Thirtieth Sunday Year A


If you lend money to any of my people...
you must not demand interest from him.
(Exodus 22: 24-25)


Let us pray for strangers: for refugees and asylum seekers, for those displaced from their country of origin through work or prison, that they may experience the loving presence of God in those who seek to help them.
Open our hearts, O Lord:
To accept your law of love.
Let us pray for widows and orphans: for those in society with no one to defend them, for those recently bereaved and for those who have lost their jobs and livelihoods, that they may be supported by our loving care and concern.
Open our hearts, O Lord:
To accept your law of love.
Let us pray for those who are in debt: for countries that stand no chance of repayment, for families caught up with loan sharks and people who have recklessly gambled their money and lost it, that they may meet with an open hand and a realistic plan for their future.
Open our hearts, O Lord:
To accept your law of love.
Let us pray for ourselves: that we may always be aware of God’s unconditional love for us and, secure in that knowledge, may not be afraid to reach out to others who claim our time, our attention or our expertise.
Open our hearts, O Lord:
To accept your law of love.

How can we measure God’s love? It goes beyond simple kindness or sympathy. It is a total self-giving for the good of his creatures. And if we claim to love others as God asks of us, then we cannot use a different form of measurement.

There is an English waterside town that underwent great growth in the middle of the nineteenth century. As the rather affluent people made their homes in the area, the Church began to cater for their needs and to build churches where they could worship. In one such parish, where the families were not short of a penny, they decided to build another smaller church. This was not really needed, but it catered for their servants!
The Christian message is that, whatever arrangements society may make, in the Church there can be no upstairs-downstairs divisions. In fact, although we might be tempted to think that loving our neighbour means just that, the Bible is quick to point out that our neighbour may be someone quite removed from us.
So when Jesus demanded that to love God we must love our neighbour as ourselves, he was not thinking of inviting over the Sherrington-Holroyds for afternoon tea. He would have been only too aware of how the Jewish scriptures returned time and time again to three categories of “neighbour” as the yardsticks for our love of God: strangers, widows and orphans.
Strangers (or foreigners) couldn’t speak the language, were disoriented from being in a different culture, and often were cheated by money exchangers. Widows and orphans were not only objects of genuine pity but were defenceless. In a male dominated society they had no one to speak up for them, depended on charity and carried no clout when it came to getting justice.
The only way we can be sure of loving God is by loving our neighbour as ourselves, by treating them in exactly the same way as we would want to be treated. And the measuring stick that is used for this love is how we treat the most vulnerable of our world (strangers, widows and orphans), those whom it is not fashionable to champion, those who can offer us nothing in return. Anyone can love “one of us”. The Bible tells us to love “one of them”. Maybe even the Sherrington-Holroyds!




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