Monday, September 11, 2017

Better-than-good Samaritan [Trinity 13; St. Luke 10:23-37]


Jesus speaks to us today, saying,

Ah. The Good Samaritan. Everyone’s favorite parable for three reasons: 1) it seems upbeat and apparently shows the good in people, 2) it sets a nice, low bar for having mercy (one neighbor), and 3) we don’t need Jesus to be a Good Samaritan.

The first step to becoming a good Samaritan is being able to say, “I am wrong”. That is what the Samaritan does in this story. He thought he had plans for the day, but he was wrong. God had other plans in that he was to find a neighbor in need.

The people in Texas and Florida had plans. God had other plans. Now you have other plans. God places neighbors in your path so that you, too might be like this Good Samaritan, find a neighbor in need, and show him mercy.

And that’s a good thing. We can send money or go ourselves and help a few people or for a little while and call it a day. We have the godly (ungodly?) advantage of not being in danger from hurricanes and so have a whole home to come back to.

Another good thing is there are not just churches helping. In fact, most of the religious help is about as bad as the government help: corrupt and not helpful. But there are many organizations not even associated with religion helping. In fact, what has saved most of Texas at this point is not federal aid, but local aid not handing out bibles, but handing out hands.

We would call that signs of humanity. People scraping well laid plans and giving selfless aid instead. But robbery and snobbery are also signs of humanity and that certainly is still going on in these devastated areas.

Thus, in this parable, Jesus gives us a micro picture of the world we live in. He shows humanity in action: those working to the betterment of their own lives, by whatever means. The robbers had plans to be lazy that day, but found they could increase their holdings by robbing this man.

The priest and the Levite had plans to do their business quickly and without interruption, but found that they were inconvenienced, maybe even by a prick of conscience, along the way. The innkeeper had plans to run a clean and well-kept inn, but found this uppity patron who forces him to run a hospital instead.

We are all eager to confirm “helping our neighbor” and condemn those who don’t. We wholeheartedly accept Jesus’ “loving thy neighbor” bit, but only when it has to do with our neighbor’s actions towards us. We demand people recognize our efforts. We demand that others return our calls and treat us with the respect we deserve.

We expect all to stomach our bad moods, our short temper, and our selfishness. We groan and complain when our boss demands better work from us and shorter breaks. We are hurt, angry, and go sulk when others aren’t the neighbor to us that we have never been to them.

Because, your neighbors are not just the victims of hurricanes or poverty, left half-dead in ditches. Your neighbors are the thieves in need of your prayers and admonition. Your neighbors are the priests and Levites in need of your example, your patience, and your loving rebuke. Your neighbor is the innkeeper in need of your two denarii, your encouragement, and your promise to help even more.

Though they are unlovable, you are to love. Though they are merciless, you are to show mercy.

Attend to this other parable: A man was stepping down from heaven to His own creation and He fell among His own people who stripped Him, scourged Him, and left Him for dead upon a cross. All had abandoned Him; all we like sheep have gone astray and scattered when the Shepherd was struck.

By divine chance, His heavenly Father was watching and had compassion upon His obedient Son. He went to Him and bound up His entire being, having poured out His Blood for the forgiveness of others’ sins, and carried Him from death to new life.

He brought Him back to heaven and took care of Him. He set Him on His throne and gave Him all His authority in heaven and on earth. He would never be molested again, never be wounded again, and never die again.

The next day, the Father showed His Son to the women, Peter and the twelve, more than 500 of the brothers, and to one untimely born: St. Paul. The Father gave this command: “Take care of my Son. Guard His Word and Sacraments and whatever you spend, be it coin or life, I will repay you when I come back.”

The Father proves Himself the neighbor of neighbors. The Son proves Himself the true merciful God Who offers mercy freely to those who believe.

For you robbers of mercy from your own neighbors, Jesus is your better-than-Good Samaritan who not only heals your death, but forgives your sin and restores what you have stolen. Even moreso, the Father then looks upon you as those who have given, who have restored, and who have shown mercy, because the Son has done all those things while wearing your skin.

For all the times we have walked away and refused to show love, the Better-than-Good Samaritan did not walk away, but has knelt down with us and extended mercy to us. He does not pass us by, but stops to love us and intercede for us: washing us, He speaking comforting words to us, and He feeding us heavenly medicine from His very Body and Blood.

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