2017-03-05 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
The Loser Samaritan
It’s the first Sunday in the season of Lent and we find ourselves in a parable that is exclusive to the gospel of Luke.
Parables are stories…the greek word is “parabolas” which means to “lay alongside.” Jesus laid these stories alongside the lives of his hearers and we, 2000 years later, as followers of Jesus, are also invited to lay these stories alongside our lives and see what arises.
The theologian-pastor Frederick Buechner talks of parables as a small story with a large point. He says that most of the ones Jesus told had a sad, fun tone to them and today’s parable seems to resonate with that feeling.
Last week we were on the mountain top with Jesus…he was aglow in dazzling white, Moses on one side, Elijah on the other…
“This is my son…my chosen…listen to him!”
Peter, James and John we’re baffled, astonished, amazed…and like any mountaintop moment, or mystical, wonderful retreat…it ends…and life goes on…
For James and John, as they come down the mountain, they do what any good follower of Jesus might do…they fight. They argue. They jockey for #1 position in Jesus’ “I love you most” list.
They are trying to figure out who is the greatest amongst the inner circle of the disciples.
“I’m the greatest!” mumbles James. Trying not to let Jesus hear of his boasting.
“He shares his pita and fish with me first, I’m his favourite,” mocks John.
“He told me he loved me more”….no he didn’t, yes he did, no he didn’t…
Jesus rolls his eyes. [insert ‘rolling eye’ Jesus emoji here]
He puts a child before the fighting “sons of thunder” and says:
“Look…see this child who has little respect and little worth in our day and age? Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me…for the LEAST among all of you is the greatest.”
The least is the greatest?
They did not understand this saying.
Weeks later, Jesus would tell a story…a parable…a sad but amusing tale about a loser who found and saved another loser.
Not really a motivational speech for disciples who want to be the greatest…but a story that shores up Jesus’ words of blessing:
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
In today’s story an expert in the law of Judaism seems to be earnest in his desire to see and hear…
He asks Jesus, “What must I DO to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind; oh…and love your neighbour as yourself.”
“Right answer! Do this, and you will live.”
And wanting to ensure his spiritual credentials and his righteous standing with God, the lawyer pushes the conversation a step further…
“Jesus, who is my neighbour?”
And Jesus replies with the parable of the “man who was left ½ dead in the ditch.”
[Note: there’s no mention of a “good” Samaritan in this story]
Now it’s at this point in today’s sermon, that I’d like us to consider what it would mean to take this story on the Lenten journey…
Last week I said we were moving from the season of Epiphany (Revelation) to the season of Lent (crucifixion)…and if we read today’s story from the position of the “Bad Example of a Samaritan” (see today’s insert), it will give us no shortage of fodder for modelling how we might lay down our lives in this season of Lent.
So…if you need the story in front of you…open your Bibles to Luke 10…but if you’ve heard this story a 100 times and know how the punchline goes…then follow along with the insert…
We’re going to take some cues from the theologian-pastor Robert Capon.
Who proposes that this is NOT a story about how to be good, moral, upstanding, citizen. Though that is lovely, and nice, it’s not the good news of Jesus and the heart of God.
Instead it’s an downward, terrible tumble into the dead and dark places. The places where the outcasts and the marginalized live.
And it’s an invitation to us,
to spend our lives and livelihood submitting ourselves to the way of the capital L loser…and all of his loser friends who are considered the least, last, little and lost of society and the world.
“For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”
Interact w/ reading here
– What words/phrases trip you up?
– What is Jesus asking us to do here…as a people who do love / show mercy?
It’s a mind-bending, disturbing and inconvenient call…is it not?
For the season of Lent, let us consider what it means to get lost together…as a band of losers, seeking to lose our lives, not as a way of scoring “gold stars and christian bonus points” with God…
But recognizing that when we band together, losers ourselves, and show mercy to the lost and the least…we find ourselves in the company of the biggest loser of them all, Jesus, who is the one who is bringing life, hope and healing to our lost and lonely world.