The Pas Propers / Ordinary 15 – Pentecost + 5
14 July 2019
whose love demands our all:
reveal to us our wounds
and give us grace to know our neighbour
who tends us with foreign hands;
through Jesus Christ, the merciful one. Amen.
Today’s gospel is one we’re familiar with. We know Jesus parable well, in this instance. The parable of the Good Samaritan.
But do we remember the question that prompted it? Do we remember Jesus reply?
“25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”” (Lk 10:25-28)
So, this is all great, right? All we have to do is love. Love God, as we are loved by God, with our whole person, and to love each other as we are loved by God, and to act on and from that love.
The path to salvation is clear cut, its straightforward. The issue could have stopped here, but it didn’t and so in the way we humans have of justifying this action or that one, of seeing this person as worthy and that one as not, we get Jesus parable of ‘The Good Samaritan’.
We get the unexpected tale that describes to us, without question, who is our neighbour, and why. And its described in such a way that Jesus opens our eyes. He provides us with a definition to the question that perhaps we haven’t considered before. He opens our eyes because Israelites and Samaritans don’t even like each other much less help each other out in roadside emergencies.
Or, if we have considered it before, perhaps we need to examine why we chose not to include Jesus’ definition in our day to day lives, in this century, in this place, in these circumstances?
At the same time, we can also look at the ways our society, our world continues to ignore Jesus’ command “Jesus told him [as he tells each one of us], “Go and do likewise.”” (Lk 10:37b)
Since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Recommendations, and the rise of populist political patterns, it seems that a further split in our society as a polite, welcoming of diversity, multi-cultural society has either appeared, or has become uncovered. And it actually gets my own hackles up, but it also makes me embarrassed to be a Canadian, as well, I’m sorry to say.
Perhaps, it’s coming from the stress of the migration of Syrian refugees who are escaping famine, drought, and war?
Perhaps it’s because we see such different, less respectful behaviour from our international neighbours and allies, as well as from our own friends and family?
Perhaps it’s because the veneer of our tolerant multiculturalism is just that – a veneer – a layer of behaviour laid upon our base behaviour and it has truly worn thin, since the 1970’s. And that what it was covering was truly a society that is more xenophobic, more afraid of ‘the other’ than we’d ever willingly admit, but simultaneously apologize for, because we are, after all, a society of polite Canadians. Sorry.
And I’m truly sorry that this is where we find ourselves, today.
Our society, not to mention our world, truly needs to reexamine Jesus’ parable, but not for reasons of salvation.
At this point, I need to remind us that we do good works, we help our neighbour in need not because we are looking for the path to salvation. After all, Jesus death and resurrection on each of our behalf assures us that salvation is already assured.
Luther, then, takes it one step further with his observation that we don’t do good works to be saved, but because salvation is already assured, its already ours.
So, here is where we find ourselves, today, individually, communally, and as humans being part of the wider society.
Recently, I was asked what it is that I do as an effort to repel, to fight against racism, and this has caused me to think, because I have striven, in my life, to not see colour. This doesn’t mean I’m colour blind, but rather I don’t see differences between people based upon skin colour, upon manner of dress, or methods of worship.
I was once told that if the last thing you use to describe another person is refer to the colour of their skin, then you are not a racist. And this is easy to proclaim, but not that easy, in the beginning to live out, especially when one’s physical features are often what we use to describe each other, to someone who may not be familiar with the multi culturalism with which we live.
So, this, then, is one challenge we face to breaking the power of fear of ‘the other’ over each of our lives, and how we live those lives, together. Instead it allows us to learn about other cultures, other ways of life that are different from what we know.
A next step, then, would be not generalizing the circumstances that have led to a marginalization of those who our mind sees as ‘other’. After all, we haven’t walked a mile in their shoes. We don’t know the challenges they’ve faced or continue to face. We haven’t made or understood the decisions that they’ve made in and for their lives.
And to come to this point, to follow where Jesus leads regarding the application of the Law, especially as it applies to those who don’t look like, act like, dress like, or even speak as we do in our own lives isn’t easy.
Today Jesus is speaking with the people. Today its “an expert in the law” who stands up to present the current mind-bending puzzle saying: “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”” (Lk 10:25b)
And Jesus response is to ask about the Law of Moses, given to the Hebrew people on Mount Sinai, as they began to love themselves, as they began to see themselves not as slaves, as labourer’s, as a commodity of the Egyptian society, but as those who are loved by God, as those who love God as they are able, and as those who love themselves and each other.
And we know that this journey wasn’t easy. It wasn’t brief, and they didn’t enter the Promised Land until such lessons were seen lived out, not just understood in theory, and that particular journey took forty years.
At the same time, we can see the same situation all around us.
We understand this nugget that is the summary of the Law as being a part of the journey of being Christians, but we want to see those we consider ‘other’ as just that, and we have the insatiable urge, these days, to put up walls, barriers, etc. between us and others.
But Jesus calls us, encourages us, models for us how to overcome such aspects of our nature, until the day when we can honestly look each other in the eye, and serve Christ whom we find there.
Until that day comes, however, and it will, one day come, as long as we continue to seek ways to at least describe each other without referring to the colour of one’s skin.
Until that day when we can understand the climate based geopolitically influenced decisions that have led people to make decisions in ways that we don’t necessarily understand.
Until the day when we can love and serve the neighbour in our midst, regardless of race, creed, or colour, then we will be able to love as we are loved by God, and we’re able to serve each other, and be the neighbour that someone else needs to be upheld and supported, in their life, their struggles, their journey.
Jesus tells us the parable of the Good Samaritan. He tells us, when those holding two respected and admired positions in Jewish life happen across a man beaten, robbed, and left for dead. They passed him by, each for their own reasons.
But the man from Samaria, the man seen as not a friend to those from Israel, he stops, he helps, he changes the pattern of life between him and this man in need.
He shows compassion, without thinking of the cost to himself, his family, or even his business interests.
Instead, he sees a man in need, not an Israelite, not someone who is ‘other’. Rather he sees someone who needs, now, not next week when government legislation comes out with Good Samaritan Laws compelling all citizens to stop and offer help to those in need.
And we can see similar struggles in our own lives, our own world, still today.
Every day, we are becoming more and more polarized by our governments who seek to divide us one from the other. The USA is now compiling data on who in the US is a citizen, and who is just living there.
Politics, the world over, is drawing lines in the sand pointing out an ‘us vs them’ dynamic and how we need to protect ourselves from ‘them’, whoever they may be, today.
But here we are.
How will we respond to such rhetoric? How will we respond to claims that we need to segregate ourselves and return to patterns of living that treated people on a sliding scale of who’s in and whose out.
I think that committing acts of “anti-racism”, today, is about as countercultural, as necessary to the growth of our multicultural, multiethnic society as committing acts of peace.
It’s about as old as today’s conversation between “an expert in the law,” and Jesus. (Lk 10:25a)
When we are loved, we are forever changed. And we are loved by God.
When we love, unconditionally, then we forever become the change that we see and want to see in the world around us. We are then able to be part of the solution, part of the inbreaking of the kingdom of God into this world, into our hearts, into the ways in which we see and treat each other, every day.
And it begins, here. In this place, in each of our hearts, and through each of our lives.
It begins by actively loving all whom we are given to love, whether near or far.
It begins by looking at the world in which we live and deciding to be part of the change that will bring us all together, healing us and our societies along the way until the kingdom of heaven is truly realized in our midst, in our actions and in our interactions.
After all, when all is ‘said and done’ Jesus asks the expert in the law “36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”” (Lk 10:36-37)