Readings: Psalm 82 - A Contemporary Reading from Grant us Your Peace by David Grant Luke 10:25-37
We pray: Loving God, we have heard your word for us from scripture for today – we ask for open hearts and minds as we find our place the story of hope and love that you bring to us in Jesus Christ. Amen.
The story of the Good Samaritan is very familiar to most of us – a story that clearly has victims, villains and heroes.
The victim is obvious.
Villains - those people who beat and robbed, and definitely those who passed to the other side of the street. Although we also know they can be victims too.
Hero - the unexpected, unlikely Samaritan who stopped and cared for the victim – and cared for him generously.
To help us get into this story many have written contemporary narratives – the farmer robbed, the church people walking by, late to a meeting, the bikie being the hero – such we wrote for our children’s church in Amberley.
But there is nothing like having something real happen to make you realise the compelling teaching that Jesus has for us in this story.
I was coming back from the market a couple of Saturday’s ago and drove into Frederick St to one of my favourite coffee shops – the Fix. No parks so on down the road to turn into Great King. And there as I drove past was a body slumped down on the road – feet in the gutter, face down – with another chap standing on the path laughing his head off. In the time of driving, parking, walking back I went through a million scenarios in my head of what had happened and what to do, thinking ‘this is where the rubber hits the road!’ When I got there someone else had intervened – had the drunken man from the road held up by the collar (I swear he was standing at 45º) and was talking to the other chap. It was quite sobering to acknowledge the relief I felt. Would I have walked by – I don’t think so – but I would have called for help – which is sensible.
I heard another tell the story of a similar situation (before cell phones) where seeing a situation where someone needed help, this person knocked on the nearest door for someone to call services and were told quite firmly ‘it is not any of our business and no we will not phone for help.’
Maybe another way in to this increasingly uncomfortable story is to ask an equally sticky question – do we identify with any of the characters?
Is it the lawyer asking the questions – so tied up with debating the issue that he cannot see the need before him?
Is it the people who pass by – the church people who preach love and care –too busy with their religious duties and choosing to judge rather that give mercy
Are you the beaten one – accepting help from someone you perhaps wouldn’t eat a meal with?
Or the one who responded to the need despite risking rejection, of being seen as incapable of good.
To tell the truth, I have no problem with placing myself in all of these roles at different times. And I suspect I won’t be alone. So I believe it is worthwhile thinking about some of the things that get in the way of our ‘Good Samaritan’ responses to need, to mercy, to love and kindness being shared with those in need.
One thing to think about is how our life style and culture impacts our responses. And I would share something we heard at our meeting here on Tuesday night – one speaker shared a story of an experiment carried out at a university – where a group of theology students were divided into two groups and sent to one of the two lecture theatres that were on either side of the campus. Here they both received a lecture on the Good Samaritan before being told that they then needed to get across to the other lecture room for their next lecture – the difference being that one group was told they would have a good half hour before the next one started and the other that they were late already and would have to move it. Both groups came upon a person lying on the ground, obviously needing help. The group with time to stop almost all stopped to help. Of the group that were running late – no one stopped. The cultural imperative to be timely can make us blind to times when our compassion needs to rule.
Another barrier to compassion and care would be jumping to conclusions about what has happened – with a healthy dollop of judgement in there to justify our non-action. And a lack of courage to enter the unknown. Yet Jesus consistently and in so many ways speaks to us of how, through compassion and mercy, the love of God is made known in the most unexpected ways and through the most unlikely people. Yet we are loathe, as David Grant suggested, to enter the messiness of the world, and we fail in courage when you ask us to move towards conversation with the fringe folk, those we prefer to avoid.
He uses words like embarrassment, nerve, courage, shaky – but he also follows the psalmist in reminding us that we are frail, of shaky resolve, and fearful duplicity – we are learners, faith-bearers learning faithfulness, flawed human being learning to stand alongside you – and asks God to take us as far as we can go in obedience, without guilt paralysing us and with the courage that we do have.
In reflecting on how to be a person who knows what it means to love your neighbour, to be a giver as well as a receiver of mercy and grace, it seems to me that we should also be kind and merciful to ourselves – as we do our best to follow in Jesus path of being obedient and courageous in loving our neighbour. Because it is not always going work out.
The important thing is that we turn our faces away from justifying prejudice and apathy and exclusivism as the proud foundations of our Christian living and instead look towards the ways we can be more like Jesus – where we can offer a helping hand, be slow to judgement, be willing to share our time, our ear, our hand to those who have need of someone to come kneel beside them and love them. For in doing so, even when it is a little thing we do, we are bringing our neighbours, whoever they are, into the care and mercy of Jesus.
Perhaps there is one more person in this story that we need to acknowledge – and that is the innkeeper, the one to whom the Samaritan took the broken and wounded man for healing. Are we innkeepers do you think?
Hear these words as we finish from the pen of Elaine Gisbourne – titled ‘Called on to be an innkeeper.’
I bring you my wounded ones;
the beaten, broken and messy,
the weary, the traumatised,
precious, wounded ones.
I bring you the ones from whom
others turn their gaze,
out of fear, disgust, shame;
rejected when most vulnerable,
I bring them to you.
I bring them to you because I trust you.
To see beyond the blood and dirt,
to look deeper than the bruises and scars,
and hold them,
stay with them,
attend to them and care for them.
I know this work will cost you,
cost you more than you think you can give,
but I know you:
you will give to them from the depths of your own generosity,
and you will continue to hold them
until I return and set them on their way.
I trust you because I know you,
that my promise is enough for you,
and that you know that it is our love that heals.
In our acts of mercy and love for neighbour lie the seedlings for transforming this world, so, as Jesus says, let us go and do likewise. Amen