Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sermon Jan. 19, 2014 "Who is My Neighbor?"

Deuteronomy 6: 4-12
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

Luke 10:25-37

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him{Jesus} to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “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 neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Our favorite verses:

Opening joke....A young lawyer died and was escorted to the pearly gates. Upon arriving the lawyer started protesting for he was only 32 years old, and there must be some mistake. The listening angel agreed that perhaps it was a mistake and agreed to look into it. After a few minutes the angel came back and said “I’m sorry sir but I am afraid there is no mistake, we calculated your age by how many hours you billed your clients, and you are at least 96.

Deuteronomy 6, very familiar words, we read this for a baptism! “hear oh Israel, the lord is One...One God”. Not a god of sun and a god of the harvest and a goddess of moon and gods of fertility and whatever..but One God. YHWH. The creator, God who made a covenant with Abraham, saying your descendents will be like the stars in the sky...the Lord who freed the Israelites when they were slaves in Egypt.

The Lord who is not to be forgotten, when we have homes and enough to eat....this was told to the Israelites after their 40 years in the desert, when they were about to enter the land that had been promised to them. Remember Who brought you to this...who was WITH you thru the 40 years, God was with a cloud during the day...a cloud is protection from the sun when you are in the desert...and as a pillar of fire all night...a source of light and heat and protection from animals. Even tho the israelites had to wander, taking 40 days for a 2 week trip...God was with them thru it all. And in deuteronomy, Moses is reminding them of all of that.

this is the beginning of the Great prayer, the Shema, prayed daily by Jewish people every day-for 5000 years! When Jesus said this, his listeners would have known immediately what he was referring to.

Jesus did refer to this prayer...our passage from Luke is one of the times that Jesus said we are to Love God and Love one another. And he told a famous story to illustrate it.
Imagine you are in the crowd around Jesus. Listen to what He has to say...


now this is a story Jesus told, it didn't actually happen, but it could have. The setting was a road that was well known and known to be dangerous. But Jesus' telling of this story would have challenged his listeners. A priest went by! A holy man, the person perhaps most trusted in the whole community! Remember in these times, one went to temple every day, prayed several times a day. The priests and levites were the most influential, important people in the Jewish community. And Jesus says this man crossed to the other side of the road, from the poor victim. A Levite, was another religious leader who assisted in the operations of the temple... and did the same thing. Not only ignoring the man, but crossing over to avoid him. Jesus -and there may well have been some of these people IN the crowd, was saying that someone could be hurt or dying and the community leaders just might ignore you and continue on their way. Now there were strict rules about cleanliness. If either of these 2 men were on their way to temple, helping the dying man would cause them to become 'unclean' and they would not be able to perform their tasks in a timely manner. But it seems from Jesus telling of this story that there is something else going on here...

now in our times, we speak of “Good Samaritan laws' and so on. We don't truly get how the Samaritan in this story would have challenged Jesus' listeners. You see the Jewish people and the Samaritans hated each other. There had been centuries of bad blood between them. They feuded over worship, over many traditions and by this time in their history, they completely avoided each other. There was hate, mistrust. So for Jesus to say a Samaritan helped the injured Jewish man, well this was radical stuff. I'm not even sure how we can envision today how radical this is.

And Jesus said, which one of these is the neighbor?! And told the lawyer, go and do likewise. Go and put aside all your differences with anyone! Treat others as you would want to be treated, as you would want your nearest and dearest to be treated!

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King day. He spoke on this very passage the last night of his life. I want to share a bit of what he said....

Dr King:
But I'm going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It's possible that those men {the Priest and the Levite} were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level. {did you get that? You descend 3400 feet in a 20 min drive) {Dr King continued} That's a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass." And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

This is what King said...he said we are to reverse the question. We are to ask what will happen to that person if I do not help. What will happen to my neighbor, if I don't help? What will happen, not to me, but to that child—if I do not help. What will happen..., to this community, to this church? If I do not help?

This is what we need to be asking. Every day. What will happen...

Whether they be young or old, spry and fit --or tired & weak of body and soul, whether they be married or single, straight or gay, even male or female. Whether a person has addictions, is recovering from disease or injury, whether they live in a grand home or in a shelter. Whether they just came to this country or have been here since the Mayflower, or are Native to this land, which so few of us are. What will happen if we do not help?

We just read our the Reformed Protestant tradition, we 'covenant together' we mutually agree to be together as a gathered body. In that covenant we say “we seek to affirm”. That means we uphold even defend others, no matter their age, marital status, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, health....we choose to AFFIRM, not condemn. We choose to think, what will happen to them....that is at the core of the values of this church, of the 2 churches that came together. Let us think and pray today and every day about how how WE can be better neighbors to each other and to our community and beyond.

What do we need? We need love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice. We need to remember who is our neighbor, and what will happen to that person if I do not act. If I do not give, if I do not care.

Let us pray...

Let's sing together hymn Red 637 Instruments of Your Peace.

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