February 17, 2013

February 17, 2013

February 17, 2013 – First Baptist Church Edmonton – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato

    • Text: Luke 10:25-37;
      Title: “Dead Man for Lent” or “Mercy Sees as Mercy Does” – –
      Today is the first Sunday in the season of Lent and we follow Jesus to Jerusalem after the radical turning point of last week’s story atop a mountain in the rural hills of Jerusalem. In v. 51 we read that “Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.” And in the next 6 weeks that lead us to Easter, we will watch and see Jesus’ last 6 months of his earthly ministry through the ears/eyes of the Gospel writer Luke. We’ll hear Jesus teaching in parables and proclaiming this incredulous message that the kingdom/dream of God has come. . . to all the nations. . . to everyone. . . men, women, the racially different, the poor, the rich, the common people and to the upper class people of power.

And as Jesus comes to us today, through this living word, through his living presence. . . we, too, are everyone. And I wonder where we would have fit in amidst the first century hearers of Jesus? Because I’d like to suggest that where we fit, might dictate, how/where we enter today’s story. . . when I look around the room, my hunch is that we are on the upper scale of the sociological spectrum, I want to you keep that in mind as we dwell in the world of the text today. . .

One other thing to note is that today’s story focuses on a Jesus parable. . . I’ve said this before, but I think it’s an important reminder to say that parables are not fairy tales or fables that have neat and tidy moral lessons of how to be better citizens. “Parabola” in the greek wording means to “lay alongside.” These stories (these parables) are meant to be laid alongside our lives so that they might bring to life those things that God’s Spirit might need to bring to life. . . Jesus would say: “For those who have ears to hear….listen!”. That’s why parables, become a living word for us. These aren’t cute stories where since we know the end of the story we can say “been there, done that.” Instead, even though we’ve heard a story like the “good Samaritan” [ man-who-fell-among-thieves ]10 or 20 times in our lives, even though we know the ending, we do not always know what a living Jesus might want to bring to life this time ‘round. Remember last week. . . on the mountain top? The Cloud of God speaks: “This is my son, my chosen one. . . Listen to him!”
Today’s story begins with a question.
V. 25 A lawyer stood up to test Jesus – – “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
[ When I hear this question, I think of the tone of a smarty – – self-confident, ivy-league university educated professional. . . “with all due respect, teacher. . . tell me…]

Jesus looks at the lawyer (expert in the law). . . graciously. . . playfully. . .
Jesus answers the question with a question: “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”

The lawyer answers: “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 neighbour as yourself.”

Jesus affirms him: “You have given the right answer; DO THIS, and you will live.”

The Lawyer wanting to justify himself [wanting to hem in the parameters ], asks one more question: “And who is my neighbour?”

This time, Jesus doesn’t answer a question with a question. Instead, he [para-bole’s] . . . .he lays a story alongside the lawyer’s life. . .

          • Message translation:
            “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
            33-35 “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’

Who are you as you enter the world of this parable? As this story is laid alongside your life, who are you/how are you as you respond? One of the Biblical commentators that I read this week suggested that this lawyer (expert in the law) would have been able to fathom NO OTHER ROLE except for unnamed, “left for dead” man. This lawyer would have been lightining quick to define who he was NOT: not a religious worship leader (priest/levite). . . and he would not for a second have thought of himself as one of his most obvious enemies: the Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans detested each other and it was a long, historical, racial hatred.

That was new revelation to me! I’ve always been taught that the big “takeaway lesson” from this story was…..“Hey Christian, you should try harder!” And we might have responded to this teaching by sheepishly admitting: “Yeah, I’ve angled across to the other side in order to avoid helping someone” or “I’ve been busy doing religious activity and just can’t stretch myself any further. . . I needed to put a boundary in my life. . . you know what I mean?”
And we’ve chided ourselves to recommit to being a good Samaritan. “That’s what I’ll do! Next time I stumble across a half-dead person, I’m gonna lend a helping hand! – – hey, don’t just pay for one $175/night at the hotel….put 2 or 3 more days on my tab, I’m good with that!”

