Perhaps I was foolish for being a solitary traveller on that mountain road, but my journey was urgent. The attack, when it happened was brutal, shocking and I lost everything that I had including my clothing. I was left for dead with no means of identification, little chance of discovery or help. Although barely conscious I was aware of two people who had passed on the road without stopping. I was frightened for my life, fearing that it would end here, battered, abandoned and alone. But then my rescue came and from someone who would be regarded as my enemy, the ‘other’, the outcast, the infidel, the foreigner and the despised one. It was life-saving compassion. He had no regard for my ‘otherness’, my tribe, status, religious connection or observance. He dealt with my wounds and made plans for my care. The Injured
When I saw the tangled mess of flesh and blood how could I turn away and not stop to help? Here was a desperate man struggling with injuries that could cause his death. His identity, status, racial group became irrelevant. At that point, he became my neighbour, my family, my brother – a relationship not defined by any normal boundaries – but by his sheer need. I had the means to help him. The risk to my own life on that road was hopefully small. I knew the road, the Inn and I had the means to help. The Inn keeper knew that I am a man of my word and that I would be good for the money when I next returned. My heart stirred and action followed. The Rescuer
The Samaritan offered a costly compassion. He could have acted out of fear and so taken no action but to move along, considering his own safety. But he did not act out of fear. He acted out of compassion for ‘the other’. It was scary, involved physical effort and energy, was financially costly, took initiative, planning, promises and assurances.
“Who is my neighbour?” My neighbour may be one to whom I would least expect to be a neighbour. Jesus changed the question round completely to “what does a neighbour do?” Jesus showed a very clear picture of what a neighbour does. His final words are “Go and do likewise” further reinforcing the message “Do this and you will live”. May we never act out of fear but always out of love.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9 v 36
Pray Our Afghan neighbours are experiencing acute distress and terror. Afghan Christians are vulnerable and fleeing to the hills to hide as escape routes out of Afghanistan are closed to them. There is the constant fear of being reported to the Taliban. Women, and girls over the age of twelve, avoid going out on to the streets. Those who worked for NATO and western countries may be left behind as the August 31 deadline approaches and evacuation concludes. Families who are re-settled in the west face dramatic adjustments to their circumstances, culture and language. We pray for compassion and practical care for those in Afghanistan and those who are re-settled in a new life in western countries.
Jane Coates – Monday 30th August
The alabaster jar has been sitting on the shelf for as long as I can remember. Just sitting there, unopened, gathering the dust of years. I can barely look at it. The jar is meant to be so full of promise – a gift from a parent to a child to be given to the new husband and broken at his feet as an act of commitment, honour and devotion. But I have no need of such a gift or promise. There is no one who would consider me as a bride. My hopes are unfulfilled, wasted, as the jar sits there accusing me, as I have given myself to so many different men. I have lost count of the number of men who have used and abused me. I do not know their names and I am now nameless and ashamed, my entitlement to marriage gone. But the jar of precious perfume, the oil that should be poured out as an act of extravagant love, sits there still.
I heard that a new teacher had arrived in town. It was said that He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners, that He loved the un-loveable, that He touched the untouchable, that He could heal and that He could forgive sin. My sin lays heavily upon me and burdens my soul and my very being. The weight of it is crushing me. Could this teacher lift the weight of my guilt and sin and set me free? I was no longer afraid of those who judged, accused, tormented, hurt and spat at me in the street. I would walk past them and their taunts and find this Jesus. I would pass their doors and windows and seek the mercy of the One who says that He can forgive and redeem.
But how can I enter the house of the Pharisee? I have met with so much rejection that it is an old friend to me. so, I will not knock at the door to be turned away. I have decided. I will take my precious jar, the one thing that I have and enter secretly, quietly, unnoticed. My one thing I will give to Him, pouring out the precious oil from the jar, as my act of love. I am nothing. So, I entered the room secretly, hiding my face and settled at the feet of the prophet, the One on whom all my hopes were laid as He reclined at table. My heart was bursting with emotion – my overwhelming need, my longing for forgiveness and relief, my love and devotion for the one who could turn my life around. And so, my scarf falls away and as my tears fall freely, I wash His feet, dry them with my hair and pour out the precious perfume on His feet. The room is filled with the perfume but also the angry silence of the onlookers and the Pharisee. He says nothing. He does nothing. They are all stunned by the sight before them.
The horrified silence is broken by the gentle words of the teacher Himself. “Simon, I have something to say to you”. A story of forgiveness followed, a story of two debtors, one who owed little and one who owed a great deal. Both were relieved of their debt and released. Then a gentle rebuke to the Pharisee. “You gave me no warm greeting, water for my feet, or oil for my head and yet this woman has not failed to wash and kiss my feet and anoint them with oil.” He knew me. He had seen my need and my love, my silent pleading and repentance and gave His forgiveness and His peace. I will remember His words until my dying day: “Your sins are forgiven.” “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” Those words are written on my heart.
My precious alabaster jar with its perfume is gone – but so is my sin.
The Pharisee had seen my lifestyle, my notoriety and my many sins. He had not seen me. The teacher had seen my heart, my sorrow, my desperate need for change and my longing for a new way of love. He had found me. I left that place in peace.
Jane Coates. 16 August 2021