Who is my neighbour? This is the question asked of Jesus by an expert in the law, and it provides the setting for Jesus’ telling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The story is played out on the Jericho Road. It had a nickname in the time of Jesus – the ‘Way of Blood’. A remote road that for centuries had been a place of robberies, the Jericho Road is a symbol. It is the strip of suffering.For Jesus, and still today, it is a symbol of the suffering in the world.
The story strikes terror into the heart of middle class Westerners like me: surely this is not a command for everyone, at all times?
When we think of a theology of simplicity we need to remember that we are under grace, not law. Grace leads us to whatever form of discipleship towards our material goods – and the way we conduct our lives – to which God calls.
I recall being told once upon a time my name, translated, means ‘reckless bravery’. Is that why? So I ask. No, it’s because of my involvement with emergency services and disaster response. Ah, but what has courage to do with that?
While away on holidays I have heard the Word and took notice of the context. A young girl shot because she was going to school was called brave. A woman swimming from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage was called brave. A bystander jumping into the sea to help a person who had fallen off the rocks; a rescue crew responding to a road accident; fire fighters responding to bush fires; a young child suffering a terminal brain tumour; a kayaker trapped on an island by a crocodile; a solo bicycle rider travelling around Australia on roads shared with B-triples; someone walking across the Great Sandy Desert to raise funds for cancer research… the list continues.
‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where –‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
Hmmm. I wonder what seven-year old Alice Plausance Liddell made of this story during a picnic on the river at Oxford, 151 years ago, when told them by her devoted Christian friend, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson? I wonder what we make of them now, as we read them again from that much loved story ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, written by Dodgson under his pen name, Lewis Carroll?
‘A rural community is people living across a wide rural-based area serviced by a small town (often with limited facilities) which is a central hub for interdependent activities which meet social, commercial, educational and spiritual needs.’ Rural Ministries Working Group
Jesus came and lived amongst people, ministering to people, loving people. The church is a community of people who are bound by that rule of love, giving of themselves for one another as Jesus gave himself for them (John 13). The community of the church is called to live that life of love in all aspects of its life which includes in the wider community. Community in a rural setting tends to be far more intense than in the city. In our small country towns each person is known to the other through the network of community groups in the town. In pastoral care of each other this both helps and hinders the local church community. Everyday pastoral care comes naturally to those we know, and the church community relates easily to the whole community.