And yet we don’t. It’s subtle, it’s sometimes sanctified… but the reality is that we don’t. We are much more savvy and calculating.
And I don’t want to be the “hey, everything’s gonna be alright softie” guy, but I would like to suggest that rather than continuing to heap obligatory guilt upon our lives and our consciences. . . maybe we lived into this story as the wrong character! So might I suggest that we humble ourselves & take the low route through this story.

And the low route is through the world of the left-for-dead man. And perhaps it’s providential that today’s parable happens during the first Sunday of Lent, right after Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is a service of humility and repentance. . . where the minister applies a paste of ash & oil upon our foreheads in the sign of the cross and says: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We are reminded of our frail mortality and we are exhorted to stay humble – – to posture ourselves as those who are in need of great mercy as we walk through life.

So imagining yourself as the left-for-dead man, I’d like to re-read (and re-adjust!) the last portion of Jesus’ parable:
33-35 “A Samaritan traveling the road came upon you, the half-dead man. When he saw the your condition, his heart went out to you. He gave you first aid, disinfecting and bandaging your wounds. Then he lifted you onto his donkey, led you to an inn, and made you comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of ________. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’
Imagine the furthest “outsider” in your life. The one who you would never imagine in a million years to come to your rescue. Maybe it’s your most foreboding enemy, someone you cast away months or years ago. Maybe it’s that busker that you pass in the LRT station every morning just after coming up from the escalator at Bay/Enterprise Station. Maybe it’s that school friend or colleague or family member or church person or member of another religion that you detest… you’ve justified in your heart through many a circumstance that you “tried your best” but all they could do was snub you and hurt you and you’re just not gonna avail yourself to that kind of treatment again.

Could you imagine what it would feel like if this kind of person. . . was the one who looked at you with compassion, the one whose heart went out to you. . . the one to provide the saving grace, the helping hand, the financial funding you needed when you were left-for-dead on the road of life?

When you imagine this, does it make you glad or make you squirm!?!

In the midst of this parable poking and prodding us, bringing things to life in us… hear Jesus asking: “Which of these 3 do you think turned out to be a neighbour to the one who was left half dead?”

And you and I don’t even have to answer! The story answers for us!

v. 37: The lawyer says: “The one who treated him with mercy.”
[ the lawyer couldn’t even utter the word: “Samaritan” . . . he kept it more generic…sputtering…. ]

Jesus then says: “You go and do the same.”

We have no clue what the lawyer does. And that’s what I hope is the exciting and unnerving part of living into and out of the GodStory.

When UK Bible Scholar & Bishop NT Wright teaches about the GodStory he says: “You and I are handed a script that is left undone. . . we know the parts of the past 2000 years of God’s people, and as the new people of God, we live out a new story in the places that God calls us and sends us to day after day, week after week.”

Does looking at and living this parable from the role of the half-dead-man blow you’re mind! ? !

I hope so. . . because it really is not a call to try harder to be a better Christian. If we take up the role of the left-for-dead man I would suggest that a clearer gospel message comes to light: We are a left-for-dead, broken, busted people, and God is going to use the most outlandish ways and the most unexpected “others” to remind us of his never-ending love and his ability to use the most marginalized, non-mattering people in society to get his work, his dream, his restoration, his will done on earth as it is in heaven.

And that good news ought to make us a “gobsmacked by grace” kind of people. That if God can use our most hated & most insignificant “other” to bring restoration, healing and generosity to the world, then we who are experts in religion, the upper crust in our sociological standing, or the proficient ones in our professions…. We end up with a new well to draw from. . . and thus were not called to offer our care and compassion from places of North American prosperity and pride. . . .The mercy that we share with our neighbour, our school friend, our family, the next stranger we meet, even our most sinister enemy. . . is to be graciously and lavishly poured out, spoken forth, e-mailed out. . . from a place of gratitude, humility and lowness.

What must we do to inherit the way of eternal life. . . both now and forevermore?

Love God. Love Neighbour. Show mercy.

Could it be this simple? When we offer love and mercy from places of weakness & gratitude VS places of strength and control. . . there is a way of simplicity that emerges.

In this season of Lent, during these days of reflection and prayer, may this parable and others that we hear in the coming weeks, bring forth in us, in the most natural and grace-filled ways. . .
– show mercy
– be neighbour
– DO Love