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7/10/22 Sermon

July 10, 2022 – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Psalm 82 and Luke 10:25-37

Rev. TJ Mack – Union Congregational Church of Hancock

Psalm 82

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

A Psalm of Asaph.

1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding; they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

6 I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, you shall die like mortals and fall like any prince.”

8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations belong to you!

Luke 10:25-37

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

25 An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”

27 He answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.”

28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29 But wanting to vindicate himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and took off, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

33 But a Samaritan while traveling came upon him, and when he saw him he was moved with compassion. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, treating them with oil and wine.

Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and when I come back I will repay you whatever more you spend.’

36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The Parable of the Samaritan. Usually, we say the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Implying, of course, the dissonance of those two words placed together. Samaritans were not typically equated with good for those original hearers of this parable. The people of Samaria were despised, not trusted, the enemy of the people of Jerusalem. The animosity cut both ways.

Parables are intended to question our everyday view of life.

They wake us up to see in life what we have not seen before. Parables question the status quo, the order imposed by tradition, power, or class.

Parables are meant to challenge us, not to comfort us. If we read a parable and are content with ourselves, we are likely missing the point. Are you ready, then?

Who are we in this passage? For the most part, thankfully, we are not the traveler that was robbed and beaten and left half dead. For the most part, we are not the robbers.

More often than we care to admit, we are the first traveler, the priest, or the second traveler, the Levite, looking away, walking away, avoiding involvement. However, most of us see ourselves as the third traveler, the Samaritan, offering assistance where and when needed.

Of course, on any given day we can be in any one of these roles, or all of these roles.

Who else might we be? The one that poses the questions to Jesus prompting the parable? The person looking for the loophole? What must we do to inherit eternal life? Love, okay, sure. But love whom and how often? We are like the scholar, wanting to parse the scriptures to limit their requirements.

Today, thousands of years later, we are still trying to narrow the definition of neighbor. We are still thinking like the one who stood up to test Jesus. We are hoping that we can discount the worth and dignity of those different than ourselves, those a half a world away from ourselves, those that disagree with us.

Who do we try to exclude? Who would we pass by rather than assist in time of need?

Who would you substitute for the despised person or persons in the parable, the Samaritan? Be honest with yourself – you don’t have to answer out loud. The people on the other side of our southern border? The people on the other side of your political beliefs? Those that we disagree with on immigration, gun legislation, reproductive choice, LGBTQ+ justice issues? The people who attend a different house of worship than we do – or who attend no house of worship at all?

Who would you, who do you, pass by?

Scholar Amy-Jill Levine put this old familiar parable into sharper focus for me this week. She suggests this frame: envision yourself as the one at the side of the road, stripped of your belongings, beaten, and left half dead. Who is it that you would refuse assistance from as they came to your aid? Who is it that you do not want to touch you?

If you can envision yourself being helped by “the other” whom you don’t know, whom you dislike, whom you may fear, then you may be able to soften and let yourself reciprocate, let yourself love them in thought, word, and deed.

Who is it that you do not want to touch? Figuratively or literally, from whom do you turn away?

We, like the lawyer in the parable, seek to justify our actions and inactions, our prejudices and small-mindedness, our selfishness. Like the Priest and the Levite in the parable, we see and hear the news and we go on our way. We turn aside, turn the page, turn the channel.

There are so many people in need, we surely can’t be expected to help them all, can we?

Okay, granted the world is much more populated now than two thousand years ago. We receive local, state, national, and international news nearly instantaneously. The need is overwhelming. It is too much! Agreed? But… there we are, like the scholar in the parable, trying to justify ourselves, our actions and our inactions, rather than concentrating on doing what we can for those we can. Love God. Love neighbor. The scripture is clear. Love God with your entire being, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Who was a neighbor to the one in need? The one who showed mercy.

Have mercy on us, God. We are mired in our wicked, self-centered ways. Have mercy on us that we may have mercy on others.

In our Hebrew scripture – Psalm 82 - Verses 2-5 – The Psalmist is asking God, pleading with God…

2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy;deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding; they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

but God is asking us…

How long will we judge unjustly? How long will our governmental systems benefit the rich and deny the poor? When will we acknowledge the error of our ways and begin to treat all with dignity and respect – and to ensure that all have their basic needs met?

I am going to walk back an earlier statement. I said, for the most part, we are not the robbers. During the course of writing this it occurred to me that we are not physically causing harm but we do cause emotional and psychological harms. Any time we look past the differently-abled person, the addicted, the mentally ill, those practicing a different faith, or practicing our own faith differently, then we are robbing others of their dignity, their worth, their value as a human being. When we deny basic rights to entire groups of people – LGBTQ+ people, those seeking citizenship, women –– then we are marginalizing these individuals, pushing them aside, perpetuating injustice, robbing them of their equal place in the world.

We are the ones walking around in darkness. We, the privileged few are the ones that must see the light so that we can change our behaviors to be more inclusive, to be more compassionate, to be the ones to show mercy.

To whom? To all. A good first step is to let yourself be touched by one that you view in the same dim light as those from Jerusalem viewed those from Samaria. Widen your definition of neighbor. Be one that shows mercy.

I invite each of us to spend time this week reflecting on whom you are a neighbor to – and to whom you can be a better neighbor.

May it be so. Today, tomorrow, and always.

This worship service is ending. Our service to God and to our neighbors is beginning, or continuing, as we “Go and do likewise.”

Rev. TJ Mack – July 10, 2022

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