Periodically I will be posting insightful preaching from all faiths. If you would like to share something you preached or taught or heard someone else preach on a topic pertinent to our times and the caring of all our children, please email me with the draft.
This is a good one taken from the Christian Lectionary for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary time.
Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary time: Deuteronomy 10: 13-14 Colossians 1:15-20—Luke 10:25-CY. C Sunday July 10,2016
Too often, this parable of the Good Samaritan is heard as a pleasant moral lesson of kindness and neighborliness, but it is so much more important than that! It is a masterful attack on communal prejudice.
It is our obligation today as twenty-first century Christians to place this parable in the context of ancient Mediterranean society which was an honor and shame society. Mostly we are also called to understand the importance of a simple question directed at a teacher.
A question in the ancient Jewish world was not perceived as a question for information. Questions were seen and experienced as a challenge to a man’s honor. The person who asked the question, and did not know the answer, therefore, would be shamed by their ignorance.
From the start, the writer of Luke’s Gospel tells us that the questionnaire is an Expert in the Law and is putting Jesus to the test. In doing this Luke sets up a very dramatic scene for a real exchange of ideas to occur, but he sets the stage first. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is consistent—He is always insulting the questionnaire. (I call this a Christian “touché moment”.) Setting the story up this way, Luke exposes the truth behind the questions:
Lawyer: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?”
Jesus: How do YOU read it?
The Expert on the law answers so directly and correctly that he exposes that he already knew the answer when he asked the question. This quick exchange exposes the fact that he is a liar that is well trained in the Law. Jesus in a simple response to the Lawyer says: “You answered correctly—do it and you will live.” (Touché). But this expert in the Law, needs to save face also, so he asks, “Who is my neighbor”?—knowing full well that Hebrew Law at the time said only people of your tribe were your neighbors.
Another trick question, but Jesus blows him away with his answer/story of the Good Samaritan and his ending question, “Which of these three became a neighbor?” This smart lawyer loses the match. He asked the question, “Who is my neighbor?” and now Jesus asks, “To whom must you become a neighbor?
The lawyer realizes that one must become a neighbor to anyone and everyone in need. One must reach out with compassion to all people, even to one’s enemies. The Samaritans in this case. Jesus introduces something very new to the human condition.
Jesus gives us a “third way” in dealing with social injustice and fear and violence. Followers of his third way don’t just have to chose fight or flight from an unjust situation, but can choose active non-violence. Jesus’ way deliberately invokes and exposes the violence and the lies of the oppressor. Jesus’s way is a gift not a law. It is a CHOICE—THOU MAYEST. Choosing LOVE is a decision of conscience .
Jesus’ way requires that we acknowledge that my neighbor and I share a human trait: Something in me and my neighbor is very dark and we need God’s help and mercy to bring it to the light for healing. Jesus’ third way also asks us to see all violence as a symptom of a unjust society.
In our second reading, Paul, knew and understood this deep human darkness within himself and within the people of his early Jewish/Christian communities. Today, we hear from Colossians, a community experiencing great violence from without and heresy from within. Paul being the Jewish/Christian mystic he was turns the violence of the Christ’s cross into the LIGHT of reconciliation for all people. For all neighbors….Mercy for All…Reconciliation for all PEOPLES. He gives us hope that we can change human darkness into the light.
I am reminded of Elie Weisel’s words from an early interview regarding his book on the Jewish Holocaust: “The opposite of Hate is not Love, it is Indifference.”
If you came to Church today confused, bewildered, sad, or angry; You are among friends, and you are not indifferent; If you came this morning deeply desiring change in this country, and the world that we share with others; You are not indifferent; You are simply practicing what writers of our first reading using the voice of Moses was asking their people to do, Finding God’s word near you…In your mouth and in your heart. God is within us. God is also within our neighbor.