Sermons 2003-2004

The Summary of the Law and the Good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise" Luke 10:25-37, 11 July 2004
Home | Christmas Eve A, "Are we really ready?", Luke 2: 1-20, 24 December 2004 | "Finally! Well, almost...." Advent 4A , 19 December 2004, Matthew 1:18-25 | Faith and Doubts, Advent 3A, 12 December 2004, Matthew 11:2-11 | John the Baptist, Advent 2A, 5 December 2004, Matthew 3:1-12 | Left Behind? Advent 1A, 28 Nov 2004, Matthew 24:37-44 | Some King of kings! Proper 29C, 21 November 2004, Luke 23:35-43 | "Not one thrown down", Proper 28C, 14 November 2004, Luke 21:5-19 | All Saints and for all the saints, 2004C, 31 October 2004, Luke 6:20-36 | The Lambeth Commission Windsor Report, the Pharisee, and the tax collector, Proper 25C, 24 Oct 2004 | "Lord, teach us to pray." Proper 20C, 17 October 2004, Genesis 32:3-8, 22-30; Luke 18:1-8a | "It's all in the choosing", Proper 23C, 10 October 2004, Ruth 1:1-19a; Luke 17:11-19 | "Increase our faith", Proper 22C, Luke 17:5-10, 3 October 2004 | Proper 21C 2004, 26 September 2004, "R&R: Response and Relationships", Luke 16:19-31 | Proper 19C 2004, 12 September 2004, "Lost and Found", Luke 15:1-10 | Proper 18C 2004, 5 September 2004, "Preaching or Meddling", Luke 14:25-33 | Proper 16C 2004, 22 August 2004, "The Narrow Gate ", Luke 13:22-30 | Proper 15C, 15 August 2004 | Proper 14C, 8 August 2004 | Proper 13C, 1 August 2004 | Shrinemont: "Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses", Proper 15c, 15 August 2004 | "Lord, teach us how to pray," Proper 12C, 25 July 2004, Genesis 18:20-33; Luke 11:1-13 | The Summary of the Law and the Good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise" Luke 10:25-37, 11 July 2004 | Independence Day 2004. "The Creative Tension of the Church: Who is to be included?" | "Now! Now! Now!", Proper 8C, 27 June 2004, Luke 9:51-62 | "Star Throwers", Proper 7C, 20 June 2004, Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 9:18-24 | The more things change the more they remain the same, Pentecost 2C, 13 June 2004 | "O Holy Triune God, most Holy Trinity; here are we. Send us." Trinity C, 6 June 2004 | "Come, Holy Spirit", Pentecost C , 30 May 2004 | "That they all may be one", Easter 7C, 23 May 2004 | The Holy Spirit: Paraclete, Pneuma, Ruach, Easter 6C 2004 | Agapate Allelous: Love beyond each other, Easter 5C 2004, 9 May 2004 | The Good Shepherd and the five people you meet in heaven, Easter 4C 2004 | "The God of the Second Chance -- and of many chances", Easter 3C, 25 April 2004 | Baptizatus Sum: I am baptized, Easter 2C 2004 | It is NOT an Idle Tale: Easter Sunday, 18 April 2004 | Palm Sunday-Passion Sunday Roller Coaster: What We Want or What We Need? | Who are the Wicked Tenants, Lent 5C 2004 | The Prodigal Son -- and so much more | God, the Gardener, and the Fig Tree | "The Hen and the Fox", Lent 2C | The Comfortable Rut of Ordinary Temptation | "Getting from Uh-oh to Aha", Luke 9:28-36, Epiphany Last C, 22 February 2004 | Jesus, Jeremiah, and the Beatitudes: What to Make of it All | The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon: God working in the world | Jesus, the Archbishop, and Annual Council The Dark Abyss of Schism | The Nature of Revelation: Jesus' Sermon at Nazareth | The Miracle at the Wedding in Cana | The King of kings and the Lion King | "The Magnificat, Watching, and Waiting" | "Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always" | A Voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord." | "Standing in the Day of Battle: Isabel and the Gospel" | Dogma, Doctrine, and the Theological Enterprise | The Little Apocalypse | Jesus and theWidow's Mite | One Priest's Response to the Election of Gene Robinson | The Great Commandment: Jesus Meant What He said | Who is blind? | Eyes on Jesus and minds on mission! | Tradition or Traditionalism? | Credo: Be doers of the Word and not hearers only." | Who do YOU say that I am? | "It's about Power and Winning" | Contact Wicomico Parish Church
Proper 10C 2004 Luke 10:25-37

