Colossians 1. 1 – 14

Luke 10. 25 – 37

Fr Alex


It’s such a familiar Gospel story this morning, isn’t it.  The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

And no doubt we’re all familiar with the moral of the story.  It’s about loving and serving everyone, even those whom we would really rather avoid.  It’s about removing those barriers we set up to God’s love by slavish adherence to the law; by deciding who has access to God, and who doesn’t.  I’m sure we’ve all heard that sermon before, and of course it’s absolutely true.

But as I was mulling over these familiar readings for this morning, something jumped out at me that I hadn’t noticed before.  And it’s actually in our first reading.

St Paul uses the imagery of the natural world in this part of his letter, to help the Colossians think about their growth in faith and love.  He says:

“Just as [the Gospel] is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it.”

He comes back to the same image again, soon after:

“… so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.”

I wonder if you’ve noticed the slight problem with this image?  It’s backwards.  St Paul says first that they’ve been bearing fruit; and then that they’ve been growing in the faith. 

But anyone with even a passing interest in horticulture knows that a plant has to grow for a long time from a seed, before it starts to bear fruit – sometimes even for years and years.

A month or so ago little George and I sowed some carrot seeds in pots in the vicarage garden, and the next day he came out all excitedly, expecting to see some lovely juicy carrots ready for eating. 

But he’s soon learnt, bless him, that the growing takes a long time – but luckily he’s found plenty of strawberries in the garden to eat in the meantime!

So why does St Paul get this image the wrong way around?  Why does he talk about bearing fruit straight away, and then growing in the faith?

I think the answer is back in our Gospel, and Our Lord’s seemingly very simple conclusion to his parable this morning: “Go and do likewise.”

The one who showed love to the unfortunate man attacked by robbers, wasn’t the most holy, or the most learned, or the most virtuous, or whatever.  In fact, he was about as far away from ‘holiness’, in the Jewish perspective, as you can get.

He was a Samaritan, a people long despised by Jews for mixing their shared inheritance with practices from others faiths; and both staking claim to the same lands.

It’s challenging enough that Jesus uses a Samaritan to be the one we should emulate in his parable.  But he makes it even more shocking by comparing this Samaritan with a priest, and a Levite; the top of the tree of holiness and righteousness for his Jewish listeners.

But that’s the point.  The Samaritan was the only one who got it.  He was the one who bore the fruit of faith by showing extravagant love for someone in need, breaking down the barriers set up by those who claim to know what is the will of God.

He wasn’t the most learned, the most holy: he simply went and bore fruit.  And Jesus wants us, simply, to “go and do likewise.”

It’s a temptation, I think, to set too high a bar for ourselves, when it comes to our faith.  “I couldn’t possibly talk to someone about Jesus, I don’t know enough theology (and anyway, that’s the vicar’s job, isn’t it?)”

Or “I won’t go to church today, I’m not feeling very holy … or everything isn’t quite how I want it to be done.”

Or whatever it is.  There’s a sense in which, if only we had the right conditions, or the right circumstances – once we’ve grown and developed enough – then we could be the best Christians, bearing the fruit of faith in the world.

But if we keep waiting for the right circumstances, we miss all the opportunities to bear fruit right now that the Spirit sets before us.  And we miss the truth that it’s actually in bearing the fruit that we grow in the faith. 

We only learn what it means to love God and love our neighbour… by loving – by actually doing it.

So here’s something to reflect on with these readings this week.  Where is God calling you to bear fruit in your life, right now?  Where are those lovely bulging carrots of the kingdom, ripe and ready to pull up? 

Is there someone right in front of us who could really do with an introduction to Jesus?  Is there something you could do, something you could offer to those around you or to the church? 

Whatever it might be, trust in the Lord that with him it will bear fruit, and lead to the most amazing growth.  Amen.