22. Love your neighbour
Props: Marked scripture Matt 22:37–40 (modern version, large print), boomerang, piece of metallic rock, large photos/OHPs of Broken Hill: the big seat and the miners’ memorial.
I wonder if we have a good reader here today? One of the Pharisees once asked Jesus what the great commandment of the Law is. This is what Jesus said: [child reads out marked scripture]. Well read!
What do you think it means, to love your neighbour as yourself? Yes, Jesus is saying that we look after ourselves pretty well, so we should look out for our friends and school mates in the same way.
Now just hold that in your mind for a minute. Last weekend Mrs S and I went to the mining town Broken Hill for a visit. Have any of you been there? It is a fascinating city, with an enormous pile of broken up rock in the middle – the ‘broken hill’. I discovered that the ore – the rock that contains the silver and lead – was shaped like this boomerang, with the ends deep down in the earth. This top part was the hill, which is completely mined out now. Now they are just mining the ends, deep underground. Actually the hill is not quite as large as it used to be: Mrs S brought a bit home! You might like to pass it around – it is very heavy.
Well, the hill is still big enough to drive up, so we did. The first thing we came to was a high chair. Do any of you remember sitting in a high chair when you were little? I put Mrs S in the high chair – there she is! But that has nothing to do with our talk this morning. We next went to the miners’ memorial. It is very dangerous working in a mine, and over the years many miners have died. The memorial shows their names and dates, and the way they died: lead poisoning, fell into the crusher, fell down the shaft ... .
Now I want you to imagine that you were a miner, long ago. The mine itself was a vertical shaft, a large whole going straight down. At the bottom there is an open space, with tunnels going off in all directions. The miners take their picks out into the tunnels, and then bring the ors back to the central space for hauling up to the surface. Now you are working up at the top, and one day you make a bad mistake. You go too near the mine shaft, lose your balance, and start falling. There is no way to stop yourself: you know you are going to die. What do you do? [Seek responses: prayer, scream; I had a fantasy response involving a mini-trampoline!]
This actually happened to a miner in England, many years ago. He shouted, “Look out below!” Even though he knew he was going to die, he remembered his work mates and tried to save them.
I’m sorry this is not a very cheery story, but it illustrates very well the words of Jesus: Love your neighbour as yourself. Let us pray.
Lord, we don‘t know how we would react if we were that miner falling down the shaft. But in our rather easier lives, help us to care for our friends and school mates, watch out for them, love them, just like Jesus told us to.