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Hallo again to all.

Each week when we sit down to write in this space, we consider the zeitgeist in our reflections. If not the geist of the moment, then perhaps that of some part of the past that Anglicans remember. Today is the Feast of St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. It is the second Sunday in Lent. But we have a hard time focusing on either of those because today is the first Sunday after the horrific massacre with automatic weapons of 50 Muslims in New Zealand in the name of racism, white supremacy, and hatred of immigrants.

It seems to us that the context of the Bible takes racism for granted. There are numerous mentions in scripture of the hatred between tribes and the scorn held by each for the others' beliefs. 2 Kings 17 describes some of this, with attention paid to the relationship between Israelites and Samaritans. Samaritans tried to stop the Jews from building a wall and rebuilding their temple (Nehemiah 6). The enemies and outlaws of Judea sought refuge in Samaria (Joshua 6). John 8:39-59 shows us that by the time of Jesus, Israelites regarded Samaritans as demonic. And probably vice versa. In the story of Jesus and the Samaritan 'woman at the well' (John 4:1-42), the woman is startled that Jesus, a Jew, is talking to her, a woman of Samaria*. In the well-known Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) Jesus refers to the surprising benevolent treatment of an Israelite by a Samaritan. Jesus arguing against racism was extraordinary enough for its time to be worth writing down. 'Can you believe what this man said? Love your neighbour as yourself.' Even if that neighbour is a Levite or a Samaritan.

It is now 20 centuries since Jesus exhorted us to love our neighbours. But we do seem still to be assaulting them and killing them when they are not like us. In countries where it is easy to get guns, disturbed malefactors can murder many people easily. In countries where guns are out of reach, the same level of violence can be inflicted (perhaps to fewer people at a time) with automobiles or knives or tyre irons or improvised explosives or petrol bombs or poison or broken bottles. Racist thugs who happen to rule a country (Syria, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey come to mind) can satisfy their primal urges by using military weapons to kill people who are different from them.

Sociological statistics show that fewer and fewer people are attending Christian worship, mainstream or otherwise. The murder and mayhem statistics show that just as many people as ever hate some of their neighbours and want to kill them. News reports tell us that the haters have better weapons now. Jesus' message has never been more important.

Bring someone with you to church next week. The world needs it.

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17 March 2019

*We note also that neither party to that conversation had a problem with a man demanding that a woman bring him water.

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