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Join Us For Worship!

Join Us For Worship!
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Advent Meditation on Joseph

The reading for Sunday, December 17, 2017: Matthew 1:18-25 This Sunday we read about an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream. We've no...

Sunday, February 17, 2013


SUNDAY'S SERMON on LUKE 10:25-37  The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Let’s talk about life. Your life, my life, the life of Christians.
But as we do, let’s not be abstract about it, all warm and fuzzy.
Instead, let’s dig deeper, shall we?
And as we go deeper, let us shape our conversation around a single idea:
The key teachings that guide and inform the way we read the Bible and live the Christian life.

The key teachings that guide and inform the way we read the Bible and live the Christian life.

As Christians who seek to listen to Jesus, we find in Scripture, according to Jesus, two things that get us to the heart of the matter:  
The first of these two things has itself two parts: Love the Lord Your God with all of your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.

Love God and love neighbor.

And the second is commanded by Jesus near the very end of his ministry, during his last time of teaching on what we call Maundy Thursday, surrounded by his disciples:
Love one another as I have loved you.
Love one another as I have loved you.

Two key teachings to guide and inform our reading of Scripture and our following of Jesus in the world, our discipleship, our life. Oh, I am sure we could come up with others, but which of them receive the same importance, the same priority, the same emphasis as spoken by and lived out by Jesus? None.

Two key teachings: The inseparable and intertwined love of God and neighbor and that love refined and defined by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Now onto the text, from the Gospel of Luke, the man, the expert in the Law who tested Jesus, let’s consider his question:

Who, exactly, is my neighbor?
Who exactly is my neighbor?

It would not be unusual in Jesus’ day for one to answer that question in terms of one’s immediate and extended family. All fitting in a nice, neat circle. Easy to tell who is in and who is outside the circle.  Neighbor and not neighbor. Two simple categories of people.

Jesus, it appears, anticipates this. The idea that people would typically answer the question that way – who is and is not my neighbor. Who is inside and who is outside the circle.  Sorting people this way.

So Jesus tells a parable, a story, to invite the man to see the world as God sees it.

And I imagine we understand the importance of this: to see the world as God sees it.

So as we dive into the story of the “Good Samaritan” and we may recall that Jesus has just tried to visit the Samaritans but they rejected his visit – snubbed him and in the process angering James and John, those impetuous disciples, who asked for permission to rain fire from heaven down upon those thankless Samaritans.
Jesus instead rebuked them, the disciples that is, not the Samaritans.
Nonetheless, Samaritans find their way into Jesus’ parable, and surprise, surprise, as the hero!

Now the Samaritans were despised by Jews for the Samaritans were a mix of people who failed to worship God in the correct way, at the correct place.  In the parable a guy was beaten, robbed and left for dead. A priest walks by and fearing contamination (for there were Jewish laws that forbade touching a dead body or touching blood). Then a Levite, another religious servant of God, walks by giving the wounded man a wide berth, again fearing the same laws.  Finally, a Samaritan is walking along. One of those despised Samaritans. And he tends to the man’s wounds and takes him to an inn where he pays for his care and even offers to pay for future care, whatever is needed.  For him, one supposes, the command to love, to love God made manifest in love for neighbor overwhelms any other law, worry or concern.

 
And Jesus finishes by asking the expert in the law a simple question: Which of these three proved to be a neighbor to the man attacked by the robbers?
The one (notice that the law expert does not say the Samaritan, he just can’t say it, can’t let that world roll off of his tongue) the one, he says, who showed him mercy.

This, my friends, completely messes up the circle of who is in and who is out.
See now he can’t so easily separate people by neighbor and not neighbor.
Because now a neighbor is one who shows mercy.
It is about action, what one does. How one loves God by loving neighbor, the two loves intertwined.

“Go and do likewise” Jesus says.
Go and be a neighbor.
Don’t worry about who is and isn’t your neighbor – just go be a neighbor.
The circle then gets so big that it breaks, falls apart Becomes useless. Disappears.

When we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind and our neighbor as ourselves, when we define that love by the love the Jesus shows us, when those become the key teachings that guide our life, inform our way of being and living in the world, imagine what becomes possible for us. How it will change us, truly change us and the way that we relate to one another and every other in the world.  How much more richly and deeply people will encounter the crucified and risen Christ in our words, our actions, our relationships.  And likewise, we experience Christ in the other through such encounters.

But this comes at a cost. Can you see it?

When we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind and our neighbor as ourselves, when we define that love by the love the Jesus showed us, when those become the key teachings that guide our life, inform our way of being and living in the world, this means that other scripture, other teachings while important, are not as important, cannot occupy the same place. All Scripture is not of equal importance and when for example we believe that our love of God as expressed by following a particular passage of scripture gets in the way of our loving of our neighbor  that should grab our attention and shout at us that something is wrong. Seriously wrong.

Our loving of our Lord takes shape in our love of neighbor.

We no longer have permission to grab a piece of scripture that suits us and our cause and use it in such a way that fails to love neighbor.  Yet Christians are guilty of this all the time and our Christian witness in the world suffers because of it. Suffers deeply.

When we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind and our neighbor as ourselves, when we define that love by the love the Jesus shows us, when those become the key teachings that guide our life, inform our way of being and living in the world, imagine what becomes possible for us.  Amen.

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