A holy revolution

File:US Marshals with Young Ruby Bridges on School Steps.jpg

Ruby Bridges being escorted by U. S. Marshals to and from school.

Watching for the Morning of July 17, 2016

Year C

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 11 / Lectionary 16

Sunday we have before us the story of Mary and Martha – Martha, the older sister, hosting Jesus, working to prepare the meal, and Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to the teacher.

It’s hard for us to appreciate the drama of this narrative. The family dynamics are too familiar: one overachieving, hyper-responsible sibling and one willing to go along for the ride. And so we hear a tale of family tension in which Jesus tries to calm Martha down. “Take a deep breath, Martha. The dinner doesn’t have to be perfect. Come enjoy the company.” Only it’s not that. It’s something far more profound. Imagine this is taking place in Pakistan where Malala Yousafzai – while riding a school bus – is shot by the Taliban for saying that girls should be able to go to school.

Sitting at Jesus’ feet means placing herself in the role of a disciple, a student. There is a reason we imagine the Jesus traveling the countryside with twelve men. They were acting in the public sphere. Women ruled in the private sphere, in the home, behind the walls, beneath a veil. But Mary has taken a seat.

She is Ruby Bridges with Barbara Henry, the only teacher at William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana willing to teach a black child. She is James Meredith enrolling at the University of Mississippi. She is Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Pattillo Beals walking into Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

She doesn’t know her place. Tell her, Jesus. Tell her to go back to her place.

But Jesus tells her she has chosen the good thing.

What is happening in Jesus is the dawning of God’s kingdom, the profound transformation of human existence. As we read in Colossians last week, He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.

The age to come is invading this old age, breaking down the walls, tearing down the barriers, transforming relationships, healing wounds, reconciling all people, recreating the world.

The world about us continues to shoot and kill and rant and rave. The world continues to drop barrel bombs and plunder the poor. But the form of this world is passing away. A new kingdom is coming. A new reign. A new reality. A new creation.

And we are its first fruits.

And we are its witnesses.

And we are its students. All of us.

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

And so we listen this Sunday to the story of Mary and Martha. And we hear Colossians exult in the work of Christ. And we sing the psalm that asks who is worthy to enter the temple – and then talks not about purity but justice and compassion. And behind it all is the promise to Abraham and Sarah of a son – a promise beyond all hope – a promise that makes Sarah laugh – but a promise that is fulfilled nevertheless.

We are witnesses. We are guests at the banquet. We are participants into the new creation. We are sitting at the feet of Jesus.

The Prayer for July 17, 2016

Gracious God,
with courage and boldness
Mary dared to sit at Jesus’ feet as a disciple
and he defended her choice.
Give us hearts that yearn to hear your word
and, amid all the distractions of life,
help us see what is needful
and follow in your paths;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Texts for July 17, 2016

First Reading: Genesis 18:1-15 (appointed: 1-10a)
“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.”
– At the Oaks of Mamre, Abraham and Sarah host three visitors, and God announces that the time for the fulfillment of the promise of a son is at hand.

Psalmody: Psalm 15
“O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?” – The poet speaks of the qualities required of those who enter the sacred precincts to offer their sacrifices.

Second Reading: Colossians 1:15-28
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” – The opening section of the letter continues, acclaiming Christ as the source and goal of all things

Gospel: Luke 10:38-42
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?”
– Invited to dine at the home of Martha, Jesus defends her sister Mary’s decision to sit at his feet as a disciple.

 

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AUS_Marshals_with_Young_Ruby_Bridges_on_School_Steps.jpg By Uncredited DOJ photographer (Via [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The way of life

File:Samariter.JPG

Once more on last Sunday

Luke 10:25-37

25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

I am not ready to leave behind the texts for last Sunday, but I have trouble pulling just a single thread from the thoughts and emotions that swirl around within me.

