What Kind of Samaritan Are You?

    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. (Luke 10:25-37)

Before I start, let me do a little introduction of the role of the Deacon in preaching.

For those of you who were here least Sunday, Rev David McCoy did a good job of embarrassing me, and setting some expectations that I hope I can meet. At the Anglican Academy, we preach as part of the diaconal training, but only to other diaconal students. I really would like your feedback on my sermons. This diocese has established a thing called a deacon sermon which we are to preach. It differs from the priests sermon we are supposed to make you feel a little (or lot) uncomfortable and challenge you to take action to make a difference in the world.

So, here we go!

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Today’s Gospel of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the best known of all Jesus parables. There probably isn’t anyone who ever attended Sunday School who can’t repeat this parable.

On the surface, this parable seems to address Jesus teachings that we are our brother’s keeper; we are to take care of others whenever they need help.

But there is much more in this little story than appears at first glance.

Let’s look at each of the characters:

The LAWYER asks Jesus how he could have eternal life. Being a lawyer, he wanted a concrete list of dos that would guarantee he gets to Heaven. Jesus asks what the Jewish law says. Being a lawyer and a learned man, he recites the law:

    love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and all your mind; love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

This fundamental law can be recited by most Christians and exists in similar form in almost all religions. It is the primary requirement for our relationship with God.

But, is being able to recite the law enough to get to Heaven?

The THIEVES saw an easy mark in the man on the road. They beat him, stripped him of his belongings and left him for dead. Maybe they were loving their neighbor as themselves, but I don’t think that is exactly what the law meant. Do you?

Along came a PRIEST, someone who should be have been a living example of the law. Did he help the poor man? NO!! he crossed the road so he would not have to see him.

Whether he didn’t want to get his hands dirty or perceived he had something more important to do, he crossed to the other side of the road so he wouldn’t have to see him.

Enter the LEVITE, a member of one of the original tribes of Israel the tribe who was responsible for religious functions. Now, wouldn’t you think that he would come to the aid of the man? After all, a Levites primary purpose in the community was to judge actions against the Jewish law and remind people of their obligations to God.

So, did he? NO he crossed to the other side of the road so he would not have to deal with him. (Like being out of sight was out of mind and therefore he had no responsibility for his neighbor).

The INNKEEPER saw the injured man, not as his neighbor, but as a source of revenue. Had the man appeared at this door without the Samaritan, he would have been turned away. The innkeeper had better things to do than care for a battered, bloody man. And this poor mangled man lying around the inn would give his inn a bad name! This kind of trouble he did not need.

Then a SAMARITAN came along. Samaritans were the lowliest of all people to the Jews they evolved from the intermarriage of the Jews with idol worshippers when they were exiled in the north. They were a reminder the Jews would prefer not to remember. They were so hated by the Jews that most would not even say their name.

(Did you notice that the lawyer could not bring himself to say the Samaritan when asked by Jesus who was a neighbor)?

Samaritans were considered unclean and were to be avoided at all cost. Think about the story of Jesus and the woman at the well; remember the kind of grief he took from the disciples because he took water from her? We may not call them Samaritans today, but there are plenty of people who are outcast and marginalized that most people would cross the road to avoid. But are they not our neighbors?

The Samaritan, not caring that the man under any other circumstances would recoil from his touch, bandaged his wounds. Then he put him on his animal and took him to a nearby inn. . . a place where the Samaritan would probably not have been welcome, or would have had to enter through the back door. He tended the man until he had to leave; he gave the innkeeper money to see to his needs. He trusted that the innkeeper would do the right thing while he was gone; he promised to pay any additional expenses when he returned.

He was his brother’s keeper!

Where do we see ourselves in this parable?

Are we the priest or the Levite so assured in our holiness . . . or too absorbed in our own lives?

Are we the lawyer wanting a cookie cutter guide to Heaven, not willing to give up our own prejudices?

Or are we the Samaritan someone who goes out on a limb, inconveniencing ourselves so that someone who has greater needs is ministered to?

Do we consider that all people are our neighbors?

Not just those who live in Athens . . .

or Athens county and surrounds ?

Or those who are Episcopalian . . .

or Christian?

Jesus told us the greatest of these is love and showed us that love by his death on the cross . . . for his neighbors . . for all mankind.

There is no secret answer (even though the lawyer really wanted one). To the Samaritan, the man on the road was worth being cared for and loved.

Just as Jesus let us know by his death that all of us are worthy of dying for.

Delivered at Church of the Good Shepherd, Athens, OH on 15 July 2007

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