A sermon for the Oxford Winter Night Shelter (OWNS) Commissioning Service at St Michael’s in the Northgate, Oxford on 4th December 2019
Based on Luke 10.25-37 – the Parable of the Good Samaritan
The Innkeeper has finished for the night. She’s spent the day cleaning rooms, brushing floors, changing bedding. She’s overseen the chef and the maid as they prepared and served the food for the eight guests booked in for the night, and everything has been cleared away. The guests have all they need and she’s even made sure the one who tends to drink a bit too much hasn’t disturbed the others.
Everyone has gone to bed for the night; the place is quiet at last.
And, just as she’s having a moment to herself with a nightcap she hears a noise outside.
It’s a dark and blustery night and the wind is rattling through the trees. But she’s sure she hears sounds of an animal and a faint groaning. She peeks out of the window.
There’s a man slumped on the back of a donkey with a foreign looking chap helping him down and carrying him to the door.
She opens the latches and lets them in. She sees that one of them has been badly hurt. It looks like he’s been hit on the head by a rock. She rushes to clear a space for them in the corner of the small room so he can lie down. She wakes up the old cook sleeping by the fire and together they fetch water, bandages and ointment. They take off the makeshift dressing the foreign-looking man had hastily put on, and they re-dress his wounds.
They then warm up some soup which they give to them both and find a space in the corner of the room for them to sleep for the rest of the night. They stay awake listening to the gentle snores of their (now) ten guests, relieved that for tonight all of them are safe and none of them are outside in the rattling wind.
And in the morning the Inn-Keeper is joined by her husband and together they prepare some breakfast for their hungry guests. The injured man isn’t well enough to leave just yet and so they are happy for him to stay a little longer in their Inn whilst the kind visitor goes on his way, generously giving them some funds so they can carry on looking after the poor man.
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
the lawyer asks Jesus.
‘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 neighbour as yourself’.
“And who is my neighbour?:
That ageless question. Who is my neighbour?
Surely we can’t love everyone. There are so many people in need. We only need to look up and down our City streets to see there are just too many people in ditches. It’s easier by far to rush on and focus on our lives. Our jobs. Our prayers. Our families.
So, who was a neighbour to the man in the ditch?
A familiar story. The story of the man in a ditch, all those who passed by, and the one who did something.
And within the tale we know so well there is also a character we don’t often pause to think about.
The Innkeeper who welcomed them in. Who prepared the beds. Who made some soup. Who made breakfast the next day. Who cleaned up the mess. Who listened to the snoring in the night.
Of course there is another story that springs to mind when we think of a donkey, an innkeeper, and somebody in need being welcomed in. We will hear that story once again in a few weeks time. The Inn Keeper who made room for the Christ Child to be born in his stable.
Each one of you who volunteer your time for OWNS is like the Samaritan of course; but perhaps you are also like the Innkeeper who made room. The innkeeper who opened her doors and welcomed in the damaged, injured and hurting, and who ensures that for a few nights they are safe and secure and out of the cold.
Each one of you has committed yourselves to being part of the answer to the cry of those in need.
And just like in the parable it’s a team effort. Some have more capacity than others. Some have more energy than others. Some can give time, some can give money, some can give expertise. It is all vital and it brings with it eternal life.
Who was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ Jesus asks.
“The one who showed him mercy” the lawyer answers.
Jesus says to him. Go, and do likewise.”