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good morning friends how you doing today my name’s alex I’m one of the pastors here if you’re visiting it’s great to have you with us if you’re visiting us on volunteer sunday well I guess I kind of apologize I don’t even know what to say this is just this wonderful day of not just giving volunteers a day off it’s not that we think you need a day off it’s it’s just that we want to highlight just how much south functions around a group of people coming to serve together it takes about 80 people to make this church function every week and today we did it on about six or seven and you just came here and it felt less we got here this morning I was like I just miss a people our community and so as we move towards rally day it’s a great impetus maybe to say I’d love to get involved in a new way my own wonderful daughter elena who sat on the front row here today I told her today there is no kids ministry and she said what and then she said

but I can still get my hot apple cider drink and I said no there’s no one to do it and she said why volunteers why not knowing it wasn’t your fault but she’s now signed up next week she’s she’s on one of the teams and and you can be on a team too so if you’re sat here if your kids are in the service with us do not worry about them making a noise I would just keep going anyway this is supposed to be just a little bit chaotic so we can just feel what it is like when we don’t have all of us pulling together so thank you for participating with us we’re in a series called what if we it’s a vision series where we’re shaping the idea of what kind of community is south fellowship church made to be who are we we have this big thing on the wall when you walk in living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus some of you even wear it on your wrists as well one day someone will come and say I got it tattooed on me somewhere I’m like that’s great

that’s a great step to take if you’re thinking about it absolutely but how how do you take the teachings of someone like Jesus over three years and break them down to just this is living in the way of Jesus and the heart of Jesus there is just so much this is the most compelling teacher in history and so we landed for this particular series in this particular time on this passage in a book called matthew one of the biographers of Jesus life one of the writers of the gospel if you have a paper bible in front of you if you want to grab your phone your ipad whatever you have if you don’t have anything that’s fine I’m going to read matthew 22 34 to 40 and we’re going to keep unpacking this hearing that Jesus had silenced the sadducees the pharisees got together one of them an expert in the law tested him with this question teacher which is the greatest commandment in the law he’s asking Jesus Jesus would you break down these 613 laws these

39 books and give us the the most significant thing and Jesus says love the lord your God with all your heart with all your soul with all your mind this is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like it love your neighbor as yourself all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments let’s pray together Jesus as we look at this book that you’ve given us this book that we believe as followers of yours that you breathed in it’s alive in a different way would you use it to speak to us would you use it to mess with us to transform us whether we’re young whether we’re old wherever we are in that journey of faith would you be transformative in our lives would you ask us to do hard things and give us the strength to do those hard things amen okay so we just read this passage let’s go over it again hearing that Jesus had silenced the sadducees and the pharisees got together two religious groups that would argue back and forth with each other one of them’s asked a question Jesus has answered the next group now ask a question one of them an expert in the law tested him with this question teacher which is the greatest commandment in the law and that’s what we unpacked last week this first idea love God with all your heart and what we wrestled with for this first week was this the commandment isn’t just try hard to love God that isn’t the purpose of it really where we spent most of the service unpacking was this idea it asks us to know that we are loved by God and then to reflect that love back to him it starts with the incredible amount that God is passionate deeply about you wherever you are in your journey whatever your history looks like the God of the universe loves you and we’re invited to to to know that and to reflect it back and then the second one love your neighbor as yourself Jesus picks two of the most basic commandments in jewish life maybe the first two that somebody would know and then definitely the first two that

have this idea that love is an imperative it’s something that you’re supposed to do love God with all your heart love your neighbor as yourself but the question we might ask is this what does it mean to love your neighbor when Jesus says this what does he mean by that yes definitely it’s back from an older book it’s from a book called leviticus chapter 19 verse 18 and it’s in the middle of all these different laws about the types of clothing that you should wear about sexual ethics all those different things it’s in the midst of this passage that has all these complicated things in and in the middle of it there’s like this nuclear bomb love your neighbor as you love yourself now to a person three and a half years ago reading that the first implication would probably be this love the person around you love the person who is like you love the person that you live in community with though there were some other passages that would maybe say

