Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pentecost 8 - C

The Good Samaritan Revisited


I have always figured Christians fall into one of two camps. I know there are hundreds of variations, but I think all of those, whether liberal or conservative, whether catholic or protestant, all fall into these two things: Either you think what you do matters most, or you think what matters most is what you think.

Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as your saviour and you will get into heaven, goes the saying in one school of thought.

Follow in Christ’s way and live by his example and you will get into heaven, goes the other.

I am firmly in the last camp, just so you know. I think actions speak much louder than words. In fact, I think people who say they are not Christian and do good things are being just as faithful as I am.

In the old time biblical way of speaking of things they called actions the fruits… the fruits of your labour…. The things that grew because of what you did…

I started today with Paul’s letter to the Church in Colossae because I think this is a good place for us to start thinking about what it means to follow Jesus – Paul speaks of it as the Gospel Bearing fruit.

And by that he means that the teachings are starting to have an effect.

Has anyone ever gone on a diet? I hate it because the first thing that happens is that you get irritable, then you start to crave every single thing you should not eat, and all the while you are looking in the mirror and seeing no change.

But there comes this moment, where the extra walking, or the lack of cheesecake really does kick in and you feel good about yourself. There comes a moment where the work starts to seem like it is making a difference and you get more energy….

You see, there is a feeling in Paul’s words that we all know… we all know this sense that things start to turn around, they start to pay off, and we get it.

Paul describes it as being made strong and joyful … when things come together and we know we are on the right track.

Whether we are talking about diets, about work, about faith, or about life… those are the moments to treasure.


Psalm 82 (VU p. 799)
Luke 10:25-37
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" 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." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 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. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 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. 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.'

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Of Samaritans and Cutpurses

What would shock and embarrass you into action? What would you have to see happening in order to step in? I have to say there are a lot of things that I wish I did that I didn’t do. The other day I saw a father yelling at their kids in a mall, like screaming at them… and I wanted to go tell him to cool it, relax, think about what he was doing… but I just walked away feeling awkward.

On the other hand, there was a guy whose car would not start the other day and I went and boosted him since I had jumper cables. Just a stranger in a parking lot, but he told me that he had been there quite a while and no one else had stopped to help.

There is a lot going on in the Good Samaritan story, but cut right to the core and it is about loving the neighbour… which is never an easy thing.

See, the first two characters are religious; it is not just the average person passing by, but really religious people… and Jesus is trying to point out to his listeners, by embarrassing them admittedly, that the religious people are often too self-righteous to help. He is not wrong about this… there are those that think people get into their own messes because they are not faithful and will not help them, there are others who say, with all the best intentions, I will pray for you, but still just walk on by.

The last person is the unexpected person… the Samaritan, the outsider, the one you would think would not help. Like have a black person help a white person in the South in the 1960’s or having a gay person help a red neck with a flat tire…

The people saw this; they knew that Samaritans were a bunch of liars, cheats, and losers…. But… if a Samaritan did the right thing when the holy people wouldn’t… what does that mean?

Anger Management

So I am assuming you have heard a sermon once or twice about the Good Samaritan. I am also assuming that someone, somewhere, has told you to love your neighbour, and even that your neighbour might not be who you expect… so good, remember that… but I want to talk to you about righteous anger.

Or rather, about when is it NOT okay to just be religious? You see, Jesus was talking to a bunch of church goers, he was talking to Session Members and trustees and they were asking him, what are we supposed to be doing as a church… surely you don’t mean we are supposed to love everyone…. There are a lot of people who do not deserve love…

And Jesus got angry. We don’t talk about that much, but he did. And the point of this story is to put the holier than though Pharisees and Sadducees down. He is not really trying to convert them, that would be a bonus, but he IS trying to insult them.

I wonder if we are too polite? I wonder if we ignore things we should not ignore? I wonder what it would be like if you challenged people for stupid questions and dumb answers. What if someone said something and you told them that answer wasn’t good enough… how would they react.

I do not think when Jesus said we should be a good neighbour that the point was to be a pushover. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Jesus stood up for what he believed and did not suffer fools gladly. I think we have gotten into a lot of trouble in society by being too polite, too nice, too accepting… Now, don’t get me wrong, I think love is the centre of everything, and I think we need to love everyone the way God does, I would NEVER tell you to be judgemental about anyone or anything.

But at the same time, stick up for what you believe in, hold people accountable for their actions, keep pointing out when people are making mistakes…  That is all part of being faithful to the way of Jesus too.


Love, when it is done right, is all about honesty and openness, about transparency and accountability. So when  Jesus is saying, Love your neighbour he is saying a whole lot more than, be nice to them. He is saying that we should challenge them to be better people, we should be there when they fall into the ditch, we should accept them for who they are, we should share who we really are…

Being a real neighbour is not easy…. But it is part of the struggle of being a real Christian.

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