We are called to examine if our churches and faith practices to see if they align with God’s heart and vision. The Gospel lesson challenges us to put God’s ways into practices as we are challenged to expand our definition of neighbor and how we are to help those in need.
The parable of The Good Samaritan is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible. This can prove to be challenging as people assume they have heard everything there is to learn from this story. But I believe that there is always more to explore and more that can be gleaned when one opens their minds to the scriptures.
Near the end of Luke 9, Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem and begins the journey toward Calvary. Over the next chapters, Jesus will unpack and embody what it means to love God and be his disciple. This story, given as a response to a lawyer’s questions around who he does and does not have to love sets the bar pretty high. A neighbor is anyone who needs help. And Jesus drives this message home by making the hero of the story none other than a despised, heretical Samaritan.
The following are thoughts from Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship at GBOD UMC:
While the answer to that question may appear to be obvious, “The Samaritan,” that is not the answer the expert in the law gave, and that Jesus commended. The literal answer the expert gave was, “The one who did mercy with him” (Luke 7:37). Jesus’ response, “Go on your way and do likewise” is exactly his response to us. The invitation here is for us to quit “feeling” merciful and actually start “doing” mercy. And it is to do it with those in need, not at them.
Look at all the concrete ways the Samaritan “did mercy.”
He came near.
He was moved with compassion.
He went to him.
He bandaged the wounds.
He poured oil (a soothing agent) and wine (antiseptic) on the wounds.
He put him on his animal.
He brought him to an inn.
He took care of him at the inn. All of this was what we might refer to as “triage.” These were things this man could not do for himself in his condition. So the Samaritan did.
When he had to leave, he gave the innkeeper money to keep caring for him, promising to pay more if needed when he returned. This is a bit of triage, but also something more. The Samaritan wasn’t promising to come back right away and keep fixing everything for the man. Instead, he was making it possible for this man to have some kind of community, and supporting the basic support networks of that community, to get him back on his feet again. This is “ministry with.”
The Samaritan did mercy, and he did it, hands on, with the savaged man.
This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus who loves neighbor as self. Sometimes it’s about rescue, if that’s needed. Sometimes it’s about making sure the systems of care and community in a place have what is needed. And sometimes it is about walking away, because you trust God and the resources of the community to do what is needed from here.
Questions to Consider:
Who is being beaten up on dangerous roads near you and left to die?
Who is being chewed up and spit out by the culture, or individuals, or groups or institutions where you are?
In what ways are people in your worshiping community owning that you are neighbors to these people? The passage from Amos and the notion of setting a plumb line in our congregations to see if our words and actions line up with God’s might also be helpful.
In what concrete, physical, hands-on ways are you “doing mercy with them?”
- “El Shaddai”
- “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian”
- Contemporary: “Love the Lord” by Lincoln Brewster
- Chocolat- The young priest, Pere Henri’s, Easter sermon talks about how we treat others, especially those who are different.
- Patch Adams- Patch gives a speech before the council of doctors about how to treat patients.
- The Lorax- The Once-ler instructs Ted to plant the final tree seek and plant the idea of change.
Call to Worship
Blessed is God, who created us and loves us beyond measure.
Blessed is God, who calls us to stop measuring out our love.
Blessed is God, who speaks and tells us stories about ourselves.
Blessed is God, who reveals to us who we are and who we could be.
Blessed is God, whose compassion is poured out on every single person.
Blessed is God, who gives us compassion to share with every single person,
even people we do not know or care about.
Holy God, you sent us your Son to teach us how to live with one another, and Jesus made it so clear for us when he told parables of compassion and mercy. As we give our gifts this morning, we remember that our lives are a journey, and there are wounded and hurting all along the road. Some are where we can see, some are where we cannot see. May the gifts we offer this morning be used to bind up the wounds, to ease the pain, to give hope to those who wait in despair as the world seems to pass by on the other side. We pray as we serve, in Jesus’ name. Amen. (Luke 10:25-37)
by Ken Sloane, GBOD UMC