people might join your community they might be foreigners there was a provision for those people but for the most part for a jewish person three and a half thousand years ago when they heard love your neighbor it meant love your fellow jew love the person close by love the one who is like you so does that what Jesus means when Jesus unpacks that 1500 years later does he just mean love the person like you now if we were just left with this passage we might say absolutely that’s maybe the reasonable context but fortunately for us this isn’t the only time that this conversation comes up so we’re going to jump from matthew to another biographer of Jesus life a guy called luke as a community we just spent 10 weeks with luke so we’re pretty familiar with who he is and his language but if you’re not that’s fine again luke is a biographer of Jesus life very smart probably a doctor has done all of his research and he records this

conversation just a little bit differently perhaps it’s a different conversation but the theme at least is the same luke chapter 10 verse 25 on one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus teacher he asked what must I do to inherit eternal life that wouldn’t be a particularly unique question in the first century what it doesn’t mean is what do I need to do to go to heaven when I die that’s probably not the context at all for a jewish person it was probably something like this we have a problem our land is not our own people have overtaken it we have these overlords these romans we see them on the streets what is God going to do about that he’s got to fix that at some point and how do I get to be a part of it that that’s probably the sense of his question and so Jesus responds what is written in the law he replied how do you read it in this version it’s not the teacher asking what’s central to the law in this version it’s

Jesus asking that question how do you understand the law and incredibly this young man he gives Jesus the same answer Jesus has given to other people love the lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind love your neighbor as yourself you have answered correctly unsurprising that Jesus says you’ve answered correctly it’s the same answer that Jesus has given to this question in the past do this and you will live but here the conversation it just keeps going the teacher has a follow-up question but he wanted to justify himself so we asked Jesus and who is my neighbor I suspect that under this question is this idea Jesus how narrow can I make this I don’t want this to be broad I don’t want this to include lots of people how narrow can I make it and I would suggest you and I we’ve done the same thing at different points because it’s easy to love the neighbor that cuts your grass for you

when it needs cutting it’s harder to love the neighbor who dumps his grass clippings and your corner of the yard there’s always that tension between different neighbors it’s easy to love this guy because we all want neighbors like him it’s harder to love this guy I’m a huge simpsons fan I know that’s not normal in the evangelical community I love the simpsons it’s been on for 35 years and I think homer is just the most intriguing character but would I want him as a neighbor no he’s terrible as a neighbor he torments his neighbors it’s easy to love the neighbors that are like us the neighbors that are good it’s not so easy to love the neighbors that are not like us that are different from us that complicate the relationship I would suggest that the heart of this question is Jesus how narrow can I make this don’t make me love people I don’t want to love tell me just to love the people that are like me the people that I have things in common with

and Jesus as he so often does in difficult questions decides to tell a story and to start with what I’d like to give you is I’d like to give you that story from the focal point of a person who we don’t usually focus on a man wakes up one morning it’s still dark outside he has to get up early and so he edges past his wife and his kids trying desperately not to wake them he stumbles around for the few items of clothing that he has and he begins to load his pack animal because he has an 18-hour journey ahead of him he has to travel from jerusalem to jericho and it’s not the miles that bother him it’s the journey itself because this road is not a good road he’ll be descending from about 2500 feet above sea level from jerusalem with its plentiful war to its fertile land and he’ll be making his way down to jericho which is 800 feet below sea level and as he makes this journey the road will slowly become harder and harder and harder and this road again just has

a bad reputation so as he makes this journey all of his senses are tingling all of his awareness is aroused and and during this journey he has this moment where as the ground starts to get harder he hears like a shuffling like rocks moving around and that’s the last thing he remembers before he wakes up in a bed he has this moment of relief a moment of checking for injuries and find himself finds himself bandaged all over himself he has this moment of panic where he’s a poor man and realizes he doesn’t have any money to pay for an innkeeper to look after him and so he begins to try and get out of bed to gather his few possessions that he can see around the room and the innkeeper walks in and says you don’t need to worry somebody brought you to us they’ve paid your bill they told us they would pay whatever costs there were just relax just rest go back to sleep and the man rests back on the pillows with his word of breathe thanks to

