heart of our faith is the message that God’s saving love endures all things… and that even death cannot keep us from the arms of our Saviour. The author and theologian Ben Myers captures this well when he writes:
“When we find our way to the living source of life, to Jesus himself, we discover that death is not really death anymore. Even in death our relationship to Jesus is not broken. Death becomes another place where we can go to find him. Wherever we go, he waits to meet us there.” And with our Saviour, waits our many sisters and brothers in Christ who have now come to know the fullness of the love of the Living God.
With this hope before us, we can carry on the work they have passed on to us… the work of sharing in God’s New Life in this community here in Gondola Point… To learn and put into practice what it truly means to love the Lord our God, with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind; and filled with the love of God, to love our neighbours as ourselves.
We know these familiar words: we’ve heard them and spoken them many times before. But as our Gospel reading this morning makes plain, just because we know the right words… that doesn’t mean that our hearts, and souls, and minds, and strength are inclined to live them out.
Love is much more than a motto. Love is the very heartbeat of God’s New Life. Not only love for the Lord, or for each other, but for all our neighbours.
Christ Jesus was asked “Who is my neighbour?” by someone who knew the right words, but not what they truly meant, and Jesus responds by telling a now familiar story that still offers a challenging message.
At the sight of someone in desperate need, a Priest and a Levite, two people whose whole lives were dedicated to serving God, and teaching others to stay true to His holy ways… walked by the wounded man without a second thought.
Yet a Samaritan, that is, someone from a different religious and racial community, who would have been seen as an obvious enemy, this Samaritan looks on the wounded man with mercy, and comes to his aid… not worrying about their many differences, he takes the man in his arms, and saves his life… going to extremes to meet his needs and bring him back to life again.
Christ turns the question of “Who is my neighbour?” around, and shows us, if we want to truly understand the love of God, it’s not about asking: “Who must I love? (And who can I safely ignore?)… but “How can I truly become this kind of neighbour to all those around me?”
In this story, Jesus unmasks a deeply uncomfortable truth: that often its those of us who claim to love the Living God, and follow His ways, that can be shockingly indifferent to the pain and the needs of our neighbours. Worse yet, sometimes we too can even become the cause of their hardship.
Sadly, when many of our neighbours today think of Christians or churches, this pain and indifference is what comes to mind… and sadder still, they have some good reasons for doing so. Along with the legacies of faithfulness, and mercy, and goodness, we Christians also carry the legacies of those who neglected their neighbours… of those who caused more harm than good… and we must not forget or dismiss the pain and destruction that has been done to our neighbours in the name of our Lord… the One who loves them, and gave His life for them.
But here too, God’s mercy comes to us in the words of Jesus. His words, as uncomfortable as they might be at times, always bring life and light: “Go and do likewise.” The point of His story is not condemnation, but invitation… calling us all to turn around and turn our eyes to our neighbours… to those all around us and share with them the mercy, fellowship, forgiveness, and care Christ offers to all. Jesus wants His Church to become experts at loving their neighbours… and by His Spirit at work in us, that is what you and I can become… leaving a legacy of love that will far outlast our lifetimes.
Today we’ve gathered together in prayer, surrounded by our brothers and sisters who once lived in, and served the Lord, and their neighbours, in this community. Today, Christ calls us to care for and love this very same neighbourhood. To “Go and do likewise” here, making God’s mercy known wherever it’s needed… so Gondola Point, and our wider world might share in His saving love forever.
With this hope, and with this calling, may we all “Go and do likewise.” Amen.
 Ben Myers, The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism, ed. Todd Hains, Jeff Reimer, and Sarah Awa, Christian Essentials (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 127.