July 17th, 2022 Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Readings: Amos 7:7-17; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37
My World, population Me
When you heard Ben read the Gospel this morning, how many of you thought, Oh no it’s the Good Samaritan story? Yes, we’ve heard that; done it; made the tee shirt. You’re right it is another sermon on the Good Samaritan. It is the suggested reading for today, but as I told you before, the Bible Study will has some bearing on what I preach the following Sunday just as Sunday has influence on the Bible Study. I have also told you that Jesus took the Ten Commandments and boiled it down to two commandments, it is called the Greatest Commandment. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind and all your soul and love your neighbor as yourself. Yet when I studied for today and with what we have been reading in the Book of Ecclesiastes, I came upon two interesting revelations which I will get into because they had direct bearing and influenced today’s passage.
We read today about this very inquisitive Lawyer in the Gospel Passage. I caution that we are not judgmental about this Lawyer as we are very hard on Lawyers. Let’s look this passage at face value only. The Lawyer may very well be sincere in asking the question about inheriting eternal life. Mind you that Jews of the time believed that once you died, that was it, done, finished, fineto, overwith. So, he must have believed what Jesus was teaching because he does call Jesus, teacher. Then Jesus asks him what does the law say? Being a lawyer and very well could have been a Levite, he would have known the Law very well. Levites were the protectors of the Law since the Levites were descendants of Aaron and priestly Jews. The Lawyer recites from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 9:18. These are two separate books of the Torah known as the Laws of Moses. Wait a minute, Jesus did not condense the Commandments; God did before Jesus’ time. Jesus came into the world to fulfill the Law. Jesus and this Lawyer are quoting from the Old Testament. God himself simplified His own Ten Commandments for us.
Now the Lawyer asks a very good question from his point of view because the Jewish Nation had been told from the beginning of the Law, not to touch anything or anyone unclean for fear of defiling themselves before God. He simply wants to know who his neighbor is. They did know that they were to watch out for each other and help all stay on the straight path of God.
So, Jesus begins with this story. A man is traveling down a road that is known very well for being plagued with robbers and thieves. Low and behold the man does fall to the ill doings of these thieves. He is injured and bleeding alongside the road. So here comes a priest. Now a priest is the highest person in the society of the Jews and must uphold all the rituals of the Lord God Almighty. He sees the man is bleeding, forbidden to touch non-sacrificial blood for fear of becoming unclean. If he is seen touching unclean blood, he could lose his position in the Temple that he has spent his entire life achieving. So, he walks on by. A second man, a Levite, the lay leadership of the Jews sees the man. Now he has a good understanding of the letter of the Law, so he does nothing for the injured man. A third person comes along, who is a Samaritan, who are considered low man on the totem pole in the Jewish Nation, takes pity on the injured man. He not only cares for him, transports him to an inn and continues to care for his injuries. He even pays the innkeeper to continue the care, saying if there is anything owed, he will come back and reimburse the keeper when he returns. Now the Samaritan must have been a frequent flyer to the inn, for the innkeeper to have accepted his offer.
Preachers have used this story for countless sermons over the millenniums and from almost every conceivable angle. We also hear in the news reports from the secular world of Good Samaritans in the world who do good deeds that we even have a good Samaritan Law. So yes, this is a very familiar story to us.
Yet we still don’t do it, I know I don’t, we do not take this story into our hearts and live it as we should. We still pass by those stranded motorists on the side of the interstate in the pouring rain with a flat tire; we want to hurry through the light so that we are not pestered by the panhandlers on the corner; we avoid the crazy old lady down the street as she walks her dog because we know she will talk our ear off for at least thirty minutes telling the same story she nailed us on last week. I know I did because if I was late to work then I get dinged for it, Lyla and I saw one of the people who carry a cardboard sign at a Wal-Mart in Indy years ago driving a Cadillac SUV, so they all must; I have avoided certain people because they go on and on and on about the same thing every time, I see them. You see we all do it in the name of taking care of our own little world. We have reasons that we have legitimize in our minds to justify why we cannot help someone in need. That person on the road may be going to help a family member in need, some corner people are in true need, and that person down the street may be lonely and we may be the only person that speaks to them all week. There was a song out on the Christian Radio eleven years ago entitled My Own Little World by Matthew West and it talks about how we get wrapped up in our own interests. We are blinded by the signs and things we think are intrusive to us. When we make it a world of two, we are open to new ideas and live as Christ did, then more people can come into our lives and make it more enjoyable.