The whole of Biblical faith is here in this passage where an expert in the interpretation and application of the law rises to a showdown with Jesus. Jesus trumps him with a story we all know as “the Good Samaritan”. But it is never just a smackdown with Jesus. Jesus wants to summon even this lawyer into the way of the kingdom.

The whole of Biblical faith is here in this passage – or, at least, Christian Faith. Here we see the transformative hand of Jesus upon the tradition he inherited. In a world where tribalism reigns, Jesus summons us to live as those who regard all people as members of our tribe, our kinship group, our family. Brothers and sisters. The outcast, the unclean, the Gentiles, even enemies – we are to love them all.

Show fidelity to God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and all your mind and show fidelity to your neighbor as to yourself. Allegiance not to tribe but to the God who is creator of all. Allegiance to the God who opens prison doors and blind eyes and gathers all creation to one table. Allegiance to the God who empties the grave to set us all free from our habitation in the realm of death.

The shooter in Dallas became a victim of death. Even as his body lived, death held his mind and heart in its grasp. It promised him relief in killing. In killing cops, in killing white people. It gave him the illusion of power, the illusion that he could affect the world. But it gave him no life, no wholeness, no healing, no liberation, only a bomb attached to the arm of a robot and a name no one wants to remember.

But there is before us another way, a path of life. A way that heals and makes whole. A way that rescues and redeems. A way that is joy and light.

And here is the deep, deep mystery in the parable. We are the fallen wounded. And Christ is the Samaritan who comes to us, who binds up our wounds, who carries us to safety, who pays the price for our healing. For the living. For the dead. For the whole creation.

 

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASamariter.JPG By Mraz (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Live the mercy

 

Thursday

Deuteronomy 30:1-14

File:Musée du Petit Palais Petit Palais n09.jpg1When all these things have happened to you, the blessings and the curses that I have set before you, if you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, 2and return to the Lord your God, and you and your children obey him with all your heart and with all your soul, just as I am commanding you today, 3then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you, gathering you again from all the peoples among whom the Lord your God has scattered you. 4Even if you are exiled to the ends of the world, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will bring you back.

These words are not part of the assigned text for the first reading on Sunday, but they should be. They set the context for the promise of prosperity and for the declaration that “Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you.”

The story starts in exile. The exhortation begins in mercy. This is a word of hope. When all is lost, there is yet a future. If we turn back, God will restore. And what God asks is “not too hard” for us. It is not esoteric. The life God wants for us is within our reach.

Justice and mercy are simple things. We may not want to give them, but they are simple and straightforward. God’s commands are not like the tax code. You do not need a legal expert to make them intelligible. You do not need a hero to discern them. God’s commands are really pretty modest: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

At first glance, Jesus seems to make the commands tougher: You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times…but I say to you… But what Jesus is asking is that we keep the spirit of God’s law not simply its outward form. There is a lust of the heart not just of the body, and an anger that rends the human community though it does not murder.

God has commanded us to love our neighbor. Jesus just wants us to stop limiting mercy. Mercy is not hard. Compassion is not hard. It is our hearts that can be hard.

There are a thousand reasons not to stop and help the wounded man. The priest will be defiled and have to return to Jerusalem to undergo purification. The Levite, too, is surely on some important business and has good cause not to get involved. But this is not a situation that calls for nuanced interpretation of legal obligations; this is a situation that calls for us to live the mercy of God. Pretty simple: Live the mercy of God.

11Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 14No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

 

Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMus%C3%A9e_du_Petit_Palais_Petit_Palais_n09.jpg By jean-louis Zimmermann from Moulins, FRANCE [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A holy revolution

File:Paris - Jardin des Tuileries - PA00085992 - 106.jpg

Watching for the Morning of July 10, 2016

Year C

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 10 / Lectionary 15

Jesus is a revolutionary; he turns things around. He turns us around. And if we don’t like the political associations of that word, the “religious” synonym is repentance. Only Biblical repentance isn’t about moral regret. It is about changing directions. Turning around. Jesus is a revolutionary, bent on turning us around, bent on turning the world around.

