The Good Samaritan Sermon for 5th Sunday after Pentecost Proper 10 2019
Amos 7:7-17 Psalm 82 Colossians 1:1-14 Luke 10:25-37
I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know why it happened. It happened so quickly. I was walking on the road to Jericho from Jerusalem. I was being careful. I had heard stories about how bad it can get, but I had to get to my cousin Selma’s house. She has been very sick and I care for her deeply. I had to get to her. Oh, it hurts so bad. Out of nowhere these men came. They hit me, blow after blow to my face, and beat me and tore my clothes to shreds and pushed me into the ditch like I was garbage. The blackness overcame me but I’m awake now. Maybe someone will see me, maybe someone will help me.
Oh, it hurts to move my head, but I hear footsteps on the road. Blood in my eyes is making it difficult to see, it looks like a priest heading to the Temple. I know a man of God will help me. Through the smear of blood, I can see that he barely looks at me. Does he think that I am dead? I must move a leg, an arm, a hand, I must move something, I must cry out to him. I must…darkness again as I hear the footsteps move away from me.
Why didn’t he stop? Surely there is a good reason. Would I make him unclean? Would I not allow him to enter the Temple? Could I be that bad? Surely, God could clean him too. Why didn’t he stop?
It must be the middle of the day. I feel the sun baking the dried blood on my back and arms. One eye is sealed with blood. The blood is pooling in my mouth, so that words will not come out. Surely someone will see me in the afternoon sun. Who is this, I hear footsteps on the road. If only the blood in my eye would let me see clearly. It looks like a Levite. The descendants of Levi are supposed to help in the Temple. They are in charge of the courtyards, the side rooms, the purification of sacred things and other duties in the House of God. They aren’t afraid of getting dirty. Oh, please, God, let him stop and help me. If only I could move. Oh, the pain…. I hear footsteps moving quickly away…. and the blackness comes.
Oh, please God, if I am to die, please be with my family....my wife, sweet Salome, my widow, what will she do? I have no brothers to marry her and take care of her. And my precious children, Simon is just ten years old and Ruth is my baby. She is three. God, don’t let me die. Who will help me?
I hear footsteps. The pain is too much. I can barely open my eyes. What is the use – no one sees me. No one sees my pain, my wounds. No one sees me – broken and bloody. I want to scream for help but my lips refuse to move. Oh, gentle hands on my head – a kind face in front of my eyes. He whispers words – I can’t make them out – words in a soft spoken voice – words – is he a prophet, a Pharisee - oh Lord, he is a Samaritan – what am I to do?
Such gentle hands are moving around my face wiping my wounds with oil. The pain, the pain. He whispers as he works. My mouth is soothed with wine as the blood is washed away. I feel alive - I am alive – praise God I am alive.
How strong he is to lift me onto his donkey. Where are we going – is it safe – I must trust. I must trust! I crumple onto the back of the animal as I try to hold myself upright. His strong firm hand holds me fast.
He is talking – telling me that he will help me – telling me he is taking me to an inn nearby. With each plop, plop, plop of the donkey’s feet, I feel my aching broken body shift. The Samaritan’s voice falls into rhythm with the donkey’s steps. I can breathe, I am again soothed by his kindness.
He tells me we are at the inn. He leaves to go inside. I hear shouting, “You are not welcome here!” Then I hear his voice as I raise my head and see him gesture to me. The innkeeper comes near me. He stares – he sighs – he leaves. I am being gently lifted off the donkey, two arms carry me inside. I rest on a chair as the two men talk. I hear the clank of coins being passed from hand to hand. My new friend, my lifesaver kneels in front of me. I will be safe here and cared for until he returns. Be well my friend as he leaves. No words come from my mouth. I can only reach my hand to him in gratitude. I am alive – I am safe – I am cared for!
In Jesus’ parable, the people get the opposite of what they expected - the Samaritan does not pass by. The parable is a story for travelers on the road, a scriptural GPS, routing us in the only direction God desires – the way of love and compassion for others. This is more than a parable about a helpful stranger; it is about the transforming power of God at work in those who travel the dangerous roads in our world, moving us into the fullness of life, the abundant life in God’s Kingdom, life shared in community, here and now. This Samaritan has already experienced it. He is living it then and there.
A Samaritan, of all people, is moved with compassion and comes to the rescue of the man. The one who saves the day by showing mercy, the one who does what we the readers imagine ourselves doing for the man if only we could enter the story, turns out to be a social and spiritual outcast. In the true order of things, Jesus teaches the practice of neighborly love knows no bounds – in terms of those who are eligible both to receive it and to practice it. We are called to show mercy, to feel compassion for those, not just like us, but for all of God’s creation.
When a parable becomes a cliché, can it still function in the life of the community? A “Good Samaritan” is commonly recognized as anyone who comes to the aid of another. Was Jesus only offering a variation on “Be helpful when you come across people in trouble”? Was he just giving us a parable to make us feel guilty when we ignore a homeless person?
I don’t want to exclude offering help to those depending on the kindness of strangers, but this parable goes beyond that. It not only lays down a big challenge but makes an even bigger offering of the gospel, the good news. This is a story for people who recognize that we are all on a journey – not just a journey from womb to tomb, but from birth to rebirth, a journey from partial life to abundant life. The gospel proclaims that God pours into the hearts of all those who journey in a dangerous world.
What is our view from the ditch, how would we react? After the first person passed by, and then the second, would we slide into despair, unable to help ourselves, would we be convinced that we are helpless, that the situation is hopeless? A reporter asked Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who led Britain during the dark moments of the Second World War, what was the greatest weapon his country possessed against the Nazi regime of Hitler. Without pausing for even a moment, Churchill said, “It was what England’s greatest weapon has always been – hope.” Hope is one of the most powerful and energizing words in the English language. It is something that gives us power to keep going in the toughest times. And its power energizes us with excitement and anticipation as we look toward the future. It has been said that a person can live forty days without food, four days without water, four minutes without air, but only four seconds without hope. If we want to help people, then we must become like the Good Samaritan - purveyors of hope. (The Maxwell Daily Reader p94) Hope lived out with our hands and heart and feet. Hope that overcomes and rises above. Hope that flows from a healing heart. In a hurting world, we must find hope, gather hope, share hope, become hope, because with God’s love for us, hope abounds. Amen.