Tuesday, July 5, 2016

An Oxymoron. Sermon given at United Church of Beloit, July 3, 2016


Found Missing
Act Naturally
Alone Together
Living Dead
Deafening Silence
Seriously Funny
Jumbo Shrimp
Microsoft Works
Unbiased Opinion

Quotes that are oxymorons..
    I am a deeply superficial person. - Andy Warhol
  • I distinctly remember forgetting that. - Clara Barton
  • Always be sincere, even when you don’t mean it. - Irene Peter
  • I can resist everything but temptation. - Mark Twain

as I was beginning to prep for this sermon, before we left town, I was thinking about some oxymorons. Good Samaritan is itself an oxymoron. And I was preparing for a working vacation.... Martin & I went to our NACCC annual meeting and had a few days vaca on either side of the meeting.

Our travel was wonderful—I was reminded again of the lavishness of God's creation! For example, There could have been just a few kinds of trees, but no, God created thousands! We saw a lot of the beauty of creation, especially 4 of the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls.

Thank you for allowing us to represent you. Martin was your delegate and I was alternate and serve on the Growth Ministry Council and am a rep. To the Leadership Council.

The theme of the Annual Meeting was "Who is my Neighbor?"   All the speakers, and the Sunday worship were around this theme.  Detroit has an incredibly diverse population, in large part due to the influx of folks to work at all the Auto manufacturing plants, and of course the economic issues have profoundly affected the area. We here in Beloit can certainly relate! There is a lot of good happening, in particular, a large company is putting a lot of resources back into the city.

Love your neighbor as yourself....

Gospel of Luke...Luke himself was not Jewish, as were the other writers of the Bible. Luke was Paul's 'beloved physician” who clearly believed that Jesus was indeed the long -awaited Messiah for the Jews, and for Gentiles as well. Luke's gospel shows Jesus' compassion for the poor and the 'outsiders' of this society.

Neighbor in bible...
literally one who lives near by.
OT times -it was understood to mean those of the Hebrew community, those who follow the traditions and worship in the same ways. In fact this section of Lev. has a lot about worship! The prohibitions in Leviticus and elsewhere in the OT were there to remind the Hebrew people to not act like the pagan worshipers around them.

This was the understanding of the Jewish leaders of Jesus' time. Love your neighbor, meant to love your Jewish neighbor, not the Romans or the other peoples living nearby. Love your neighbor meant love and care for the one who looks like you, talks like you, worships like you, acts like you!

So this lawyer...this was someone who worked in the temple, studying the Torah, the Jewish law!...a leader of the Hebrew people! He was a learned man who was going to show up this Jesus fellow...This preacher from Galillee -Nazareth-of all places...can anything good come from Nazareth!? ...was going around preaching and teaching and conducting healings and now he had even sent out his followers to do the same and they were preaching, teaching and conducting healings! The followers were Jewish, but many of them were not elite...they were working class, rough around the edges, not like the educated elite in Jerusalem! So this man was going to give Jesus his comeuppance.

And Jesus' response was to tell a story. Stories get our attention, stories appeal to our senses and emotions in ways that little else does. So Jesus told a story, this was a story, not a news report! But it certainly COULD have happened.

Although Jericho is northeast of Jerusalem, travelers go “down” to Jericho. The Jewish historian Josephus (A.D. 37–93) explained that the first-century road was approximately one hundred and fifty Roman stadioi, or about eighteen miles long. A traveler descended from Jerusalem’s height, approximately twenty-five hundred feet above sea level, to Jericho’s depth, some eight hundred twenty-five feet below sea level. In that short geographical space, the descent was approximately six-tenths of a mile. Travelers, merchants, pilgrims, and soldiers have for centuries gone down to go up (traveling north to Jericho) and gone up to go down (traveling south to Jerusalem).

This road was very well known. Jesus setting his story here would have brought a lot of emotion to his listeners. They all had traveled it and knew it was steep and precarious. There were lots of places for bad guys to hide in anticipation of robbing the solo traveler.

His story would also provoke emotion, when the priest and Levite avoided the beaten man... These were the very leaders of the Jewish community! Yet they were indifferent to the suffering of the beaten man.
But along came the “Good Samaritan” --that phrase would have been a complete oxymoron to Jesus' listeners. Samaritans were hated by jews, and the feeling was mutual. Their fighting went back hundreds of years, to the Babylonian exile.

So Jesus telling a story that involved a Samaritan taking care of an injured Jew, would certainly have shaken up his listeners! The Lawyer couldn't even bring himself to say “The Samaritan.” he merely said, the one who showed compassion.