Today we come again to one of the most familiar stories in the Bible – the lovely and very challenging, even unsettling story of the Good Samaritan. Among clergy there is sometimes some grumbling when Good Samaritan Sunday rolls around because at times there seems nothing new to say about it. But I have always been struck by the power and vitality of this passage. It seems to speak to the Church in every age and stage of life. Diving deeply into the deep whirlpool waters of this scriptural passage brings to the surface something to think about, to consider, even to act upon in the life of the Church and of each one of us.

The Good Samaritan is, of course, too often used to make people feel guilty. But that is isogesis and a misreading of what Jesus intended. But there are some interesting questions to consider when we think about Jesus, the lawyer, and the story of the Good Samaritan.

The first one is this: with which character in the story do we identify: Jesus, the lawyer, the traveler, the priest, the Levite, the robbers even, the innkeeper, or the Good Samaritan. One fanciful sermon concerned identifying with the Good Samaritan’s donkey – which I thought was a real stretch – but perhaps not. And we could build a whole series of sermons around which character we identify with – but not today. But as you reflect on the story it isn’t a bad way for each of us to dive into those deep and dark whirlpool waters to find what is there that speaks directly to us and to the lives we lead.

Another question is this: Which of the characters is the story really about? I would narrow it to three – although you could make a case that it is about all of them. But I think it is really only about Jesus, the lawyer who wanted to test Jesus and who wound up being tested, and the Good Samaritan. And let’s open that up a bit by beginning with two of the characters I don’t think the passage is really about: the priest and the Levite.

These two represent all of the respectable orthodox conservative religious people of Judaism. The Deuteronomistic and Levitical laws of Moses forbid priests and Levis to touch a dead person. And in those days, a half dead person was well on the way to being completely dead if found on that lonely road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Moreover, this road was obviously traveled by Samaritans equally with the Jews and this half dead man might well have been a Samaritan. For the orthodox, a Samaritan was equally as unclean as a dead man and a half dead Samaritan was doubly unclean. Their understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures forbade them to touch him; it would be a violation of the law. And perforce, they could do nothing.

A story: many people found the TV series Seinfeld intriguing as well as entertaining, a symbol of the times. The last episode was unsettling for many people for it was not quite the usual Seinfeld approach of being about nothing really. Some of us may have seen it, but here is a recap of the main scene:

Seinfeld plays a would be comedian on the show and in the last episode, he has been given a contract from major network to be the lead in a sitcom and the network is flying him and his friends, Elaine, George and Kramer to Paris as a gift. But their airplane has mechanical problems and they are stuck in Lakeland, Massachusetts. While they are killing time wondering around on the sidewalks in this quaint New England town, suddenly before their very eyes a car jacking takes place.

Being the kind of people they are they make fun of the guy who is being robbed. Kramer, who has a camcorder in his hands, films the incident as a curiosity. The four never yell out, they’re only 10 yards away – 30 feet away -- and they never do anything to help. They just stand there and watch. The car thief takes off with the car and the police arrive on the scene too late to do anything about it. When the excitement is over Jerry suggests they get something to eat.
As they start to leave the scene the police officer comes over to them. He says, “Alright, hold it right there.“ Seinfeld splutters:” Wha’?” The policeman: “You’re under arrest.” Seinfeld: “Under arrest? What for?” Policeman: “Article 223 dash 7 of the Lakeland county penal code.”
Elaine: “What, we didn’t do anything.” Policeman: “That’s exactly right. The law requires you to help or assist anyone in danger as long at its reasonable to do so.”
George: “I never heard of that.” Policeman: “It’s new, it’s called the Good Samaritan Law, Let’s go.” (1)
Is there an echo here of something called the Summary of the Law, something that Jesus and the lawyer were debating?

