St Theodore's

Wattle Park


  Sermon of the Week

Look up the passage

  Anzac Day Micah 4:1-4
Luke 6:20-36


  I thought, given that today is Anzac Day, that we might spend a few minutes thinking about what it is that makes Anzac Day such an important national institution. What is it that we celebrate on this most sacred of national holidays?
  It isn't just the fact that so many died on April 25, 1915 and in the weeks that followed. It has nothing to do with the glory nor the futility of war. Rather I think there are 2 main elements in the Anzac story that have become embedded in our Australian psyche. The first is the idea of mateship and the second is the sacrifice of the few that the many might live.
  It's not surprising really, that the iconic figure of Anzac Day is someone who in fact wasn't a fighting soldier at all. He was actually an ambulance man. His name was John Simpson. He was the man with the donkey, who carried wounded soldiers out of the battle zone at Gallipoli.
   His name was actually John Simpson Kirkpatrick, but when he enlisted in Western Australia with the Third Field Ambulance Medical Corps, he did so simply as John Simpson. And he, as much as anyone in that battle, encapsulated those 2 ideals of mateship and sacrifice.
   After the landing at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, he found a donkey at an abandoned Turkish hut, and during the weeks that followed, he used the donkey to bring wounded men down to the beaches from the trenches up on the hills. Apparently he managed to transport 12-15 men a day. In the trenches he'd give the wounded soldier first-aid, then put him on his donkey and bring him to the field hospital on the beach.
   His route up into the hills was along a gully the Australians called 'Shrapnel Gully'. Unfortunately, because it was the main route up into the hills, it was constantly shelled by the Turks as well as coming under sniper fire. It was here that Simpson was killed on May 19, 1915. He was bringing a wounded man down to the beach, when he was hit by a sniper's bullet. He was 23 years old.
   Jesus once told a story about another man with a donkey. A teacher of the Jewish Law had tried to trap him by asking: "What must I do to receive eternal life?" Jesus threw the question back at him by saying: '26"What is written in the law? What do you read there?" The man said: 27"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." "You are right", Jesus replied; "do this and you will live."
   But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbour?" Well of course we know that Jesus then told the parable of the Good Samaritan, about a man with a donkey who stopped to help a Jew who had been bashed up by robbers on the dangerous Jerusalem to Jericho road. He gave him first aid, then put him on his donkey and took him to an inn, where he paid to have him looked after.
   The trouble was, the Good Samaritan was the injured man's enemy. So this story was very confronting for Jesus' listeners.
   In fact it remains a confronting story doesn't it? As much as we love the story of Simpson and his donkey, as much as we'd like to think of him as the definitive good Samaritan, when we think about it we realise that he doesn't fit the picture that Jesus gave.
   You see, for John Simpson and for most Australians let me suggest, our neighbour is our mate. This is one of the messages of Anzac day. It's a message that's been reinforced in every war we've fought. It's a message that we first learnt in the early days of British occupation of this land, when people struggled to establish themselves in what was a totally foreign environment. People in the bush learnt that they had to stick together, they had to help each other. And it's one of the things we're proud of isn't it? It's one of the earliest rules of life we learn: that you always stick by your mates, that you never let your mates down, that you can depend on them and they can depend on you. And from men like Simpson we learnt that, if necessary, you die for your mates.
   So we Australians think we know what it means to be a Good Samaritan. We know who our neighbour is.
   But when Jesus tells that story about the original good Samaritan there's a problem. You see he doesn't look after his mate. He looks after his enemy.
   He comes along the road and sees a Jew lying there. He may even have had the passing thought, "there's a bit of Jewish scum. Good Riddance." What he probably should have done was to spit on him as he went past, perhaps even sink the boot in. At the very least he should have quickly walked past on the other side of the road.
   But that's not what he does, is it? He stops to help him - the idiot! He risks being attacked himself for the sake of someone who wouldn't have given him the time of day. He bandages his wounds, puts him on his donkey, pays good money for him to be looked after at an inn and promises to return to cover any extra costs. He can't expect to get any thanks for it. This Jew will never admit to his mates that his life was saved by a Samaritan. Samaritans would never do a thing like that! He'll tell them it was a priest, or perhaps a Levite, who stopped to help him and who saved his life.
   You see, the trouble with this Samaritan is that he goes too far. What if everyone started befriending enemies? It'd make a mockery of everything we've ever said about them, the way we've always treated them. Imagine if the Israelis started helping the Palestinians or if the Palestinians decided to stop their fight against the Israeli government. Imagine if Australia decided to accept refugees without question?
   But it wouldn't work would it? They'd just take advantage of us. After all, we know what they're like don't we?
   Of course it's appropriate that we think about this today, not just because it's Anzac Day but also because we're in the middle of the Easter season. Just 2 weeks ago we were thinking about how Jesus himself rode on a donkey into Jerusalem. Jesus is even worse than the Good Samaritan really. He certainly didn't know who his neighbour was. Not the ones that mattered anyway. People called him 'sinner lover' because that's the sort of person he made friends with. He made friends with collaborators, prostitutes, social outcasts. And his own people, the people who should have been his real mates, didn't like it. They were so upset and threatened by it, that they ended up nailing him to a cross.
   But then that's what you get when you follow his sort of rules. The sort we read in today's gospel reading. (Lk 6:27-29): "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt." If you follow those sorts of rules people are either going to take advantage of you or else they'll try to do away with you because you show them up, put them in a bad light.
   You see it's dangerous to break the rules. It can be as dangerous as going up Shrapnel Gully.
   But on the other hand, what if I'm the victim? What if I'm the man who's been bashed up and is bleeding to death on the Jericho road? What if I'm the man lying out in no-man's-land with a bullet through me, unable to move? What if I'm one of life's casualties, one who's lost and hurting? Then I wouldn't mind who it was who came to help me. All I'd want would be to be helped. That's why Jesus says "Do to others as you would have them do to you." And he adds, "your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked."
   You see, even though we were his enemies, totally opposed to his rule in our lives, God didn't walk past you and me when we lay dying. He sent Jesus. He found us, he came to us right where we were. He fixed up our wounds, and carried us to safety. By his death on the cross, he saved our life.
   And he did it not for people who were his mates. He did it for people who were his enemies, people who'd turned their backs on him. We were people who'd ignored him and gone our own way.
   Jesus broke the unspoken rule for us. He broke the rule which says that you stick by your mates, you help only your mates. He went way beyond what the law required. He broke down the barriers. He treated us, his enemies, as if we were his best friends. He didn't let us down. He gave his own life to save us.
   And that gives us not just new life, but the power to change what comes naturally to us. It allows us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us. It opens the possibility in fact for a whole new world. A world where there'll be no more enemies, no more war.
   That vision of Micah 4 is wonderful isn't it? A world where nations will "beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; 4but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid. It may never happen on this earth, but a time is coming when God will establish a new heaven and a new earth where all this will be true, where there'll be no more mourning over dead friends and family members who have died in some war or through some act of terrorism, where there'll be no more tears or pain.
   But in the mean time we have a task to do, to break that old rule; to love not just our mates, but to love our enemies as well. To share with them this new possibility, of peace, not just with God, but with each other as well.

Contact us
Check our Mission Statement
Our Mission Strategy
Our 5-Year Plan
Preaching Program
Last Week's Sermon
Index of Sermons