The encounter with Jesus in this reading for Sunday starts as an attack by an expert in the interpretation and application of God’s law. Maybe it’s a personal attempt to make himself look good in the eyes of the crowd by upstaging this peasant healer. Maybe he wants to tear Jesus down as a potential threat to the established order. Either way, his question is intended to show that Jesus doesn’t know the scriptures or understand the tradition. But Jesus is a revolutionary; he turns the tables on the expert, showing that this “expert” knows all the right words and nothing of their significance.

The story Jesus tells is full of shock and awe. The Samaritan is an unexpected character in the story and he behaves in a startling way. Since the wounded man is stripped and beaten, the Samaritan cannot know whether he is “one of ours” or “one of theirs”. The touch of a Samaritan, his wine and oil, are all unclean to a Judean, as likely to elicit rage as gratitude.

The expert knows the answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?” A neighbor is a fellow Israelite. This expert is not looking for information; he is scrambling to save face, hoping still to show Jesus as ignorant. But Jesus is a revolutionary; he turns the question around from “Who is my neighbor?” to “Who showed himself to be a neighbor?” Now we are not talking about who the other person is, but “Who am I?”

What does it mean to be God’s people? What does it mean to be a citizen of God’s reign? What does it mean to be a human being, created in the image of God?

A Samaritan! A hated Samaritan is the example of our true humanity! Our divine calling! Just like the Roman Centurion was an example of true faith! This Jesus who welcomes sinners…he is a revolutionary, bent on turning us all around.

So Sunday we will be confronted again by Jesus telling this familiar but challenging story. And we will hear the preaching of Deuteronomy call us to fidelity. And the psalmist will pray for God to teach us his paths. And the author of Colossians will pray that we may lead lives worthy of the Lord – reminding us that God has “rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.”  A holy revolution.

The Prayer for July 10, 2016

Lord of mercy,
who gathers up a broken world in the arms of your grace,
teach us to live as you live,
to love as your love,
and to see all people as members of a single human family;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Texts for July 10, 2016

First Reading: Deuteronomy 30:1-14 (appointed: 9-14)
“Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you” –
To a people who have experienced the trauma of exile comes the promise of restoration and renewal and the exhortation to “turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Psalmody: Psalm 25:1-10
“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths” – A prayer of faith for God’s continuing mercy, protection and guidance.

Second Reading: Colossians 1:1-14
“We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.” – The salutation and blessing at the beginning of the letter to the Colossians that anticipate the central concerns of the letter.

Gospel: Luke 10:25-37
“But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
– Jesus answers a lawyer’s challenge with the story we know as the parable of the Good Samaritan.

 

Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AParis_-_Jardin_des_Tuileries_-_PA00085992_-_106.jpg By Thesupermat (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Stirred not shaken

File:Seventy Disciples.jpg

The Seventy

Watching for the Morning of July 3, 2016

Year C

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 9 / Lectionary 14

I watched a James Bond move last week and learned that the designation ‘00’ was given to agents after two kills – when they have proved their hardness of heart. Maybe we need a designation for agents who have brought God’s healing to two lives and proved their tenderness of heart. Stirred, not shaken.

Sunday centers on Luke’s account of the sending of the seventy. Earlier, Luke had recorded Jesus sending the twelve ahead of him to heal and proclaim the reign of God. Now Jesus sends “seventy others.” The reading contains Jesus’ familiar phrase that “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, and the injunction that they are sent “like lambs into the midst of wolves.” The mission is urgent (don’t pack a bag) but God will provide through the hospitality of those who are “sons [and daughters] of peace.” Where they are welcomed, they should heal the sick and say, “The kingdom of God has come near you.” And where they are not welcomed, they should “shake off the dust” as a warning of God’s judgment for “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me.”