the God of the universe and the person the unknown person that left him there to be cared for this is the context that might be around the man in the story who we know nothing about we don’t know whether he’s a good man we don’t know whether he’s a jewish man we’re left in this mystery but this man is attacked on the road in Jesus story a man was going down from jerusalem to jericho when he was attacked by robbers this road that he would have taken is about 18 miles long it’s a 10 hour journey and it was known as the way of blood or the way of the red this is a little part of it and so many people were attacked in this road it had this fearsome reputation so for Jesus first listeners when he says the man was on a road from jerusalem to jericho for them there was this moment of wait what’s gonna happen then because there’s always a story about this road we’re left with this tension like what’s gonna

happen in this story about this terrible road and sure enough he was attacked by robbers when they stripped him of his clothes beat him and went away leaving him half dead in reality it doesn’t matter at this moment whether he is still breathing not even if he comes to he’s in the middle of nowhere there is no water it’s a desert he has no chance of surviving if he comes around and yet he lies there and we’re introduced to several characters that come his way a priest happened to be going down the same road and when he saw the man he passed by on the other side now we have probably a tendency 21st century westerners a tendency is probably this to assume that priest and pastor are somewhat sort of synonymous and I don’t want my reputation tarnished by this guy there is maybe a truth that most people go into pastoral ministry of some kind because they care about people they want to help that wasn’t

necessarily true of a priest in the first century it was a family lineage it was a privilege it was something you inherited there is nothing necessarily to say this priest is more ethical than anybody else and the same is true of the levite that would follow first a priest comes along passes by and then we’re told so too a levite when he came to the place and saw him passed by on the other side of the road two religious figures two people that we assume are jewish probably like the man on the road they walk past him and leave him where he is now for them there was probably an ethical sort of tension there there’s this passage back in the old testament again if you’re not familiar don’t worry but it’s a book called numbers and it says this whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days so what do these men do supposing they’re on their way to jerusalem they’re supposed to participate in temple activity if

they touch him they can’t do that they can’t do their jobs it’s maybe some of the tensions some of you guys have felt recently with all of the contact rules around coronavirus am I supposed to quarantine now am I supposed to not go anywhere now all those different things that come up this is a similar tension to what these guys are processing now what do we do what if he’s dead what does that mean what if he’s not does that mean we have to stop what we’re doing and and help him there is a load of tension for them around this and Jesus masterfully creates this story and for every jewish person the story can only have one conclusion because this is not a new story perhaps you’ve heard the idea that that sort of fairy tales comic patterns all those different things jokes they tend to revolve around the number three so think three little pigs there’s the three pigs and think about ever other fairy tales you can probably track with these

different ideas of different sort of stories jokes often work around three so to help us understand this I’d like to introduce you to this english concept of joke called the englishman the scottish man and the irishman some of you may be familiar with it but this is a repeated pattern and every nation tells it differently depending on their nation so the englishman is usually figured as being somewhat uptight sort of repressed all of these different things that’s broken about our sort of tendencies the scottish man is usually presented as as cheap he doesn’t like to part with his money and the irishman is usually presented as daft and there’s no truth in the stereotypes yet they exist historically so this joke is a good example would look something like this during the second world war an englishman a scottish man and an irishman they walk into a barn and hiding from the nazi soldiers they decide to climb into some sacks

lying on the ground so the englishmen scottishment irishmen each find a sack and the nazi soldiers walk in looking for some opposing soldiers and they walk up to the first sack and they kick it and the englishman says woof woof woof and the nazis say oh there’s dogs in the sack and they leave it be the next one walks up to another sack kicks it and the scottish man inside goes and the soldiers say well there’s kittens in that sack and they let it go now as much as we know nazis are awful I don’t know if they would leave puppies and kittens sitting in sacks this seems like a flaw in the joke but finally the man walks up to the last sack and he kicks it and the irishman inside says potato potato potato potato potato this joke is part of like a pattern of jokes that everybody knows where it’s going they always know what the kind of result will be this story follows one of those patterns for every jewish person they would have heard a story

