The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 is widely known and its message is widely ignored. Who, in this story became a neighbour to the man attacked by robbers? The one who showed him kindness. The story spawns many lines of doggerel: “Love isn’t love ‘till you give it away”; “Love is a verb”; etc. All true; all ignored by popular culture. A neighbour is someone who helps cure another’s woes, someone who offers hospitality to strangers in need, someone who shares what they have with those who have not.
A totally unrealistic TV program shows people around three houses in their chosen county. These are people who want to move from the city to the countryside. The questions raised are about the size of the kitchen, whether the garden is large enough for alpacas, whether the décor “works”; nothing about neighbours. The program shows a complete misunderstanding about what makes people feel at home.
Jesus spent his life giving love away, taking an interest in people, enabling them to develop God’s Spirit, Faith, within. He finally went to his death as a mark of his Love for his Father’s creation.
In 1949 an American conscientious objector, Bob Luitweller, set up a group with some friends, at a folk high school in Denmark. They called it “Peacebuilders” but it became “Servas”: Esperanto for “to serve.” Its object is to prevent war by helping people to receive travelers from other countries. Visitors must stay two nights without payment. The first evening meal is to share information about the area, the second is to discuss what the visitor has seen. The act of sharing food forms bonds. You owe a debt to those who eat at your table. I remember clearly several families in other countries whose hospitality I enjoyed years ago. I could not go to war with these people. It is a great, and cheap, way to spend holidays. It is a great, and cheap way to avoid war. If we spent the cost of a few cruise missiles on getting people together, the world would be a safer place.
We have a home-grown organization in this church of which you may not have heard, it is called Sew Together, formed in April 2013, as a result of an idea by Margaret Fielden, whom some of you will remember, she died a few years ago. She could not have known that now more than thirty people would be involved in knitting squares and then sewing and crocheting edges. Sew Together has made two hundred baby blankets, which other members take to Birmingham for onward passage to five regional midwifery centres in Ethiopia.
This blanket is a gift, the baby’s first gift, the first gift that the mother receives for her baby, it is from Yorkshire, from Baildon. Most people in Baildon have not heard of, for instance, Bahir Dar, Harar, Mekelle, Metu and Yirga Alem. Most people in those places have never heard of Baildon. But some have. There is a link. We are improving lives by taking an interest in the woes of others. This simple initiative has improved the lives of two hundred babies in Ethiopia and more than thirty volunteers in Baildon. We are creating neighbours. Jesus would do this. Jesus does this. His love is at the root of Sew Together.
Security depends on neighbourliness; it is the only guarantee of protection. As neighbours we help each other out and look out for each other. As hosts and guests we are bound by the ties of hospitality. What we need is more neighbours and, fortunately, they are freely obtainable. All you have to do is to show kindness and offer hospitality. Then, when you move house, your questions will not be about alpacas and kitchen size, they will be about neighbours, potential neighbours, community events, shared facilities. How many neighbours have you got? Why so few?