Religion Magazine

My Brother’s Keeper

By Richardl @richardlittleda

A sermon prepared privately, on air, and through live collaboration

Early on Friday morning I was part way through preparing a sermon on Genesis 4 v.9 ‘Am I my brother’s keeper’, when a producer from Premier Christian Radio asked for my help. ‘Could you  come in for an hour on Saturday to discuss a recent survey on being good neighbours’? , she wondered. I agreed to come in, and spent a very pleasant hour in the studio with presenter Phoebe Thompson and her colleague.


The sermon itself began in narrative style setting the scene and posing the question.:

An angry sky was boiling on the far horizon – clouds tumbling over each other in a rush to cover the ground below. Two smudges of desultory smoke rose into the air from the remainders of yesterday’s bonfires. At the edge of the field stood Cain.His brow furrowed.  His hands clasped so tight round the haft of his hoe that his knuckles stood out white.  As the voice began to speak he started to kick over the dirt at the edge of the field – soil cascading over the end of his sandal as pushed it, bulldozer-like into the soil again and again. From time to time he would stop and work the soil over obsessively, as if trying to hide something. Hiding was a nonsense, though.  The blood in the soil was as obvious to God as the lazy smoke which hung between heaven and earth.  Never had an innocent enquiry carried so much menace. Never had five words driven so deep into a man’s soul. “Where   is   your   brother   Abel”?  At first Cain snapped, like a reprimanded child who denies all biscuit eating even with crumbs spread from ear to ear.  “I don’t know”, he said.  Then his chin lifted a little higher, his hoe bit a little deeper into the soil, and he asked defiantly  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The question hung in the air between them like a red rag twitching before a bull.  No answer came, not as such.  In fact, though, it has been coming ever since.

We then looked at some of the moments where the answers to the question back in different forms.  When God’s peopel fled across the desert, keen to forget what their ‘dirty foreign’ overlords had done to them – they were told to do just the opposite in Leviticus 19 v.34. Once settled in their land   of promise, they had to be reminded again that they were indeed their brother’s keeper in Isaiah 1v.16-17. Later on, back from the exile, the same reminder came again in Amos 5 v.11 that God would hold them accountable. When Messiah came, opening up heaven with the can-opener of his stories and changing all things – he reminded all who would listen that the definition of a brother was wider than anyone might have guessed in Mark 3 v.33-34. After this – we looked at where all this might lead:

I am somehow responsible for the banker who wrinkles his nose at the smell of dirty money; the girl who lifts her dress to the next customer because she must feed her little brothers; and the man who pays her to do it. I am somehow responsible for trafficker and trafficked; for abuser and abused; for the arms dealer who makes the anti-personnel mine and the child who picks it up. Add to all this our hyper connected world where the Bangladeshi child who stitches my clothes and the high-street cashier who sells me them to me are both neighbours and it all becomes a little overwhelming.

At this point I read out some of the questions I had been posed live on air, and we looked at ‘good neighbour’ tips which people had completed whilst waiting fo rtyhe service to start.


We concluded by looking at Paul’s concept of the ‘debt of love’ in Romans 13 v. 8 and moved on to pray.

A long time ago I wrote on here about ‘circular preaching’ – involving others in the sermon-making process. This was not quite a circular sermon – but involving surveys, radio broadcast, bible preparation and live participation goes some way towards it.


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