like this at some point and it always goes like this there’s always a priest then there’s always a levite and then finally there’s a hero and that hero almost without exception is an ordinary jewish person the hero is joe the plumber the hero is the everyday guy the hero is the crowd so as Jesus listeners are listening in on this conversation there’s this moment where they’ve been for a priest and they’ve been through a levite and the thing is coming the story is coming to his conclusion and the hero is around the corner and it’s got to be an everyday jewish person surely except for Jesus it isn’t Jesus is being intentionally provocative for this crowd he’s trying to teach them something but a samaritan as he traveled came where the man was and when he saw him he took kitty on him to understand some of the the what’s going on under the surface here it’s important to know who these samaritans were and you may not be familiar with that a

samaritan was essentially a brother of a jewish person the the israeli nation had been split into two there was israel there was judah israel had gone into captivity about 700 bc judah about 587 but with very different journeys the nation of israel had been taken off into captivity and other nations had been moved into their land and the people that were left had intermarried with all of the people were there and so to the jewish people in jerusalem who went away and miraculously came back pretty much as they were this group of samaritans they were the failures they were the ones that didn’t stay pure they’re the ones that didn’t follow the laws that God had said about marrying other nations when Jesus says samaritan it’s like those guys are never the heroes they’re the bad guys of all our stories Jesus has been provocative when he says samaritan when a samaritan is the hero every jewish person listening says wait that can’t

be right and yet in Jesus story he is the hero and the whole passage seems to turn on this one freeze he took pity on him the greek word there is splag on it’s very hard to say but it’s this idea of inner most part some compassion was moved within him there was some kind of inspiration that said you need to care for this person it’s like he allowed his humanness to come to the surface the priest the levite they had too many things to do there was all these compelling reasons they shouldn’t act for this person he tapped into what made him human and chooses to act and then Jesus as he often does takes a story and then gives it meaning then starts to unpack it for the crowd that are listening so what what is his meaning which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers taking aside whether neighbors the person who’s like you or whatever who acts like a neighbor who does the

neighborly thing is his question and look at the man’s answer he can’t even bring himself to say the word samaritan it’s that man over there that the other guy the outcast the the nobody the guy we don’t want to be the hero won’t even use the term and Jesus tells him you go and do likewise for a jewish person to hear the samaritan is the hero go and act like him would have been mind blowing Jesus told him go and do likewise so a question for us as we unpack this today as we seek to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus as we seek to take this and apply in our lives might be what did the samaritan do I just think there’s loads of things that he does that are just compelling look at this list he allowed himself to be moved by pity he chose to act in mercy he loved without the aid of government or organization he loved when it was somebody else’s responsibility but there’s more than just that he loved at the risk of his own

life imagine for a samaritan to see a jewish person lying on the side of the road you go over to help them and then a traveling party of jewish people comes around the corner who’s the likely suspect who do you blame who does the mob come after this samaritan he risks his own life to make this decision he loved at a cost to himself he loved when he was busy with a task he had so many other things perhaps to be doing just like the other two characters and yet he loves anyway you might say that the parable of the good samaritan challenges the length through lens through which we see those around us it forces us to acknowledge that we instinctively love those who look act talk and think like us Jesus suggests that following him involves being a neighbor to the one who is unlike us who might even appear as our enemy if the jewish concept of neighbor was the one who is like us Jesus concept of neighbor is the one who is

unlike us as well and maybe you’ve got to experience this type of thinking a few years ago I ran out of gas now the debate in our house as to whose fault this was still rages and you guys can speak in as you feel free is it the responsibility of the person who ran the gas so low that you couldn’t get to a gas station or is it the responsibility of the person who happened to be driving when the car stopped and I’m sure we all have a whole bunch of thoughts as to who that was but I was the person driving and so I got to be the person that went wandering off to try and find a gas tank and then some gas to put in it and then make my way back to the car and as I did walking down the side of the street I discovered something this is no longer the universal sign for hitchhiking because I just got ignored by every single person on the road finally made my way to the gas station got myself some gas and began the long hike backwards again the thumb

