Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – July 10 2022

Posted on July 11, 2022, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

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July 10 2022

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost 

Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

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Sermon Text:

Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The parable that I just read is one that has made its way into mainstream culture. And when we talk about Samaritans today, they’re “good.” They’re thought of as people who stop to help complete strangers, there are laws to protect them.

And we hope that if we’re faced with a similar situation that we’ll be able to be like them and do likewise. But in this parable, Jesus never once talks about being “good.” He simply answers the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

And to fully appreciate the impact of the teaching in this parable, we need to know the history behind it.

Samaritans lived in Samaria, which was north of where Jesus and his disciples were. And during an ancient Israeli war, most of the Jewish people living in that area were either killed or taken into exile. The ones who were left intermarried with other races and, on a good day, their descendants were considered half-breeds.

The Jewish and Samaritan cultures developed differently and separately from each other. The Samaritans didn’t look to Jerusalem as the place to worship God, and they interpreted the Torah differently.

All of these differences continued to build and became so divisive that some Jewish people living in Judea – where Jesus and his disciples were – would go miles out of their way to avoid walking through Samaritan territory. They hated the Samaritans, and that hatred ran deep. Like they would rather die than receive help from one.

So when the teacher of the law had to admit that a Samaritan was the one who was a neighbor to the man who’d been left for dead, it would have been a bitter pill for him to swallow.

In the Old Testament, a “neighbor” was historically defined as a person’s kinsman. But Leviticus 19 says to love the foreigner as yourself, expanding the definition of “neighbor” beyond bloodlines to include people that happen to be in your vicinity whether you know them or not.

In other words, the stranger – the person you don’t know – is to be treated and loved as one’s own self. That’s it. So, in the immediate sense, it’s the people we can see. And the people in the gospel reading knew that.

For us, though, with today’s technology we can see a lot of people even when they’re not standing in close physical proximity to us.

So, while that technology creates a lot of neighbors, it also makes it easier to intentionally separate ourselves from what’s going on. And sometimes we make that decision because it’s information overload, and sometimes we have to make that decision based on what’s best for our own safety – which is fair.

But if we’re honest, sometimes we just don’t wanna get involved because it’s easier to turn a blind eye, and pretend that some things don’t concern us.

But as people who follow Jesus, we’re called to see. We’re called to open our hearts and see the people that Jesus sees and acknowledge that they are our neighbor. That their reality affects ours and vice versa. Even if we don’t know them. Even if they have a different ethnic background from us, or speak a different language, or come from a different faith tradition.

And as Christians, we confess that we can’t do this on our own. As Christians, we confess that Jesus is the one who helps us to see.

[1]On June 25th of this year, a Black man who is a carpenter found a noose with his name on it at a construction site in Redmond – just up the road. It was in a shared trailer used for tool and equipment storage and police are investigating it as a hate crime.

The fact that something like this happened in 2022 is shocking enough, but I was even more surprised – and saddened – to hear that several other nooses were found in 2020 and 2021 at a construction site on the Microsoft campus.

Racism is alive and real. Sometimes it’s as overt as leaving someone’s name on a noose at a construction site. Sometimes it’s more subtle, but it’s equally as hateful and damaging. And when you’re not directly on the receiving end of it, it’s tempting to just kind of hang back and hope it goes away.

But when we do that, we risk ignoring the pain of our neighbor – and ignoring our neighbor outright. Whether we respond, and the way we respond, speaks to whether we are neighbor to one another.

That’s the question that underlies this parable. Not who’s good or bad, but who was neighbor to the man left for dead.

[2]In what has become known as his “Mountaintop” speech, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. frames it this way: the first question that the priest and the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the Samaritan reversed the question, “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

[3]And Dr. King didn’t write this, but we can take it a step further and ask, “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to me? What will happen to my own well-being if I just let him die there?”

As people who follow Jesus, we cannot separate ourselves from events that harm our neighbor. As people who follow Jesus, we’re called to see that what happens to them does affect us. And Jesus is the one who helps us to see them.

When Jesus answered the question, “Who is my neighbor?” he could have easily said, “everyone” – but he didn’t. He individualized it and made it specific. He pointed out a person who was different, looked-down upon, and hated. Jesus didn’t give anyone there that day an out. He forced them to recognize and identify with someone they never would have otherwise.

“A man showed up on his job site one morning…”

[4]“A young man was pulled over for a routine traffic stop….”

[5]“A young girl was in a car with her friends….”

When Jesus asked, “Which of these was a neighbor…?” he didn’t ask questions about the character of the man left for dead because it doesn’t matter. He didn’t deserve what happened to him.

When Jesus asked, he helped the people listening to look at themselves and recognize that being someone’s neighbor is life-changing for everyone involved.

This parable challenges us to look at what’s going on in the world, the reality that our neighbor faces every day, and recognize that it affects us, too. It challenges us to see who Jesus sees and recognize that they are our neighbor.

When we do, we’re confronted with the changes that need to happen in us and our relationships with one another. We’re confronted with the fact that the Samaritan in the parable modeled the kind of world he’d want to live in if the situation were reversed. He embodied the law as it was intended when it was given – with compassion and love of neighbor.

Genuinely seeing our neighbor challenges us to not push back or make comparisons when others tell their story of pain. To listen closely to one another and take seriously the experience of others. And to remember that listening to the story of the pain and grief of one community doesn’t mean that we have to ignore the stories of others.

Seeing who Jesus sees and acknowledging that they’re our neighbor is a lifelong process. We can’t do it on our own. As Christians, we confess that. We confess that, despite our best efforts, we’re going to mess it up sometimes because we have blind spots that we’re not aware of. And we trust that we’ll be able to ask for and receive forgiveness – and another opportunity.

And we trust, too, that Jesus will continue to open our eyes – open our hearts – and challenge us to recognize and love our neighbor. Thanks be to God! Amen.