July 10, 2007

Looking Ahead to July 15, 2007 -- 7th Sunday After Pentecost

This Sunday we celebrate the sacrament of Baptism.

The Scripture readings this week are:
  • Deuteronomy 30:9-14
  • Psalm 82 (VU p.799)
  • Luke 10:25-37

The hymns are:

  • #333 Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling
  • #365 Jesus Love Me (or possibly #644 I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry)
  • #579 The Church is Wherever
  • #675 Will Your Anchor Hold

The Sermon title is: Mercy For and From an Outsider

Early Thoughts: It is a story many of us have heard countless times. "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho...which of these three, do you thingk, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" The beauty of stories we have heard over and over again is that they are so familiar and comfortable. The danger of stories we have heard over and over again is that they are so familiar and comfortable.

Of course, one might say, everybody knows the meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan. The point is that we have to think beyond our regular boundaries, that we have to be willing to provide loving support for those neighbours we would instinctively pass by on the road. Every Sunday School re-enactment and discussion, most every semon preached on the story picks up that fact. Sure, sometimes we pause to ruminate on why the priest and the Levite didn't stop to help (were they too busy, too preoccupied, too "holy"?) and we pause to reflect what might have been the motivation for the Samaritan, but the base message is still the same. And of course that is part of what is being said.

But the thing about parables is that they are often not as simple as that. I have to wonder what Jesus' original hearers would have felt had they been the man beat up and left for dead. When he wakes up and learns that he has been helped by a hated Samaritan. Even worse, he has been touched by a hated and unclean Samaritan. Is it possible that Jesus is asking his listeners to move even beyond charity to actual acceptance?

The story is prompted by questions around love and neighbour and fulfilling the law. In Scripture love is a verb, something we do and so Jesus tells a story about love acted out. As is often the case there is a twist, in this case the "good" one in the story is a Samaritan, someone few Jews of the day would consider a neighbour. But the love that Scripture calls us to also goes deeper. On the face of it, this story calls us to be charitable, and that is a good thing. But true love, agape to use the Greek term for the deep abiding love we are called into, involves an acceptance of the other, not just caring for his/her welfare. Indeed that is the really big challenge.

I think Jesus is saying that to be a neighbour means not only caring for each other. I think Jesus is saying that the "victim" of the story has a choice to make as well. And I think the his Jewish listeners may well have heard that choice much clearer than we do today. There is a double miracle of love and neighbourliness here. One certainly is that mercy was offered by an outsider. The other is that it was accepted.

In our world of separations and divisions today, what would it take for us to accept and offer aid no matter who the other is?

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