did not work until this guy turned up after I’ve been passed by many people I had someone stop and help me and offer me a lift what was beautiful in this moment was this was a person who did not look like me did not seem like me and yet this was the person that chose to stop and help me and what I loved is this as we drove along we started to unpack like just I said thank you for stopping like I just I really appreciate it I’d been waiting for a while and nobody else had stopped and we started to unpack why he stopped and he just said this in very simple words well you needed help and if you see someone who needs help the right thing to do is to help them right I was like this guy he gets it yes that’s exactly what we would say and as we unpack further this samaritan he loves the one who was different to him he did what he was able to do and then startlingly as we unpack it from the small the micro to the big picture and the macro

he moves towards reconciliation rather than towards revenge a samaritan person might just say this is a great chance to take out some anger on a jewish person that’s that’s in a place of struggle and yet he choose to move towards this big picture of reconciliation think about how poor this jewish writer unpacks this as he starts to figure out what exactly Jesus death and resurrection have done he says this for christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died and he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again so from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view that we once regarded christ in this way we do so no longer therefore if anyone is in christ the new creation has come the old is gone the new is here all this is from God who reconciled us to himself through christ and gave us the ministry of

reconciliation that God was reconciling the world to himself in christ not counting people’s sins against them and has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation it seems like as paul unpacks this Jesus story he says God is putting back together all the brokenness in this world that starts with the small thing people like you and I but it gets bigger and bigger and bigger this story is a microcosm but it’s this beginning of a healing of a fractured relationship that that is about nations and not about individuals this is what martin luther king jr said about this passage on the one hand we’re called to play the good samaritan on life’s roadside but that will only be an initial act one day we must come to see that the whole jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway true compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar it is not

haphazard and superficial it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring in Jesus mind and paul’s mind it seems like this whole story is about healing about something new happening in the world but it begins with acts like this samaritan’s act Jesus is interested in both a reconciled world and in individual acts of mercy that cross boundary lines and challenge our perception of neighbor the one is not possible without the other acts of mercy and kindness that cross boundaries are a small start on that long road towards reconciliation in the jewish mind it might be that the neighbor that was the one that was like you in Jesus mind it includes the one who is not like you and I and so there’s a question that I have a question that I’ve wrestled with myself why so often do I not act like this if Jesus simply says this is the samaritan this is what he did go

and copy him what are all the tensions about why why do I struggle so much to find space for that why don’t we do what he did in those moments that we don’t and to help us unpack that I’d like to tell you another story this is a picture of rob hall it’s a bad picture because it was taken on the top of everest rob hall took more people to the summit of everest than any western person in history he went five times himself and during one of his expeditions in 1996 as he was making his way to the service he had set a parameter for how long this expedition could go on at one o’clock everyone was supposed to turn back it was just a way of keeping everyone safe and yet at four o’clock rob is still trying to get his group of climbers to the summit something’s happened in his mind the oxygen deprivation of being at 28 000 feet has got to him and he’s making decisions that on the ground he would never ever make and climbing everest is

notoriously dangerous because at 28 000 feet in what’s called the death zone you can’t survive for longer that oxygen level the oxygen is maybe a third of what it is at sea level these are some pictures this is the everest balcony as people are making their way up and look at that line it’s like looking in a supermarket it’s like costco on saturday afternoon this is what climbing everest looks like now this is the hillary step the last bit right before the summit and there’s people juggling to get past each other there’s all these different things going on and in 1996 as this storm came in multiple groups get caught near the summit and multiple people die and there’s a story of one group a reporter asks them they had climbed the north side which is the more dangerous room and as they climbed they’d walked past a group that had come short of oxygen that were disoriented and didn’t know what to do next and they walked past them on the way

to the summit and then on reaching the summit they walked back down found them unconscious and walked past them again as the reporter tried to unpack just what had gone wrong on this day when so many groups had become stuck and so many groups had died he asked the question of this group why why didn’t you stop and help them on the way up and certainly why didn’t you stop and help them on the way down and the group leader’s answer was this there is no morality at 28 000 feet there’s no morality at 28 000 feet if you stop and help you risk your own life you risk your team’s life if you stop you can no longer breathe it’s all measured in one breath and one foot and all of those different things and there’s no morality at 28 000 feet this was the group leader’s answer to why he didn’t stop and help this group and I just wonder for you and I in these moments where we feel like we’re too busy or there’s too

