Sermon for Trinity 14

‘You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (James 2: 8) Comment

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (James 2: 8) This is the theme of our Bible readings this morning and indeed a summary of Jesus’s teaching about how we should live. A lawyer knew that he should love God and love his neighbour but wanted to know ‘who is my neighbour?’ (Luke 10:29) Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 30-37) to answer that question; showing that our neighbour is anyone in need who wants to receive help and care. Jesus said to the lawyer and says to us ‘Go and do likewise.’ (v.37) ‘Go and do likewise.’

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (James 2: 8) James teaches about this in his Epistle making clear that faith by itself is not enough as we need to express our faith through acts of kindness, help and care. James wrote: ‘faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.’ (James 2:17) Jesus calls us to believe and ‘to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ (Ephesians 2: 10)

James was not pleased to see that rich visitors to the Church were given a much better welcome than the poor. He was shocked to see the favouritism and so he is reminding the people: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (James 2: 8). He implored them to stop showing favouritism but rather to treat all visitors from any background with the same welcome and respect.

Isaiah prophesies about a time when God will bring healing to the blind, the deaf, the mute and the lame. This will be a time of refreshment with streams in the desert and springs of water. (Isaiah 35:5-7)

Jesus wonderfully fulfils that prophecy; as we heard in our Gospel reading today. Jesus welcomed all who came to him and astounded the crowd who said: ‘He has done everything well: he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’ (Mark 7:37) Jesus’s conversation with the Syrophoenician woman shows his message of healing love is for all – for Gentiles as well as Jews. In his Commentary on this passage Tom Wright explains ‘the very odd exchange between Jesus and the woman. The tone of voice throughout, though urgent and (on the woman’s part) desperate, is nevertheless that of teasing banter.’ (p.95)

The book The Big Fisherman by Lloyd C. Douglas shows the excitement of that time when Jesus healed the sick; helping us to imagine the wonder and enjoyment as news of Jesus’s miracles of healing spread and more people brought their sick family and friends to Jesus to receive healing. Jesus was showing God’s love for them reminding us: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’

The four Gospels tell us about the wonderful healing ministry of Jesus. The Gospels contain many accounts of Jesus healing the sick, the blind, the lame, lepers and all who came to Him. Jesus shows the compassion and love of God in healing the sick. The book A Time to heal tells us: ‘Jesus comes into the midst of the world and heals with his hands. There are numerous stories to document this part of Jesus’ ministry, so that we have no excuse to miss the important point: in touching people’s lives with power and feeling, Jesus healed them by God’s love. Whether blind or lame, leper or paralytic, Jesus embraced their physical condition totally and without limit.’ Jesus showed God’s love and compassion in healing the sick.

Jesus healed all these suffering men, women and children and he healed many more.

John wrote near the end of his Gospel: ‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ (John 20:30-31) Jesus’ healing miracles show us God’s love and power and help us to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. It is good to read through the Gospels in the Bible and discover all the recorded healings of Jesus. How amazing that he healed many more people who are not recorded.

The Church today continues Jesus’s healing ministry – preaching the Gospel and offering prayer for healing through the Sacrament of Anointing the sick; when the outward and visible oil reminds us of the presence of the Holy Spirit and the inner grace of healing given to the sick. Fr Neil can anoint and pray for the sick so they receive the healing love of Jesus in this special way. Would you or someone you know like to receive this ministry?

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (James 2: 8). We are called to show our faith by works – what works can you do?

What are the ‘good works, which God prepared in advance for (you) to do’? (Ephesians 2: 10) Can you sing? Would you like to join the Choir? With the Covid restrictions lifting, would you like to join the serving team? It would be great to have two acolytes serving at every Mass as well as an altar server, thurifer and boat girl. Would you like to help clean the Church? Could you arrange the flowers? Would you like to read at Mass? Would you like to prepare and lead our Prayers and Intercessions at Mass?

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ Who would like to come with me into Care Homes in the Parish to talk and listen to the residents and help when I lead Services? Who will continue this ‘good work’ next Summer? Is the Lord calling you to be an Anna Chaplain or an Anna Friend?

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ Would you like to prepare and serve coffee and biscuits after Mass? Will you welcome new people who visit our Church?  ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ How will you be actively involved in the Church? Would you like to learn to ring the bells? Would you like to join the Mothers’ Union and with them help people in our local community and further away? Would you like to help with the Street Pastors, the Winter Night Shelter project for the Homeless in Maidstone or help at the Food Bank?

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ Will you share your faith with family, friends and people at work who wonder why you come to Church on Sunday? Will you tell them how knowing Jesus gives you peace and sustains and helps you through the sorrows and joys of your life?

In the August Parish Magazine we read in the ‘Quote Corner’ a quotation from St Ignatius of Antioch: ‘The fruit of faith should be evident in our lives, for being a Christian is more than making sound professions of faith. It should reveal itself in practical and visible ways.’

We have the wonderful time of Benediction at the end of Mass, when we meet with Jesus in His sacramental presence. In the silence let us worship Jesus and be open for His calling to the practical and visible ways that the Lord is calling us to serve. How is Jesus calling you to love your neighbour?

I end with a prayer of Saint Ignatius of Loyola:

Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen.