The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 10C (October 5, 2014)
“God’s work. Our hands.” Emphasis:First Lesson: St. Matthew 25:31-46 Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 10:25-37
Prayer of the Day: O Lord God, your mercy delights us and the world longs for your loving care. Hear the cries of everyone in need, and turn our hearts to love our neighbors with the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
10:25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “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, 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.”
St. Luke 10:25-37, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Who Is My Neighbor?
What is he thinking, this Samaritan? He is known by many as the Good Samaritan, but perhaps he is more foolish than good. Traveling that dangerous stretch of road between Jerusalem and Jericho, he happens upon a fellow traveler who has been stripped and beaten by a gang of robbers. They leave him, half dead, on the side of the road.
Others happen upon the same scene, including a priest and a Levite; two religious professionals. Their response is much more reasonable. They understand the dangers (those robbers may have been lying in wait, just beyond the bushes). They honor their responsibility to God’s people (nobody who comes in contact with a dead person can worship without first being ritually cleansed, and God’s people need them to lead worship at the Temple). They choose to pass by on the other side.
Not this Samaritan. What he does is dangerous, impractical, expensive and disruptive. He approaches the injured traveler, bandages him and pours oil and wine on his wounds, loads him up on his own animal, and checks into an inn with him. He cares for him throughout the night, and the next day entrusts him to the innkeeper (promising to pay for his care).
There are any number of reasons why this Samaritan should have passed by on the other side of the road, as the priest and Levite had done before him. But Jesus tells us the Samaritan has a “gut feeling” that he should do something. He is filled with compassion for this unfortunate traveler. He follows his instinct, and shows mercy to him; extravagant mercy! And Jesus commends him: This one acts as neighbor to the man in need. This one experiences life as God means it to be.
For many of us, our acts of faithfulness are deliberate, disciplined and calculated. How much do I have to spare? What will my calendar allow me to do? How much energy do I have? What other obligations do I need to balance? Isn’t it interesting how the questions we ask are so similar to the question the lawyer asks in today’s text? “Who is my neighbor?” (Or, in other words: “How much do I have to do before I know that I’ve done enough?”)
Life, as God wants it to be, is not measured by the responsible nature of our measured actions. Life, as God wants it to be, is not at its richest when it is deliberate, disciplined and calculated. Instead, life is what God wants it to be when the deepest inclination of our hearts drives the character of our actions. Life is what God wants it to be it when Christ is present in us, through us, and with us; shaping our experience of the world, and empowering our love and compassion for one another.
The lawyer in this week’s parable is trying to test Jesus, and trying to justify himself. Jesus invites him to give up his attempts to define the minimum legal standard for salvation, and to give in to the deep source of love and compassion that comes from a living and growing relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This week, he offers that same invitation to each of us.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What question was the lawyer really asking Jesus?
- What answer did Jesus provide to him?
- What does the example of the Samaritan tell us about the life of faith?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- When has someone reached out, and been God’s vehicle of healing for me?
- When have I had a chance to be a source of healing for someone else?
- Who is my neighbor, really?