Devotional Message: The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 10C (7/14/2019)

Revised Common Lectionary Texts

Deuteronomy 30:9-14

Psalm 25:1-10

Colossians 1:1-14

St. Luke 10:25-37

Semicontinuous First Reading and Psalm

Amos 7:7-17

Psalm 82

Prayer of the Day

O Lord God, your mercy delights us, and the world longs for your loving care. Hear the cries of everyone in need, and turn our hearts to love our neighbors with the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

After 10:25 Just then a lawyer 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 justify 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 went away, 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 near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. 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.”

St. Luke 10:25-37, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: From Love to Eternity

I love a story with compelling bad guys, and the Parable of the Good Samaritan has them in spades! There are the robbers, who rob, strip and beat a traveler on the road to Jericho, leaving him half dead. It is a horrific beginning to a story, even though it was not an uncommon occurrence on that dangerous route. There is the priest (not a Roman Catholic cleric, lest we imagine it is time to beat up on someone else’s faith tradition…). This man is a religious leader who sees the wounded traveler, and his desperate situation, and without an ounce of compassion he “passes by on the other side of the road.” As does the Levite. Levites were descendants of Levi from the Hebrew Bible — assistants to the priests in the temple at Jerusalem. Both men were familiar with the scriptures, and with God’s call to care for the poor, the disadvantaged, the suffering, the abused… Yet neither lifts a finger to help the man in the ditch. Some have excused them for worrying about becoming defiled (by possibly touching a dead man), making them unfit to lead God’s people in worship. But this is clearly not what Jesus has in mind. In this story, their behavior is awful.

And even more awful, at least for first century listeners: look who responds. It is a Samaritan! Jesus knows that there are few people Israelites despise more than these foreigners from across the border. Jews and Samaritans have long debated which of them is true to the faith of their ancestors — a debate that led to no small amount of bad blood between the groups. So in the parable, the good guys become the bad guys, and the bad guy becomes a good guy.

But the real bad guy here is a lawyer (no offense intended to those who practice law today…) who asks, “How can I inherit eternal life?” St. Mark ascribes this question to an admirer of Jesus, who sees that he answers his detractors well. (Mark 12:28-34) Not St. Luke. Luke tells us that this lawyer is trying to test Jesus; trying to dupe him into saying something that can be used against him. And when Jesus turns the question towards him (“What do you read in the law?”) he becomes defensive, and attempting to justify himself asks: “And who is my neighbor?”

You see what is at stake here. In fine lawyerly fashion he tries to establish what the minimum legal standard is. What, exactly, is the requirement? How far does the category of neighbor extend? To the guy living next door? Or the family living across town? Or the stranger, face down in the ditch, whom I’ve never seen before and likely will never see again? How much to I have to do, to acquire the reward I desire?

Jesus makes it clear, but not in the way the lawyer expects. The question is not “How many neighbors does a person have to love?” The question is, “Which person is showing love to a neighbor?” This, of course, returns us to the point of the exchange. How does one experience eternal life? Well, not by checking off the appropriate number of good deeds and then waiting to die. Instead, it is as we love God wholeheartedly that eternity establishes a foothold in our hearts. It is as we love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves that the presence of God breaks into our lives. This: all a gift from God — and one that lasts far beyond the confines of our lives. One that lasts even into eternity.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What is the lawyer in this story really asking of Jesus?

  2. What in the Parable of the Good Samaritan would have surprised or shocked first century listeners?

  3. What does Jesus want this lawyer, or his listeners, or us to experience?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When have I tried to establish limits around what I have to do and what I don’t have to do?

  2. How is a commitment to love even more profound than a commitment to neighborhood?

  3. What artificial human borders is God calling me to overcome today?