Saturday, July 13, 2019

Sermon: Four lenses on the Good Samaritan

         What is the purpose of a parable? It is a sacred story we chew on until it begins to chew on us. Its purpose is to transform our imagination and our souls. To help us know God’s will, lead lives worthy and pleasing to Christ, and bear fruit. Parables plant seeds in our souls.
         -They pull us into the story,
         -lay bare basic and fundamental questions,
         -ignite out moral imagination,
         -and tell us something about God!
         Story, questions, morality, and God—those are some of the ways parables shape us.

         Parables pull us in
         You’re wonder why you’re here?
         Well… you’re at my Inn…
         I guess you didget knocked around pretty badly… maybe you don’t even remember. A guy brought you in and paid me to take care of you. He’d already set your arm and washed out your wounds… brought you here on his donkey—walked the whole way here with you thrown over the beast like a sack of grain.
         He told me he saw you there and it hit him right in the gut—seeing you dying there on the road. He felt like he had no other option but to help you…
         A Priest? Nooo!
         You remember a Levite coming toward you… I don’t know why you’d remember that—I guess you did get hit on the head pretty bad.
         Who was he? I don’t know… just some Samaritan.
         Who beat you up? Who do you think beat you up? Zealots of course… Saccari—Knife Men, they took your money to continue the fight against Rome… it’s like they say, “Sometimes to Save God’s People you need to steal from God’s people” and “Wanna save the temple? Kill a Pilgrim.”
         Weird times we’re live in… right? You should get some rest.
         Yes… parables pull us into the story, and they also ask some tough questions of us…
         This last Pub Theology we talked through two questions: What keeps you up at night?And What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
These questions are designed to get behind our defenses and get to the meat of things, what’s at stake for you? What’s behind your actions and all the masks you put up? What are your most base motivations? And your greatest hopes and dreams?
         And so too Parables, they cause us to ask those big questions. Like Jesus’ parable today: 
         When everything falls apart, who do you hope will be there?
-Surely those revolutionaries liberating the land for Rome will keep us safe… except they are the ones who assaulted and stole from me…
-what about the Temple and its priests, surely they are safe… yet they walk by… 
-what about the Levites, they have a much more distinguished pedigree than Zealots or Priests… they too leave me here to die…
         They’ll all let you down!

         The other question raised is similar:
         Who do you hope will NOTbe there when everything falls apart?
-This leads to the question, who is my enemy?
I imagine most of us would answer no one, or at least no one we would name out loud…
-we’re kinda like those scenes in every Crime Procedural, right? “Who would have motivation to murder her?” “No one… she had no enemies.”
-So, it might be worth flipping things, “Who sees me as an enemy?”
         And once you get there, you have an image of who you would not want to be there when everything falls apart—then you get this strange answer by Jesus—They’ll surprise you!

         Hard questions with strange answers… all fuel for your moral imagination.
         “Go and do likewise.”
         What a command—show mercy, as mercy was shown in that story.
         This parable is a calling to love our neighbor as ourselves, and recognize that our neighbor is an incredibly broad category… It crosses class, race, creed, gender, politics—all of it.
         Condition yourselves, friends, to be vulnerable enough to be movedwhen you see someone in distress
—vulnerable enough, too, to let others see your distress…
         When you are moved to pity, when you feel it in your gut—respond to it!
         -Folk in Louisiana pummeled by Hurricane Barry—be moved!
         -A slew of girls raped and silenced by men with money and power—be moved!
         -Family and neighbors struggling with the disease of addiction—be moved!
         -Men, women, and children in standing room only cells, concrete for a bed, no showers, the stench overwhelming our Vice President—be moved!
         -Border patrol agents and police officers that didn’t sign up to be social workers, community organizers, and childcare specialists, but they end up getting used like customer service—be moved!
         -Kids and young men shooting each other and making everyone unsafe, because they themselves feel unsafe—be moved!
         -My God!
Our neighbors are everywhere!—be moved!

         Parables burn morality into our souls, but they also enlighten them with the presence of God!
         Think back just a few minutes, to when I put you in the place of the man who fell into the hands of robbers. What do you suppose that experience says about our relationship with God?
About the interplay between the human and the divine?
         There is a grave vulnerability and helplessness there
—we humans spend so much time trying to ignore it, but there it is, in a fundamental sense, we are powerless.
After Luther died they found in his pocket a slip of paper that read, “We are beggars; this is true.”
And we are—not only beggars, but surely beggars.
         We receive grace from God who has brought us into His loving care by Jesus…
Jesus who showed up in the most unlikely of ways, and continues to do so—God hidden in the opposite…
God, a Samaritan!

And that might shock you, because we are like that man, unconscious of our own rescue, perhaps we catch movements of it,
vaguely remember a priest coming by,
maybe you are shocked by the Samaritan who found us,
maybe the oil and wine—like a Holy Sacrament—leaves an impression…
sacred story reminds us that you’re care has been paid for, and the Spirit reminds you still more that the Son was moved with pity, moved to love you!

What is the purpose of a parable?
It is a sacred story we chew on, until it begins to chew on us.