many things going on or we can’t stop and help is it perhaps that we feel like we are living at 28 000 feet and maybe if we’re honest our summit whatever we’re trying to achieve in that moment or with our lives in general is it just too important to us do we have these opportunities to stop and we’re like I’m just gasping for breath I’m just trying to survive I’m just trying to get through and the idea of carrying anyone else’s burden of stopping for anyone else it just seems too much are we just so focused on achieving that goal that we say I can’t stop I’ve got other things to do I just wonder if that is some of our attention if we’re honest and if that’s true I guess the final question I have for us this week is this what do we do now what would Jesus have us do if he’s his message is act like this samaritan this is what he did go and copy him what do you and I do as we go away this sunday now on one hand an easy answer would just

be to say we should try harder now there is truth to the idea this is a bob goff quote we don’t always get to pick the parable we’re living but we get to pick who we are in the parable there is this idea that we make a choice we decide do we want to be the samaritan do we want to be the other two characters and yet I don’t think for many of us we would say the problem is we don’t try it’s those other things it’s that I’m just trying to breathe I’m just trying to get through life just trying to survive and I wonder if there’s something more profound that we could stand by this and as I wrestled with this myself this week as I ask myself questions about my own life about this text about what God has for us as a community about how we unpack what it is to live in the way of Jesus and the heart of Jesus I was reminded of last week where we said loving God is not about trying harder to love him it’s about realizing deeply that he loves us and that

being a transformative thing and I wonder if something similar is true as we unpack this idea this is psalm 23 verse 3 it will be familiar to many of you he restores my soul he guides me along right paths for his name’s sake there is this beautiful gentleness to this psalm but that phrase he restores my soul is fascinating the hebrew word for soul there is this word nephesh it’s the same word that’s used in the garden story where it says God breathed into man and he became a living being nephesh could simply mean the one who breathes it could simply mean humanness it’s used distinctly of human beings over anyone else and so there’s this idea that restores my soul simply means he re he returns me to my human state he brings out of me that thing that I’m made to be the word nephesh can also be translated breath he returns me to my breathing think about that in the context of 28 000 feet living and have that experience of I’m

just trying to breathe this God offers us a return to our breathing a return to our humanness take a breath it’s going to be okay maybe some of our struggle is this that we’re just trying so hard that it’s always easier to walk past the person on the side of the road and this gut offers us something empowering something that we can rely on some kind of transformation that begins again with him and who he is that humanness seems key to this story this samaritan sees this man as a fellow human being this is a um a quote from the dave matthews band from a song called samurai cup it’s about childbirth oh joy begin weak little thing more precious there’ll be nothing no oh joy begin let’s not forget these early days remember we begin the same we lose our fear away in fear and pain oh joy begin Jesus character of the samaritan sees a man on the side of the road who on the surface is not like him but he sees him and says he is like me he is a

human just like me the the priest the levite they see someone lying on the side of the road and it doesn’t matter that they are the same both jewish all similar everything in common they see someone as less valuable they see the summit or their achievements as more important they maybe say I just don’t have enough breath they’re just enough capacity I would suggest that being a neighbor starts with this Jesus invites us into a renewed humanness as part of a renewed humanity this may require surrendering ass summit in order to care for travelers on the road we do this well when we have space to breathe so I’m going to invite aaron to come back on stage he’s going to lead us through a practice and lead us through a worship song before I come and close the surface surf service I did say I did ask the whole band to come back up on stage in the first service but aaron is doing an ed sheeran type thing for us today he’s just

making it all happen by himself Jesus thank you that you give us these incredible stories and you unpack them in these most incredible ways and they’re always challenging maybe you’ve messed with some of our understanding today maybe you’ve pushed us to new action God would you take our lives and would you be transformative we love you because you first loved us perhaps we love those on the road because you first loved us as we sing continue to work in us