As a new king coming to claim the land sends out representatives to prepare for his arrival, dispensing his benefactions and warning those who resist – so the followers of Jesus are sent. And they return with joy. The realm of Satan was falling.

Our other readings on Sunday pick up the themes of deliverance and joy. The text from Isaiah contains a promise of that day when Jerusalem is restored and the world brought to peace. The psalmist sings God’s praise for his work of deliverance in the exodus from Egypt. And our reading in Galatians comes to its final chapter where Paul urges the community to remember that we will reap what we sow – urging them to sow to the Spirit (the new creation, the reign of God) and not to our “flesh” (the passions and desires of our fallen nature).

The mission of the seventy is not just for the seventy. It is the mission of the church, of the people, of each and all of us. Having gifts that differ we are sent as heralds of the kingdom, bearing the gifts of the kingdom. There are plenty of contentious, divisive, and angry voices rending lives and the body politic. But Christ has his agents, bringing healing and life.

The Prayer for July 3, 2016

Eternal Father,
whose heart is ever searching
to gather your world to yourself,
help us dwell in your mercy
and make us faithful in our calling to bear witness to your love;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Texts for July 3, 2016

First Reading: Isaiah 66:10-14
“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you” –
A song of Salvation containing the promise that the nation, broken by war and exile, will be restored.

Psalmody: Psalm 66:1-8
“Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth” – a song of joy at God’s deliverance, recalling the exodus from Egypt.

Second Reading: Galatians 6:1-16
“Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all.” – Exhortations from the closing section of Paul’s letter contrasting those things “sown to the flesh” (our “fallen” nature, our innate self-centeredness) with what is sown to the Spirit.

Gospel: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
“”The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
– Jesus sends out seventy as heralds of the reign of God and instructs them about their mission.

 

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASeventy_Disciples.jpg  By anonimus ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Returning with joy

Sunday Evening

Luke 10

Pray. Love. Serve.

Pray. Love. Serve. (Photo credit: Fr. Stephen, MSC)

17 The seventy returned with joy.

At the end of the service the congregation is sent out to their ministry in daily life with the words, “Go in Peace.  Serve the Lord.”  I know that for many of us these are just code words for “We’re done.  You can pick up your stuff and go.”  Kids race for the playground or the goodies at coffee hour.  Others look to connect with friends.  A few have jobs to do putting away the communion ware or packing up the flowers for the donor.  The ushers walk through to pick up abandoned bulletins.  The sound techs are putting away the microphones. Most people think church is over, when in truth it’s just beginning.

The true worship of God happens during the week.  It happens in the meals parents provide for their children, in the kindness shown to neighbors, in the quality of the work we do during the week (Does it serve the human community?  Is my neighbor’s life enhanced by the product or service I may create or sell?).  It happens in the way spouses love and respect one another.  It happens in the concern we show for those in need.  God is worshiped by the witness we make to the love of God.  God is served by our service of one another.

The service of God happens when the seventy go out and herald the kingdom as agents of healing in the world.  At the end of the week they come back with joy at the service they were able to render – at the work God was able to do through them.  The demons submitted.  Grace was added to the world.  Light shown in the darkness.  The Spirit of God laid claim to human hearts.  Prisoners were set free.

It ought to be that we come on Sundays in the joy of our week’s service.  We come to give thanks for God’s work in the week, to sing praise, to offer prayers, to rejoice that we are citizens of heaven and to savor the mystery and promise of God’s holy table.

I know that many come beaten down by the week, and Sunday serves to lift them up and set them back on the path.  I am happy that it does that.  But it would be nice if we came back as from a mission trip buzzing with joy and saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”

Still Christ comes

Saturday

Luke 10

English: Icon of Jesus in Veljusa Monastery, M...

English: Icon of Jesus in Veljusa Monastery, Macedonia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.

Jesus doesn’t send us to places where he is not going.

When I first walked into a hospital room as a seminary student, I had no idea what I was doing there.  It was a seminary requirement to work for a term with the hospital chaplain.  These were strangers.  They had not asked for a pastor.  I was not their pastor.  I was a student not a pastor.  What was I doing there?

