A Sermon preached by The Reverend Beth Lind Foote, Interim Rector, on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 10, July 14, 2019
We know this story of the Good Samaritan. Hospitals are named after the Good Samaritan, and there’s even a Roadside Assistance service for Recreational Vehicles called Good Sam. But do we know it? What is Jesus the storyteller telling us today, in 2019? Two themes stand out for me this time around: Borders and Brokenness.
Borders have been in the news a lot lately. Chris Webber preached about borders last Sunday, and it’s worth continuing. The Southern Border of the US with Mexico, the border between North Korea and South Korea, the border between truth and falsehood, the border between the rule of law and authoritarianism, the border between love and hate.
In our passage from Luke, Jesus is talking about a kind of border that was important to Jews of his time: the line that marked whether you were being a good Jew and following the Law of Moses, or not.
In today’s passage, Jesus meets a lawyer who asks him, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Lawyer in this context means an expert in the religious law, sometimes known as a scribe, rather than what we think of as an attorney.
Jesus knows his Scriptures. He asks the Lawyer, the scriptural expert, “what is written in the Law?” Both of them are thinking of the Shema, the verse from Deuteronomy that’s foundational to Judaism, “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,” and Jesus says, “you have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
The lawyer shoots back a clarifying question for the ages: “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ response is the story of the Good Samaritan.
There was a clearcut border in Jesus’ society: Samaritans and Jews didn’t mix. To Jews, Samaritans were the “other,” branch of Judaism who did not worship in the Temple, and they were all considered “unclean.” So when we call our hero, “The Good Samaritan,” it’s ironic because to Jews, Samaritans were not considered “good,” and so this particular one was called out as “The GOOD Samaritan.”
Jesus says the Samaritan passing by, “was moved with pity.” The Samaritan walking to Jericho crosses the border into human kindness.
This morning I’ll ask the lawyer’s question, “who is my neighbor,” in our world. Our neighbors to the south of us in Central America are fleeing for our lives, and we are not being Good Samaritans. These people are refugees, not criminals. The lawyer in our passage today would not even question the necessity of treating refugees well; hospitality to foreigners was a well-settled precedent in the Law of Moses.
Yesterday I saw a video clip of our VP looking with distain at hundreds of young men behind chain link fences who’ve been detained for 40 days without showers or other humane conditions, in an overcrowded U.S. detention facility. He turned his head, and offered no sense of compassion or kindness.
If we learn anything from today’s story it’s that Jesus calls us to compassion, and to care for other people, not put them in cages, not turn away from their pain, especially if we call ourselves Christians.
My colleague at Grace Cathedral, Rev. Ellen Clarke-King wrote a petition that asked fellow clergy and other mandated reporters to report the Border Control’s treatment of children as child abuse. I was happy to sign along with 1,400 other Episcopal clergy and mandated reporters. As Christians, we are all mandated reporters called to witness as the lawyer in the story, and keep asking, “who are our neighbors?” Jesus teaches us that we’re all neighbors to each other, we’re all on this earth together.
Another border in Jesus’ time was the border of brokenness. Illness, disability, mental illness, all made someone broken and “unclean” under the Law of Moses. This was a reason why the priest and the Levite pass by the injured man in the story, they are observing the border between themselves and a man made unclean by injury. Corpses were especially unclean. He could have been dead, so they look the other way.
It’s important to remember that throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus healing everyone, even the most “unclean” people around: lepers, people possessed by demons, the blind, the deaf, and the lame. I think we take it for granted because that’s what Jesus does. But he crossed a very big border in his own culture by touching these people let alone healing them. Once you were unclean you were “broken.” Jesus healing ministry shows us that the “broken,” like the man lying in the ditch at the side of the road to Jericho are our neighbors.
Here at All Saints’ we have continued to serve our neighbors in need through the HACS brunch program on Saturday mornings. This is a real strength of All Saints’, and we need to support it and work towards renewing its ministry for the long-term.
Let’s pivot for a moment to our reading this morning from Amos. The prophet Amos calls out the kingdom of Israel because they were headed in the wrong direction. In a vision, Amos saw a plumb line, a measurement of sound construction, that was crooked.
To my mind the plumb line, or measurement of sound government in the United States– that we can expect a level of more governance— is out of whack. This week I’ve been dismayed by the Trump Administration’s attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, yet again. There’s a disturbing undercurrent in our country right now that sick people deserve to be sick because it’s their own fault. In other words, they’re “broken” and do not deserve healthcare.
It’s dangerous because it ignores the traditional understanding that insurance that benefits everyone who participates, and the more people who participate the better because it spreads the risk.
I think this has something to say about the Good Samaritan story. We see a story about attending to and caring about others. We’re supposed to emulate the Good Samaritan and extend ourselves to care for others, and see ourselves as members of a society who values the decency of caring for each other.
And, I think the story is also about confronting our own “brokenness” and mortality, and our need for healing. The story creates a vision of greater mutuality
Sometime during our lifetime we will be the man at the side of the road, beaten up by something: a pre-existing condition, cancer, an accident, divorce, mental illness, grief, or plain old aging. We will all need help from others, through medical care, through the personal care and love of other people.
We also see a foreshadowing of Jesus’ brokenness in the Good Samaritan story. Jesus will shortly be the one who’s stripped, beaten, and crucified. Jesus dies a young man on the Cross, not in comfortable surroundings as an old man. He becomes one of us in his brokenness on the Cross.
In the words of the Eucharistic Prayer we hear the words, “This is my Body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus offers himself to be broken for us, and affirms the holiness of brokenness as part of the human condition.
The Good News is that Jesus is there for us. In a sense, He is the Good Samaritan, crossing borders to enter into our lives, and offer us healing. Perhaps the Good News is that the church is the Inn, where we can accept that healing and receive Christ’s body and blood broken and offered for us, and share it with others. The Resurrection is the Good News that our brokenness leads to new life in Christ.
The Good News is that Jesus cares that we care about each other, like a parent who cares about how their children care for each other. We are all children of God and we are all broken members of the human family in need to healing, and we are all called to love in Jesus’ name. Amen.