A sermon I gave Luke 10:25-37:
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[a] “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10: 25-37 NRSV
A heavily booked commercial flight out of Denver was canceled, and a single agent was rebooking a long line of inconvenienced travelers. Suddenly an angry passenger pushed his way to the front and slapped his ticket down on the counter. “I have to be on this flight and it has to be first class!” he insisted. “I’m sorry, sir,” the agent replied. “I’ll be happy to help you, but I have to take care of these folks first.” The passenger was unimpressed. “Do you have any idea who I am?” he demanded in a voice loud enough for the passengers behind him to hear. Without hesitating, the agent smiled and picked up her public-address microphone. “May I have your attention, please?” she broadcast throughout the terminal. “We have a passenger here at the gate who does not know who he is. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to the gate.” As the man retreated, the people in the terminal burst into applause.
I think a lot of Christians today are more closely aligned with the lawyer, the priest, and the Levite in this familiar scripture we find ourselves looking at this evening. You see, these three characters in the parable understand their lives in terms of assigned roles. The characters Jesus uses in response to the lawyer he engages did not consider stopping to tend to the man who had been robbed and injured along the path they were traveling.
In their minds, this man was unworthy of their help.
And we look at this parable and we look at the priest and the Levite and we shake our heads. We know this man has been robbed and is injured. We know what God’s people are supposed to do. And yet, we also know they don’t do it.
“That’s not us” we tell ourselves, “we know better.”
Perhaps that’s true in some cases, but in most, we don’t seem to have a clue what it means to love our neighbors and how to embody the role the Samaritan plays in the parable.
Most of us in here watch the news. This past week, two African American men were unjustly shot by police officers as bystanders recorded videos and shared with the world to see.
What you may not know is that such violence against minorities isn’t new at all. The only thing that is new is the impact that social media has on our society. Names like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile haunt our memories and will not let us get away from the truth: we have a serious problem with racism in our country.
Most of us watch these stories and tell ourselves and others “that’s not my problem to confront.”, but the truth is that it is.
Poverty is a serious issue in our community. During the week I volunteer at the Food Pantry and while from 9am-noon we may only fill fifty orders, those orders are for families with several members and quite often those families are larger than five and as many as twelve members. Even if each family only had five members on average, that is still 250 people needing food in just those three hours in one day.
We see these people sitting on the sidewalks in the cities and we tell ourselves and others “that’s not my problem to confront.”, but the truth is that it is.
Ever since 9/11, Al Qaeda, and IS, there has been an increase in Islamaphobia. That means people deliberately slander, mock, cast out, and sometimes assault Muslims in our communities for the actions of small groups of people that falsely claim the banner of a peaceful religion. We often sit idly by in discussions where people hurl all sorts of nasty things towards Muslims in our country and abroad.
We hear these things and sometimes participate in them and we tell ourselves and others “that’s not my problem to confront.”, but the truth is that it is.
Women in our country are not considered equal to men. Since the beginnings of the Methodist movement in America, women have outnumbered men and yet, men greatly outnumber women in leadership roles. In the larger society, women find themselves working the same exact jobs as their male coworkers for far less pay. If you’re not convinced, consider a story from just this week. A 17 year old girl in Kansas got a job at a pizza restaurant and so did her male friend. She was hired at $8 an hour and found out he was hired at $8.25 an hour. When she questioned the manager over it, she found herself unemployed.
This is a minor example of a wide spread problem. If you’re saying to yourself “it’s only a quarter”, you’re missing the point. The fact is that there should be no difference in pay, especially when it’s two people who are coming in on a level playing field.
We find ourselves sometimes doing the math to justify or excuse small discrepancies and we tell ourselves and others “that’s not my problem to confront.”, but the truth is that it is.
