Luke 10 The “Good Samaritan”
I will start this morning with two confessions. 1, I didn’t write this sermon until late Saturday night, because I couldn’t figure out just what I wanted to say vs what God wanted me to say, and that place is a scary place to be for any preacher. 2, I was tempted to hang a sign on the door this morning that said “No services today. Go to Church Street, or any other church, and BE the church, loving on neighbors in unexpected ways.”
However, with a session meeting today, I thought that might be a bad idea, especially without session approval, so instead, I went this morning to the 8 am Church Street Service and this is what I learned.
We all are hurt and grieving, this week, it’s just louder than normal. We all are at a loss of words, not knowing what to do to make the violence that besets our nation god away. We say love is the answer, but what is love, and how do we show it?
We are all tiered, weak and worn. And this is not a new thing. This pain, this separation, this discomfort and alienation are not new. They’ve been going on for millennia
The issues we face today, the issues of racism, of hate, of murder and violence, they are nothing new. We are still walking on the same road to Jericho, the same path filled with thieves and murderers, but now we’ve gotten so used to it that doing anything other than keeping our heads down and passing by is out of the question.
As I’ve look at this passage and remembered back to all of the sermons I’ve preached and heard preached on it, I realized that the focus has almost entirely been given to the Samaritan. We are told to be like the Samaritan, providing aid when needed. It brings us to a safe reading of the text, a helped that guy with a flat tire? You’re a good Samaritan. Bought someone a bottle of water, you’re a good Samaritan. This really oversimplifies what’s going on and leads us to see the text as a do good deeds text, instead of the life changing story it really should be.
Today I want us to look at this text from a different angle. Today, don’t picture yourself as the good Samaritan. Today imagine you are the wounded person on the side of the road.
You have been traveling a dangerous path one known for its thieves, its murders, its dark side. You have the car doors locked and you are trying desperately to make it through. But you get stopped by a red light. Someone pulls up next to you and before you even know what’s going on they have dragged you from your safe car, taken everything you had, beat you and left you for dead.
You hear footsteps and look up. Through your blurry vision you see a politician. Here is someone who knows the laws of the land, has prided themselves on taking care of the less fortunate. But one glimpse of you and the politician crosses the street.
You swoon and when you recover see someone else approaching. A teacher, a Sunday School teacher in fact. Surly this good person will show you kindness, after all they have taught many people the rules of faith. But they too walk on by you without an offer of help.
You hear footsteps one more time, and this time you don’t even raise your head, what’s the point really? The suddenly the footsteps stop. A hand touches your neck, searching for a pulse. A rag begins to wipe up some of the blood from your face. A call is made to 911.
You look up into the face of your savior. And standing before you is the person you least want to help you. The last person on earth you even want to touch you. For some that would be an HIV positive gay man, for some a member of Al-Qaeda, for others a tattoo covered chain smoking biker, or perhaps a convicted felon, or a child molester. That one person, who the thought of them makes you ill, is the only one willing to offer you mercy.
Now then, when we are at the point of death a lot of our prejudices go by the wayside. This week in a county west of Dallas Texas an officer was watching a group of inmates in the county courthouse. They were behind a locked door; he was in the hallway facing them. He slumped to the ground and the inmates realized something was wrong. They began yelling and screaming. They kicked open the locked door and managed to get to the officer. The officer, who by the way had keys to their shackles and a pistol on his hip. They laid him on the floor and made so much noise that other officers who were upstairs in court building came running. The inmates could have been shot, they could have been in a ton of trouble, they could have escaped. But instead they acted to save this officers life.
It's a good story. It’s a moment where things could have gone wrong, but didn’t. It’s also important to note that the first thing the jail did was to reinforce the cell door that the inmates broke to make sure it couldn’t happen again.
When the lawyer in our scripture asks Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” I don’t think he would have put these inmates in that category. But I’m sure Jesus would.
Friends, when I’m really honest with myself, I see the church in all of the characters in this parable. I see us walking through the dangerous Road to Jericho every day, wondering waiting for the thieves to strike. I see us walking past the wounded, maybe pausing long enough to pray, but not much more. I see us wounded ourselves, hoping that someone else will come along and ease our suffering. There are times, glorious times when we come together and really do the hard and honest work of loving our neighbor. And there are times when someone else is the neighbor, but they bring the wounded to us, the church as an innkeeper, to bind up, to care for to nurse back to health.
In my heart of hearts, my broken hear this week, I see our country as the wounded bloody mass on the side of the road. We are beaten, tiered, torn. What will the church do to be a neighbor to this wounded nation? What will we, the people of God do while blood is running in the streets?
How will we respond? Will we pause to pray, but not to get our hands dirty? Will we walk past thinking “Thank God it isn’t me or mine” or will we begin the difficult painful process of acknowledging the problems and really dedicating our times, talents, whole selves to the healing process?