So who is my neighbor? Jesus is clearly stating that his neighbor may well not be the one who looks and acts like him, but the one who cares for someone without regard to religion/race. The one who has compassion, who puts the OTHER person ahead of his or her own needs.

Compassion is a hallmark of Jesus' stories, the ones he told and the ones we read about him in the bible. The word in the Bible in the original Greek literally means to feel a clenching in the gut...
to FEEL the pain of the other person. To put oneself in the position of the other person!

at NA meeting, among our speakers were about a dozen missionaries who serve in various parts of the world. Geoffrey Lipale who was just here, serves in Kenya, his native land. Indian Trails, which helps Native peoples of Arizona and Mexico. Rev. Jim Owens, from United states serves in Haiti, ministering to the poorest of the poor...of Haiti--the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Other speakers told us about helping families here in the US. Another was from India, his native land–he spoke about religious traditions in India, including worship of many gods and idols. He reminded us that the Cow is sacred in India. But he then said, confidentially, “but when I am here in United States, I eat a LOT of beef!” He also spoke of the economic conditions of the caste system which keeps people in poverty generation after generation. These missions all work hard to not just help people, but help with education, and empowerment. Helping people to do more than survive, but also to be able to help others.

The first speakers we heard are very dear to my heart. A group of women from the Detroit area, who 10 years ago began to meet to form an interfaith group to address some of the issues in the Detroit area. They have formed an organization, Womens Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit.

WISDOM  Mission Statement
To Provide  concrete modeling of women from different faith traditions working together in harmony for the common good.
To Empower  women to take a more active role in furthering social justice and world peace.
To Dispel  myths, stereotypes, prejudices and fear about faith traditions different from our own.
To Nurture  the growth of empathy and spiritual energy that result from our projects and interfaith dialogue

Every speaker talked about sharing our stories, about spending time together, really listening to each other. The interfaith women's meetings and discussions were not to 'evangelize' one another, and no one was tempted to leave her own faith tradition. Rather, the deep discussions helped each woman learn what they all had in common and helped deepen their own faith.

We were reminded that God created a wide variety of people too! And all have needs and they have the same desire for their children and grand children to live in peace as we do!

Every speaker talked about sharing our stories, about spending time together, really listening to each other. The interfaith women's meetings and discussions were not to 'evangelize' one another, and no one was tempted to leave her own faith tradition. Rather, the deep discussions helped each woman learn what they all had in common and helped deepen their own faith.

From their talks...Scripture assures us we are the people of God even when we believe we are not. It sends us into the world to tell the story of God.... The story of the Bible...God's love....runs deeper than the world’s stories. It invites others to see this story as their story. Allows God to work through us and the church.

{Quotes from the speakers, I only used the last one}

How deep is your heart and how wide is your embrace?” – Patricia Harris (Roman Catholic)

It is only when the uncomfortable becomes the comfortable that we can make a difference!… The women of WISDOM have found that their own faith is strengthen and deepened in interfaith conversation” – Gigi Salka (Muslim)

Maybe I’m dreaming, that the friendship between a Hindu and a Muslim, that our friendship has the power to reshape perceptions.” – Padma Kuppa (Hindu)

We in USA celebrate Freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means that one can -for example- criticize some policy of a government without fear of being imprisoned for saying so! As a pastor, as wife, mother, I do not believe that freedom of speech means that is it OK to say any old thing that pops into your head! We need to be kind to one another! It may not always be easy, but it always pays off.

Golden rule -common to many if not all faiths...most state as do not do that to another which you would not want done ..Jesus stated in positive terms. It's not always easy to do, especially living in times when bad behavior is rampant.

It's easier to look the other way, it's easier to cross the road to avoid someone in need. It's easier to stay home than to get involved in your community.

Elie Wiesel (Ellie VeezEL)
"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death." (Interview with U.S. media, 1986)

Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures; peace is our gift to each other.”

God's peace can only come through our working together to bring it! God's peace happens when a Samaritan takes care of a Jew...when a church helps out a mission to the poorest of the poor in a poor country. God's peace will come about when we volunteer in many ways, at the Hospital or at Caritas-our food pantry, or delivering meals on wheels. When we fill backpacks for needy school kids. We may have to get out of our comfort zones a bit! We may have to work with people we don't know from other churches, and people from no church! But if we do not, if we don't allow ourselves to feel the other's pain, we are the poorest of the poor!

Let us pray... holy God, help us to be Good Samaritans in this church, in our city and in the world. Help us to serve you well, looking at our common needs, not at our differences. Help us to bring the Light and Love of Jesus into all we say and do. In Jesus Name and Spirit we pray, amen!

No comments:

Post a Comment