Eighth Sunday after Pentecost  /  July 14, 2013  /  Resurrection Lutheran Church  /  ELCA  / 

Gospel text:  Luke 10: 25 – 37  /  Message by Rev. Carol Kniseley  /  Title:  Go…and Do Likewise

When a poll was taken some years ago…asking people in the United States “why” they gave to charity, the number one answer shouldn’t really surprise us.      The top response was a reference to the story of the “good” Samaritan, even though Luke’s story does not call him good.     “You can’t just pass by on the other side” was an answer given by many in relationship to their motive for giving to others.       Which draws into question, then, what possible motives might “we” come up with….collectively….for giving to others…today?     

The odds are that we won’t be able to agree on any one in particular.    Yet, on the other hand, there was a time when a certain lawyer approached Jesus….and thinking he had him pegged….asked a question that led to the telling of a parable that only Luke chose to record.     It is the parable of the Good Samaritan…that seeks to change our hearts…today.

To those hearing the parable for the very first time…it would have been pure scandal to even imagine what they were being asked to consider.      In Jesus’ time….as in ours….there were certain people that were never to be spoken of, especially when it came to saying something “good”.      For the Jews…it was the “half-breed Samaritans” (as they were called) that had no right to exist…much less be portrayed as a people for whom God would have any interest in saving.    

Their viewpoints about worshipping God were as far from the Jews as the city of Jerusalem was from Jericho.     Seventeen treacherous, God-forsaken miles of nothing but desert and dry bones which no one….and I do mean “no one” in their right mind would even consider crossing…and certainly never ALONE.       Be that as it may…it is in such a place that Jesus sets the stage.    And so they heard: (my wordage)…

A man was traveling to Jericho…from Jerusalem…when he was attacked by bandits.    Beaten and stripped of everything, the man was left to die…when wouldn’t you know it, a PRIEST of all people just happened by.     Surely, a man of God would stop and help…but instead, he just passed by…even moving to the other side of the road.     

When next a Levite came…a lay person who was well-born and well-connected, like Moses and Aaron were.     But…once again…even though he “saw the man”…chose not to stop…and he, too, passed by and over to the other side.  

It wasn’t long before another traveler…this time a Samaritan…came near him.   And when he “saw him”….was moved with compassion.     He went to the injured man and did his best to bandage his wounds, pouring wine and oil on them.    

Now you can imagine the look on everyone’s face when Jesus dared to introduce a Samaritan, of all people, as being the only one willing to help someone in such dire need.     What in the world could Jesus be thinking?     Everyone knows how “those people” behave.     All one has to do is look at them…to see that they aren’t worth the spit in their eye.

Jesus continued by saying that the Samaritan lifted the broken man unto his own horse…walked beside him until they came to an inn….and stayed with him through the night…nursing his wounds.      With dawn came a new day, and seeing that the man was not fit for travel, the Samaritan gave to the innkeeper 2 denari…to cover any expenses, promising to make up the difference when he returned.    

Now….says Jesus to the lawyer, then….and to us, today…..which of these three men, do YOU think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?    

And, of course, we all know the answer to the real question of the day.     What the lawyer wanted was justification for NOT choosing to see all people…the way God sees each one of us.    If the original question was about being justified (or made right in God’s sight)…then the lawyer already knew the answer.     Only by keeping the Law would one be able to stand before God.   But Jesus knew…that would be impossible for you or I to obtain.    And so, according to Luke’s Gospel…God has chosen to show mercy…to all of humankind.        

The thing that gets me about this parable…is that Jesus sets up the story in such a way…that no one was there to observe whether each of the three men stopped to help…or not.    Which leads me to believe, that this was not really a question about keeping the Law.    It was about filling an empty heart….with love.     And has been a heart issue ever since.

The point is:  God wants us to exhibit a changed behavior.      Not to gain brownie points….or win an all-expense paid trip to Heaven one day…but to truly experience what it is to “love God”…with all of our heart, strength, soul, and mind.       But that’s not all.    According to Jesus, as seen in the parable of the Good Samaritan, LOVE of God is synonymous with LOVE of neighbor.       And just who is my neighbor, we may all ask?   

The answer is:  everyone in need….regardless of the situation or circumstance.    The color of the skin….the language spoken….the culture from which one is derived….one’s beliefs about God.     None of that matters when it comes to exhibiting the kind of love that God wants to see from each one of his children: the real heirs, to the Kingdom of God.     A love that infuses us with courage…to do what?

“Draw near”…in order to really see someone for who God made them to be.     Not text….not email….not phone or skype….but take the time to physically draw near to another human being, as Jesus often did.     Not to judge…as there can be no restrictions on God’s love….on God’s mercy….and certainly not on God’s grace.     G…R…A…C…E.  

God’s….reconciliation….at….Christ’s….expense.   Not ours.  Do we get it?    Then by all means, reflect the love of Christ…by reaching out to those in your midst….by loving everyone who crosses your path…and caring for those in need.     Perhaps it is why so many people CAN and DO relate to the story of the good Samaritan when it comes to being motivated to give to charity.     They see in themselves, the hope of becoming like Him.     

As Jesus said:  Go…and do likewise.       May God continue to grant mercy to each one of us, in Jesus’ name.         Amen