the one we don't expect...
July 11, 2016, 8:00 AM

Sermon from July 10, 2016

Text: Luke 10: 25-37

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

So, the parable we hear today is one that we know pretty well isn’t it? It’s one of those parables that once we hear the beginning of it, we can immediately finish the story and move on. Yeah, yeah pastor. We’ve heard this one before. But, I think especially for today – during this time in our life as a country and world – this is a parable that we need to hear again with fresh hears and hearts.

How many – if someone asked you to tell them the Good Samaritan story – would’ve said it like this…

A guy walks down a road and gets robbed and beat up. Two people walk past him, and the third is one of those Good Samaritans that helps him out. So Jesus says be a good Samaritan.

I’d imagine that a lot of us have paraphrased this parable in that way. But, there’s a thing with paraphrases – they leave a bunch of stuff out to tell a ‘streamlined’ and easier story.

And, we end up doing that a lot with Jesus’ parables. And when we think we just ‘know’ them and cease to read them we lose out on the effect that Jesus was seeking when he told these parables.

I’ve said it before, and I know I’ll probably say it again. But, Jesus’ parables are intentionally scandalous and inflammatory. For those that first heard them, their first reaction was probably not, “Oh yeah! That makes so much sense!” They wouldn’t have thought that – not because they weren’t smart and refined like ‘us’ – but, they’d more than likely respond in a way that evoked shock and anger. Jesus’ parables intentionally put us on edge. Where in those frayed moments upon hearing the striking words of Jesus, we can begin to see where God is present and at work in ways that we wouldn’t expect and probably wouldn’t even want.

So, before we begin in diving into this wonderfully deep and scandalous story, we have to first understand who the people involved in this story and parable are.

First, we have the lawyer. Lawyers in this time were those whose vocation it was to know, interpret, and uphold the laws of God. And, there were a lot of laws to know. They were the ones who people sought in order to settle disputes between one another and in their lives. He asks a question to Jesus that he believes he already knows the full answer to.

In the parable we are introduced to a priest and a Levite. Two people that listeners would immediately know a couple things. First – the priest has devoted his life to serving God – that’s why he’s a priest. And second – the Levite is someone who identifies as one who knows and fulfills the law and scripture of God zealously. They are ones that know, really know God’s word and law.

We are introduced to a Samaritan. Now, we know this one as the ‘Good Samaritan.’ For that is what we call anyone who does something out of compassion for a stranger in need. But, that is not how the Israelites of Jesus’ day viewed them. They were seen as dangerous, impure, untrustworthy. Samaritans were individuals that – if you had to approach them – you did so with extreme caution.

And finally, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a known ‘trouble area.’ You avoided it as best as you could. And if you had to walk it, you again did so with extreme caution and never alone – never know when those dastardly Samaritans would show up.

So, that’s a quick summary of what people knew as Jesus told this parable. Yet, within his words people are shocked and offended because God appears in such a way that they wouldn’t expect or even want.

The lawyer attempts to stump Jesus. Not even acknowledging that Jesus ‘knows his stuff.’ Maybe he’ll catch this ‘man of God’ off guard with a simple question so all can quickly be done with this traveling preacher. Yet, Jesus’ response is much deeper and more varied than the lawyer could expect.

He builds upon what the lawyer knows so that all might know the full extent in which God calls us to serve and to see where God is active in the world. I imagine this might be what the internal response to Jesus’ words were from the lawyer and those listening in around them.

That guy is going to get in trouble walking that road alone, he knows better than that. Yep. See that’s what I told you – he was going to get robbed. But, good – here comes a priest. Wait… that’s not right. He was supposed to help him. Ok, at least a Levite is coming – they know scripture and to help those in need… but, what? That guy passed him by too? What has this world come to – where is this man going with this story.

Oh great, now a Samaritan has come by? Isn’t it bad enough that he’s been beaten, robbed, left for dead, and has been passed over by two people who should’ve helped him. Now, he gets to be finished off by those dirty Samaritans. My friend’s brother’s nephew’s roommate had a bad experience with a Samaritan once, you can’t trust those people. We probably need to keep them out of our land as best as we can.

Wait, what did he say? The Samaritan walked over to him? Is he really going to tell how he kills him? Hold on a minute… the Samaritan helps him? Cleans him up and takes him to an inn? And then he gives money and promises to pay even more! What is this man talking about? Doesn’t he know what those people are and how they act! This isn’t right! I’m supposed to be like that guy!

