Everybody needs good neighbours

Matthew 13.34-43: The Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel 

‘Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours, with a little understanding, you can find the perfect blend. Neighbours should be there for one another, that’s when good neighbours become good friends.’ So went the opening song of the Australian soap ‘Neighbours’ popular in the 80’s and 90’s. Good neighbours are to be prized because they enable you to have a good quality of life. Neighbours from hell, with inconsiderate behaviour, however can make life a misery.

I heard about one such neighbour who for some reason had squirted weed killer over the fence, to destroy his neighbours’ plants. He sounds rather like the neighbour in the first parable who is clearly a neighbour from hell. Cultivating crops 2,000 years ago was difficult enough, without someone sowing darnel, that resembles wheat, among the corn. Why would anyone want to do that, except out of spite?

The news has been dominated by two neighbour disputes this week. The conflict between Gaza and Israel has re-erupted with devastating consequences, with many adults and children there killed by Israeli bomb attacks, with casualties on the Israeli side too.  Hatred lies behind each rocket fired by Hamas and the Israelis. This conflict will continue to rage as long as there is no mutual desire for the wellbeing of the other.

In Donetsk we have seen the terrible consequences of the neighbour dispute between Ukraine and Russia. Russia has encouraged the rebels to rise against the Ukrainian  government, and in these unstable conditions the Malaysian airliner was shot down with such a terrible loss of life. It shows the dangerous risks of stirring up trouble next door.  The hatred of the rebels towards the Ukrainians dominates their thinking, nothing else seems to matter.

To turn the other cheek is not the way of the powerful, there is too much pride and prestige at stake, but this is the response of the owner of the wheat in the parable. He does not react instantly, he does not go out and destroy his enemy’s crop, he does not even pull out the darnel for fear of pulling up the wheat with it. Instead he leaves it til harvest time when the two may be separated without damaging the crop. The message is that although it might appear that the wicked prosper, God will put things right in the end.

The vote that went through synod this week aims to create good neighbours, and to enable two sets of people to inhabit one church. The Archbishop of Canterbury said he was committed to enabling all Anglicans, both those for the ordination of women and those against, to live together in the church.

We hope that the way may be found to live together and that we may be equally valued. The Church of England needs the traditionalists to remain. If there is one thing this muddle of a church offers to the wider church, it is that Christians of all persuasions can be held together in one church. If the traditionalists leave, then the spectrum is incomplete.

Following Monday’s vote, the Bishop of Pontefract as chair of the catholic bishops wrote: Now that the debate about provision is over and the House of Bishops’ Declaration is in place, we can look forward to a time of greater stability in which, by the grace of almighty God, we can all focus, with renewed energy, on proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord, and on witnessing to him as we serve our local communities and our nation. We can have confidence in our future as catholics who are called to live out our Christian vocation in the Church of England, maintaining a distinctive witness to the quest for the unity of the Church. 

Traditionalist Catholics wish for enough oxygen to be enabled to breathe, we just want to get on with ministry, with Christ at the centre in word and sacrament, at the heart of what we do.

Yesterday Fr Paul and I were at St Clements Cambridge for the induction of their new parish priest. It had been without one for 20 years, but this prominent church on a busy street has been given a new chance, and we pray God’s blessing on Fr Stephen and the people there as the mustard seed has been replanted.

We need to be good neighbours to one another in the church. We need to be good neighbours with all who are working to improve the lives of others. We must not hate nor suffer hatred to fester in others. Hatred is destructive, it is the product of evil. We have to repeat the gospel message again and again. Love is God’s way, love must be our way.