Luke 10: 25-37
The week before Stewardship Sunday, which is today, is the traditional day for me to give ‘The Money Sermon’. By next week it will be to late because I sincerely hope that you will take this week to prayerfully and earnestly consider the financial gift that you can make for 2017. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We have for our scriptural consideration today the beloved parable of the Good Samaritan, which is what our Stewardship Season has been based on. Let us now hear this enduring parable from the Gospel of Luke the 10th chapter – the Contemporary English Version.
An expert in the Law of Moses stood up and asked Jesus a question to see what he would say. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to have eternal life?”
Jesus answered, “What is written in the Scriptures? How do you understand them?”
The man replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.’ They also say, ‘Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.’”
Jesus said, “You have given the right answer. If you do this, you will have eternal life.” But the man wanted to show that he knew what he was talking about. So he asked Jesus, “Who are my neighbors?”
As a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, robbers attacked him and grabbed everything he had. They beat him up and ran off, leaving him half dead.
A priest happened to be going down the same road. But when he saw the man, he walked by on the other side. Later a temple helper came to the same place. But when he saw the man who had been beaten up, he also went by on the other side.
A man from Samaria then came traveling along that road. When he saw the man, he felt sorry for him and went over to him. He treated his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next morning he gave the innkeeper two silver coins and said, “Please take care of the man. If you spend more than this on him, I will pay you when I return.”
Then Jesus asked, “Which one of these three people was a real neighbor to the man who was beaten up by robbers?”
The teacher answered, “The one who showed pity.”
Jesus said, “Go and do the same!”
I’d like for us to think about this parable the way in which the Christians of the first century would probably have understood it because I think over the years, the millennia we have glossed over the poignancy of the message of this parable. In context the Greco-Roman listeners understood Jesus’ parables as allegory about God: one character in the story represented God and events in the story pointed toward our rebellion, divine judgment, or God’s forgiveness.[i] Jesus always wanted them to know about God all of the time. He never pointed to himself but only to God.
In the Lukan narrative, showing mercy, compassion and giving of oneself is a divine privilege and so the Samaritan, who showed mercy for the man in the ditch, is acting in God’s capacity or as God’s agent. So if God is the fine Samaritan then this is a parable about God and God’s compassionate acts of love. And for us it is a call from Jesus to be Godly compassionate in our actions. Not because it just feels good to be doing nice things for others but because more urgently we are acting on God’s behalf which is serious business, not our own. Because it’s just what God would do.
So when Jesus says, ‘Go and do the same’, he is challenging them, and now us, to be agents of love and compassion for God in all situations, because that’s what God would do in ALL circumstances. Acting on God’s behalf is weighty and mighty work, so there are choices to make and this ancient story becomes a mighty call upon our lives.
In this parable there are so many ways in which God’s compassion becomes real. The Samaritan man showed compassion by stopping and being present to someone quite different than himself. He showed compassion by bandaging his wounds and using his own donkey to transport the man to shelter. He stayed with him and he provided for this man’s needs and then, through his compassion, he promised to return and to pay for whatever this man’s needs were while he was gone. The Samaritan man gave compassionately, in all ways, of himself, his time, and his financial resources. It came from his heart. Might we ‘Go and do the same’?
Today’s worship is about the church, OCC in particular. It’s about the saints of the church who have acted on God’s behalf witnessing of their love of God and their dedication to all aspects of the church. It’s an important day as we honored the saints who have gone before us and as we honor the newest members of OCC and respectfully and lovingly honor all of the current members and friends.
I have been so moved by the incredible stories that have been told over the past six weeks during our Candles of Witness time. I hope that you have been as well. They have been powerful stories of faith, of witness, of compassion, and of how OCC has made a difference in their lives and of how God’s abiding compassion is always with us.
George talked about Pauline and her unassuming financial generosity to the church. As a trustee it moved him to realize how spiritually important it is being a good steward of other people’s resources is and of how one woman, the tiny one that she was, sowed compassion in her life. Go and Do the Same!
Terry told us about when she first came to OCC and was greeted warmly by someone in the congregation, a time in which she still remembers and that she endeavors to do now for others as an usher and deacon – knowing that hospitality, like Christ’s extravagant welcome makes a difference. We experience God’s love through others and OCC is that beacon of God’s love. Go and Do the Same!
Chrissy told us the story of lemon cake and of serving men and women at Columbus House and how one woman was ecstatic that she had brought lemon cake. Chrissy, by her work through CS&O and example hopes that her love of service and the simplicity in the act of giving something even as insignificant as lemon cake is passed on to her children. Go and Do the Same!
Renee is inspired by the shared faith stories of congregants offered during Lent. The first time there was just a handful but the last time it was offered there was standing room only. That’s the incredible redeeming power of witness. We all have a story of faith to tell, and each one is unique, beloved, and inspiring. Renee knows that through her work with adult education. Go and Do the Same!
Lauri shared a reflection of a powerful time when she knew and felt that God was with her. She recently lived through what could have been a fatal accident. But she knew God was with her, that God was watching out for her and for all people involved in the accident. She knows first hand of God’s abiding love, strength, presence and compassion. That’s what moves her to work with our children, she wants to instill that knowledge of God and compassionate belief in them. Go and Do the Same!
Chris too witnessed the love of God through other congregants particularly Ernie Moritz who reached out to her and Ron during a difficult time in their lives. That’s compassionate, Christian community folks, at it’s very best. Chris’ all encompassing love of others and of God is expressed for her through her love for music. Each note she sings is a gift to God of thanksgiving and community. Go and Do the Same!
And finally Bev. Bev fully admits that she had a fear of serving the folks at Columbus House when she was on CS&O – seeing them face to face. Why? Well we don’t know and that’s not what is important here. What is important is that when the metal door was raised to feed the residents, so was Bev. She saw face to face – she saw the face of Christ in others and those just like herself. It was her ‘aha’ moment of compassion and grace. This is why she does the work that she does here at OCC through Stewardship. She knows that WE are the real deal and she wants to keep the momentum going. Go. And Do The Same!
It’s up to us now. Will we, will you Go and Do the Same? Jesus talked often about financial matters and we need to do the same. Making a financial pledge or gift, whatever the size allows the Candles of Witness stories emerge and be told. Might they happen otherwise? Well yes. Where there is spiritual work to be done, God has a way. But what good are inspiring stories of compassion unless they are told? Unless they are shared among friends and kindred spirits?
OCC needs your financial gift to allow for God’s work to be done. Each and every gift, whatever the size, is a way of encouraging each other in the Spirit and supporting the greater community just as the kind and generous Samaritan did so long ago.
Please take some time this week to pray and to think about your gift. I have already done so. Next week we will bring forward and dedicate our gifts to the glory of God. May the compassionate acts of the Samaritan saturate your thoughts, the stories of faith and witness so told inspire your giving so that you can Go and Do the Same. And may God’s grace infuse your life and the life of this beloved community that we call home.