I wish I had understood I was going where Christ would be going.

Yes, God is everywhere.  Yes, God was already there before I hesitantly stepped into the room.  But Christ the redeemer, Christ the reconciler, Christ the healer, was coming to visit that room.  If I had understood that, I would have understood why I was there.  I would have understood that I belonged there, whether the patient wanted me or not.  I would have had more courage.  I would have had more grace. And the realization that Christ was entering with me and in me would have helped me yield better to that strange, wondrous, centering, empowering, gracing Spirit of God.

I was a poor instrument; but still Christ came.  It wasn’t about my skill; it was about my presence.  The coming of Christ didn’t depend on finding the right words.  I didn’t have to have helpful spiritual or psychological insights.  I just needed to be present.  To listen.  To see.  To care.  I just needed to forget my anxieties and discomfort for a moment and let Christ be present through me.

It seems so simple in theory.  But it is hard to step aside and let Christ be present through us.  I remember coming to the bedside of a dying woman very early in my ministry.  The family was so glad I came, then they all stepped back to watch me do something meaningful, something pastoral.  I found myself so conscious that they were watching me that I couldn’t focus on this woman and this profound and complicated moment of her life.  A prayer needs to be a prayer, not a performance: a putting into words the fears and hopes of the person in that moment, a drawing of those praying into the presence of the eternal.  But my mind was preoccupied by the watching family, wondering if they approved, if they thought I was doing this rightly.

But still Christ comes.  Through me, and in spite of me, Christ comes.

He does not send us anywhere he is not going.  Whether the board room, the grocery store or the public park.  Whether the dinner table, the family room or the bedroom.  Whether into grief or fear or joy.

I don’t always remember this.  It’s easy to be overwhelmed by my own thoughts and emotions, but it is what I try to remember.  And it is what Christ continues to whisper to me.

“Even the demons submit”

Friday

Luke 10

Giotto - Legend of St Francis - -10- - Exorcis...

Giotto – Legend of St Francis – -10- – Exorcism of the Demons at Arezzo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’

We don’t live in the world of the first century.  For us the air is not filled with spirit beings interacting with those who dwell on earth.  The sky is not a realm where spirits composed of fire reside, visible at night.  We see earthquakes, disease and storms as natural processes, not events caused by unseen personal agents that can and should be mollified and propitiated.   Our whole concept of a “natural world” is foreign to the first century and their concept of a spirit world foreign to us.

Yet the language of spirits is not without meaning for us.  We know that we are vulnerable to forces and realities beyond ourselves.  Our lives are affected by such strange things as the “national mood” (quantified as “consumer confidence”) and “political will”.  Forces like racism and sexism, wealth and poverty shape our lives and opportunities.  Handsome people get jobs easier, earn more money, and are treated more considerately than ordinary people.  Tall people are treated with more respect than short.  Brunettes are perceived as more intelligent than blondes, etc.

And there are things that seem evil, destructive, beyond explanation, as though the human heart had been taken over by something.  Lives can be dominated and controlled by fear, anger, cruelty, addiction.

The seventy were sent out to every place Jesus was going.  Sent to heal and to announce the dawning of God’s reign, they were given authority to exorcise these unclean spirits.  Where Christ comes, lives are made whole again, fears and addictions dethroned.  Where Christ comes, the burdens of shame and guilt are lifted.  Where Christ comes, relationships and communities are reconciled and restored.  In the work of these followers of Jesus, sent where Jesus was to come, the powers that divide and destroy were driven out.

Too often we quail before such powers.  To often we retreat in fear.  We avoid confronting evil.  We lack the courage to name and renounce what is destructive – or we lack the skill to speak and act with the necessary grace.

We need the witness of these unnamed 70.  We need to see their faithfulness.  We need to hear their joy.  We need to be reminded of the power that worked through them to bring healing to the places they were sent.  We need to breathe their Spirit.