We hear this story and because we are so far removed from the context in which it was first told, we lose a sense of that scandal. We lose a bit of the ‘impact’ that this parable evokes. But, if we change the identities of the three individuals involved in this parable – I think we begin to see how radical Jesus really was.

The priest – or pastor – can stay the same. As pastors we are the ones looked to in identifying people in need. We proclaim the gospel of God. We are ones who are supposed to help. Yet, in the story – the pastor takes a wide berth and walks by on the other side.

The Levite – this is anyone you know who zealously upholds the law of scripture. The one who posts countless memes on facebook and other social media platforms about their faith and love of God. The one who is always eager to pray at functions. The one who is always quoting scripture to you and others. This is another one who we expect to stoop down and help. Yet, this one takes a wide berth of the one in need and walks by on the other side.

Finally – the Samaritan. The Samaritan was someone was not only different in their culture, their place of origin, and in their faith from the Israelites. But, Samaritans were also the ones who were described as shifty, dangerous. Good and wholesome people steered clear of them. For us today, this one could be identified as quite a number of people. Globally the Samaritan might be identified today as the one who practices Islam – a Muslim. Nationally and currently in our country that person might be identified as just someone with a darker complexion than pretty much all of us gathered here this morning.

Others in power, others with the medium, others with the purpose have vilified those of the Muslim faith and those whose skin is darker than our own. Are there cases and instances of danger and terror? Yes – definitely. We’ve unfortunately seen that throughout the world and in our own country. Yet, the world paints with broad brushes, where the act of a few have been painted upon an entire people and generation.

Many have been raised to fear and be suspect of those who are different and those biases and prejudices play out in much of the same way that I’m sure the Israelites treated the Samaritans.

Mocking, ridicule, shame, viewing them as less than.

Yet, we see in this parable – the shock of the Gospel – is that God works through those and in those ways that we wouldn’t expect. Sometimes God’s work can offend us in its radicalness.

The young African-American woman who protects the white supremacist from being beaten by others.

The predominately African-American church who welcomes in a young white-man who enters their building alone – even after the events last year in Charleston.

The church that displays a sign of Blessed Ramadan to their Muslim neighbors.

The person of color who embraces the white police officer with tears in their eyes as they both say and know – “It’s tough to be one another right now…”

The Muslim family who welcomes in the refugee Christian who is persecuted in the nation they both call home…

The follower of Jesus who speaks to and cares for all – but, especially and deliberately to those on the margins and declares boldly to them – your life matters to me. It matters so much that I will stand and walk with you. I will give you my attention and care.

Many will read this parable and only see the ‘good news’ in the work of the Samaritan. And the work and service that the Samaritan has is indeed good. He sees the one in need, he draws near to that one in compassion, and in love of neighbor cares for him fully, completely, and abundantly.

But, for me and I hope for you today, the ‘scandal’ of this parable is not just that a Samaritan can do good. It isn’t that a Muslim can be kind. It isn’t that a person of color can live in compassion for those that work so hard against them.

It’s all that, but it is mostly the knowledge that God works in unexpected ways. God works in ways that make us feel uncomfortable. God shines the light of the gospel in our lives that puts us on edge. God’s breadth of compassion and love is so great that God works through those that we don’t expect. That God works even through us.

God calls us to care for our neighbor. To be the ones who show mercy.

Be that one. Please. Be the ones to show mercy. Be bold to proclaim that God is at work. Be the one – the Samaritan. The Refugee. The Muslim. The African-American. The person of color.

Be the one who remembers and knows and has faith that God works in the ways that we least expect. God comes where we least expect, because God comes for everyone. No one is outside of God’s love.

Not even the Samaritan.

Not the lawyer.

Not the refugees or those wanting to keep them out.

Not the one who lives life differently because of the color of their skin or the life they identify with or the ones who fear them and steer clear simply because of their pigmentation or lifestyle.

No one - not one - is beyond God’s love and mercy.

Jesus makes this incredibly and radically clear by choosing the most unlikely of characters to serve as the instrument of God’s mercy and grace. God works through this one to exemplify Christ-like behavior.

That’s what God does: God chooses people no one expects and does amazing things through them. Even a Samaritan. Even our people. Even me. Even you.


Post a Comment

Contents © 2020 The Lutheran Church of The Redeemer • Church Website Builder by mychurchwebsite.netPrivacy Policy