We’ve had increases in mass shootings and killings of police and innocent lives. Just two days ago in Dallas, several policemen were killed in Dallas by sniper fire, Texas as they protected the rights on others to hold a peaceful protest in the city. A few weeks before that, our country witnessed a mass shooting in Orlando that became a mass shooting in the United States second in severity only to the Wounded Knee Massacre.
We find ourselves continuing to ignore the plights of our neighbors, continuing to ignore those who need mental health assistance. We tell ourselves and others “that’s not my problem to confront.”, but the truth is that it is.
We’re walking down the wrong side of the road.
I want you to take a moment to think to yourself. Is there a particular person or a group of people, whom you would not stop to tend to if you saw them down on the ground as you are walking or driving around in your community?
I think for many of us, there are. And we excuse our negligence by saying “they did it to themselves” or “they deserve it”.
We are like the priest and the Levite of the parable at times. The priest and the Levite in the parable taught others to love their neighbors and to embody God’s love to others, but they were horrible about actually doing it.
They had qualifications for who was worthy of being loved and who was not.
Once we accept that the playing fields are not level for all, once we realize that minorities, Muslims, the poor, and women are being robbed and beat down by society, then we can learn what it means to embody the role of the Samaritan in this story.
What it means is to put feet and hands with our words.
Nowadays, we have social media. Anyone who has Facebook will tell you that there are people who always seem to be angry and practice what is called being a “keyboard warrior”. That is, they type up protests, and quips, and flood people’s Facebook pages with articles and slander and slogans as they lecture others.
If you don’t do social media, think about those who you know or who are pundits on television who are always lecturing others and putting the yoke of work on others to become activists in the community. Rarely do any of these people do anything themselves other than talk.
It is appropriate to become upset from time to time when things happen in life that are upsetting. It’s also appropriate to call on others to speak out in certain cases. However, what others and ourselves often do is talk up a big game, receive acclamation for our ideas, and everything stops there.
There are scores of columnists, pundits, writers, and Christians who are famous for talking a big game and passing the ball of action from themselves to others.
Think back to the story I shared. Put yourself in the shoes of the famous person who walks up to the attendant. Only this time, the attendant is God. And when you ask “Don’t you know who I am?”, God responds “If someone can help this person find their identity, come to the gate.”
You see, God is interested in what we say. The prophets and Jesus Himself are testaments enough to that. But God is also interested in what we do. We need to recognize our roles as Christians in our society. Our work does not stop within these walls. We are called to challenge, convict, and change the ills of our society by embracing our new identities and allowing Christ to show us what the identity of Christian entails.
I get it. What we seem to find more and more is that being a Christian isn’t popular in our society. You may have heard the story this week where Tim Tebow was on a plane and prayed with a family with the father had a heart attack midair. Tebow was responding to a horrific situation with the vehicle of prayer. He was mocked and ridiculed for what he did with people saying things such as “give me a break” and “let science do its thing”.
And we may have stories similar to this where people have marginalized us or come against us for being a Christian. But that doesn’t mean we need to retaliate in like. What it means is that we, in many ways, become the Samaritans in our society. The undesirables, the backwards folks.
But that’s the good news!
Because in the parable, it is the Samaritan who gets it right. It is the person who is considered inferior that responds to the hurt man. The person who is mocked and ridiculed that tended to the man who the others walked passed.
My charge to you is to be the Samaritan. To be a voice against the wrongs of our society. To have the tough talks over racism, sexism, poverty, and Islamaphobia with difficult people. To write letters to politicians and attend protests. To open your heart to the plights of others and invite them into community with you.
We are the church.
We do have a mission of restoration and redemption in our societies.
Don’t do it for acclamation, in fact, society doesn’t like it when its corrected
Ours is the walk of servitude side by side with the oppressed in our society on the difficult side of the road.
Ours is the call to love all of our neighbors without restraint or categories.
Ours is the call to find our identities at the gates of injustice.
May we remember those we have a tendency to ignore, may we remember our call, may we remember our mission to be a Samartian in a world full of priests and Levites.