And we need to hear anew the voice of the one who sent them:  “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”

Watching for the morning of July 21

Year C

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 11 / Lectionary 16

Bueckelaer, Joachim - Well-Stocked Kitchen, an...

Bueckelaer, Joachim – Well-Stocked Kitchen, and Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary in the background, the (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hospitality: the gracious welcoming of the stranger.  Abraham prepares a feast for the three men who visit his dwelling.  Martha, also, is preparing a banquet for Jesus and his followers.  Abraham hurries to get the fatted calf and Sarah quickly makes bread to set their best before these guests.  Martha, too, is hurrying to set before Jesus and his disciples a proper banquet.  The welcome and care of strangers is the highest moral value of the time, but Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet.  It is troubling to Martha but not to Jesus.  She occupies the place of a disciple, a student. She has chosen “the good portion.”  She has chosen the true banquet.

The Prayer for July 21, 2013

Gracious God,
with courage and boldness
Mary dared to sit at your feet as a disciple
and you defended her choice.
Give us hearts that yearn to sit at your feet
and, amid all the distractions of life,
help us dwell in your word
and follow in your paths

The Texts for July 21, 2013

First Reading: Genesis 18:1-15
“I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” – At the Oaks of Mamre, Abraham and Sarah host three visitors, and God announces that the time for the fulfillment of the promise of a son is at hand.

Psalmody: Psalm 15
“O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?” – The poet speaks of the qualities required of those who enter the sacred precincts to offer their sacrifices.

Second Reading: Colossians 1:15-28
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” –
The opening section of the letter continues, acclaiming Christ as the source and goal of all things

Gospel: Luke 10:38-42
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?” – Invited to dine at the home of Martha, Jesus defends her sister Mary’s decision to sit at his feet as a disciple.

 

PS  The appointed reading in the Revised Common Lectionary for the first lesson is Genesis 18:1-10a which cuts the narrative in the middle in order to fit with the Gospel.  This misuses the Genesis text where the promise is met with laughter (because the years for having children are long past) and the penetrating question is asked “Is anything to hard for the LORD?”

A surprising and unexpected mercy

Sunday Evening

Luke 10

The Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijna...

The Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijnants (1670) shows the Good Samaritan tending the injured man. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity

Moved with pity.  Luke uses this Greek word two other times in his Gospel.  Jesus is moved with pity for the widow of Nain as she carried her son to burial, and the father of the prodigal son was moved with pity for his hungry and broken son.  Outside of Luke, Jesus has compassion for the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd, for the crowds who are hungry, for the leper who is cleansed, and for the boy with an unclean spirit that convulses him.  It is a word used of God’s compassion for us, God’s suffering love.

When the Samaritan is moved with compassion, we should see Jesus.

We need to hear this message that we are neighbor/kin to others.  They are not our neighbors, creating an obligation for us; we are neighbors to them, creating an identity in us.  We are those who see others as members of our family.  We are those who, like Christ Jesus, are moved with compassion for the wounded of the world.  We are members of the royal household sharing the love of the king for those of his realm.  We are the body of Christ in the world, the agents of Grace.  It is not about which of my neighbors has claim on me; it is about God who has claimed and inspirited me to live his compassion in the world.

We need to hear this message.  But, in the Samaritan, we also need to see Jesus.

Jesus is the Good Samaritan.  He pays the price to rescue a broken and beaten world.  And he is our Good Samaritan.  He finds us at the side of the road beaten by life, and tends our wounds with wine and oil.  He carries us to safety.  He stays at our side through the darkness of the night.  He provides for our needs.  And he returns for us, paying any debt.

So, we are Good Samaritans not because we should (though we should), but because we have been brought into the reality of the true Good Samaritan.  We have lain at the side of the road and been met with a surprising and unexpected mercy.  We have tasted his goodness.  And he has given us his Spirit.