It is interesting that the Samaritan was likewise forbidden to touch Jews and dead people for fear of becoming unclean – they also held to the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy, Numbers, and Leviticus. It was one of the few things that Samaritans had in common with orthodox Jews. And it is interesting that Jesus would single out a member of a fringe group, a Samaritan, to teach about the Summary of the Law. After all, just Sunday before last, Saint Luke told us that Jesus was not made welcome at a Samaritan village as he journeyed toward Jerusalem, they same village about which he refused to let James and John cry, “Anathema!” and rain destruction down on it from heaven.

But what about the lawyer? He could quote the Law of Moses as well as anyone. He knew the Summary of the Law; he quoted it to Jesus. But he didn’t have a clue about what it meant. It required him to think, to step beyond the narrow little confines of the hundreds of rules in the Law of Moses, to be prepared to do something that would make him uncomfortable, something he was not ready to do.

So when the lawyer quibbled, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus told him the story of the Good Samaritan. And asked “Which of these three, do YOU think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” It was a measure of the discomfort the lawyer felt at being forced outside of his little narrow legal box to think for himself about this question that he could not say the words, “The Samaritan.” He just couldn’t quite get there. But Jesus told him to go and do likewise.

Nor should we be good Samaritans, to love our neighbors, no matter how unclean they might seem, for any other reason but that Jesus, God himself on earth, told us to do it.

Often we feel really good when we’ve helped someone. That’s good as far as it goes – but here’s an interesting story about feeling good and gratitude -- or not
Peter Hawkins, formerly of Yale Divinity School, and then Professor of Religion at Boston University reflected about putting it into action:
“"Go and do likewise." Apparently, eternal life is this easy to inherit -- a virtual no-brainer.
“At least until you actually try to do likewise. Twenty years ago in New York, a friend and I were walking uptown along Madison Avenue after a performance of Alec McGowan’s one-man Gospel According to Mark. For two hours we had watched McGowan bring the story to vivid life with no sound of music, nary a prop and only the scripture itself as a script. The effect was stunning. We left the theater like those women who fled from the empty tomb in terror and amazement. Rather than being frightened, however, we were exhilarated. We had heard the old story as if for the first time and were swept up into its rapid-fire world of word and action.
“Then the door of a bar opened and a very drunk man stumbled out in front of us. We were stunned, as was a third passerby who had the presence of mind to grab the man before he hit the concrete. The man didn’t want to be helped; nor could I find anyone in the bar who wanted anything to do with him. Should we leave this foul-mouthed drunk alone, as he asked us to do, or lead him home?
“What Would Jesus Do? With the Gospel of Mark still ringing in my ears, it was not possible to do what one normally does in New York when a door opens and someone hurtles forth. The challenge of the Parable of the Good Samaritan was palpable in the air that night. At least it was for my friend and me, if not for the fellow who had joined us. Of such is the kingdom of heaven.
“What we hadn’t counted on was that the man we’d rescued and brought back to his gorgeous Upper Eastside townhouse was not interested in the kingdom coming. He wanted a drink; he wanted a smoke; he didn’t care if he burned the whole building down; he wanted us to get the hell out.
“It was time to go, but there was really no way we could act on the impulse. We were stuck inside the parable along with the Samaritan. Commandeering an address book, we called every Manhattan listing only to be told over and over again by former friends that the man we were calling about was a drunk, a bully, spoiled and abusive -- in short, everything we had discovered about him on our own. There was nothing to do but flush away the matches, drain the Scotch, allow him to pass out in exhaustion and keep watch until dawn. When we tiptoed out, I left behind my name and telephone number. "Please call if you would like to talk." He never did.
“We received no gratitude from the person we’d helped nor a Neighbor of the Year award from the Upper Eastside block association. I was even denied the chance to be smug: I knew all along that I had tried very hard to get other people to take over the job and felt some glee in the fact that no one was willing to consider our ward as someone worthy of rescue.
“Nonetheless, I wonder now if I stepped into eternal life without knowing it -- by doing, however grudgingly, what had to be done. Could the word of the Lord truly be that close?” (2)
Jesus never said that anything he asked us to do would be easy or simple. But he did say this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the Second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as your self. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Period. AMEN

1. Told by Johnny Dean in “And who is my neighbor?”, 1999, eSermons at for Proper 10C 2004

2. The Christian Century, June 20-27, 2001, p. 13. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock at for Proper 10C