So, is this story of the Good Samaritan and examples we have been given only about Guilt? When we see those commercials on TV of starving and sick children that interrupt our viewing pleasure, supposedly only to generate guilt in us for being prosperous. I’m not saying that you must give money to all the people on the corners you see unless; God is calling you to do that. Who am I to argue with God? However, if those commercials should interject guilt, mind you, that is not the theme of the passage.
This Lawyer is asking a very simple question of Jesus, “Teacher what must I do to gain eternal life?” Not everyone has the same picture of what heaven will look like. We sing of mansions on the hill with streets of gold. We are not told what this Lawyers vision of heaven is. Maybe he wants to gain understanding so he can pursue righteousness; maybe he wants to work toward furthering Jesus Kingdom and become a missionary himself; we truly do not know his motive. What we do know is when the rich ruler asked Jesus the very same question, he is told to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. The Lawyer is given no such command; he is told a story for him to reflect on. It really doesn’t matter if the meaning here hidden or blatant we are told what is expect by Jesus in his stories and parables which give us insight on life.
In the Old Testament reading, we find a Prophet who is on the border of holy and humanity giving his visions to the masses. Amos has been the person who has been interceding for the people to God in prayer. However, this time he’s got bad news for the people of Israel. God is using a Plumb line to measure what is supposed to be the guide for the life of Israel. This is cut and dry no questions, and this is how it is to look. There is a standard to follow; if they do not then devastation will follow. That will include all of Israel from the priests all the way downhill. If a building is not plumb, then eventually it will come down.
The main opposition comes from the priest of the time, Amaziah. He wants things to stay as is, he does not want change. All things are good, so he thinks. Amos’ words hurt, Amaziah, wants Amos to just go away. God has given Amos a mission to do and so he is going to fulfill it. It is not easy for him to deliver this type of message of destruction of his country and people. It gives us the feeling that there is no hope from God. However, the main point to this passage is that in the midst of ruins and devastation if we seek God’s standards, he will be with us.
The New Testament reading today is a double-edged sword. Yes, it does compliment the people and the leader of the church of Colossae for the work they are doing but it also condemns the act of false teaching. We are to be faithful servants; to those who have been faithful, Paul is giving them a pat on the back. Paul is being very masterful in his choice of words that are uplifting and yet at the same time carrying a warning of wrath if not followed. Just as Amos warned the Nation of Israel so is Paul. God has been faithful in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Israel must also be faithful to God. Prayers of intercession are needed, and Paul is informing them Paul and his group are praying for them in intercessory prayer, but they must pray for each other and watch over each other as well. With these prayers and staying faithful God will help them, without it; destruction is certain. Paul maintains the positive to the people of Colossae.
Whither we want to admit it to ourselves or not we have or will play every character in this parable. We will be the people who pass by. We will be the injured person along the roadside needing help, we will be the innkeeper asked to take care of someone else and yes, we are the outsider trying to get the meaning of life. Yes, this is a very familiar story, and we need to look at it in a new way. Just like the rest of the Bible, it can give us new understanding every time we read a passage again. This story can help us in Christ’s mission and passion by ringing in the new Kingdom to a world in need. This story gives hope to those who are injured and gives those who have power, purpose in a meaningless life. Christ has a Kingdom that will be shared by all, but it requires us to work together towards it. If we don’t work together toward Christ’s destination, then neither of us will make it. There is more that we are called to do. We have a bigger purpose in our lives. We are the strong and powerful; we can make a difference. To make a difference we need to live outside of our own little world.