Tuesday, July 12, 2022
25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He 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.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
As a pastor at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church (ELCA), Hickory, NC I have been blessed with an amazing family of faith! Every single day that I wake up, I look forward to my day and spending time with them. The church is located on a busy road in the St. Stephen’s area. One may not think that we would we get a lot of folks traveling on foot stopping by the church asking for food and water, but we do several times a day. Once a month, we participate in “Drive-thru Prayer. We are always amazed of those who pull into our parking lot who are hurting, suffering, and homeless.
This past weekend, we held our “Drive-thru Prayer.” A woman and her son pull into the parking lot. I remember the woman from another time when she knocked on the church doors needing help. Our food pantry is always willing to provide something to eat. This time though, she had just gotten out of the hospital. Her and her son had been living and sleeping in their car for several months. The son now has a job, and they also now have a place to sleep. But they have nothing…no clean clothes, no food to eat, and no towels to wipe dry after a shower. It broke my heart. For me, I could not imagine just getting out of the hospital and not having my bed to get into to rest.
What happens next is amazing…I sent out a message to my people of St. Stephens and asked for their help to provide clothing, blankets, pillows, and an air mattress for this woman and her son. They responded! The next morning on Sunday – there was so much they had provided; I could hardly fit all of it into my car!
I preached this past Sunday on the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is a story about an attorney who asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “You are lawyer, what does the law say?” The attorney responds with the first commandment to love God and love your neighbor. Jesus said, “Good answer.” But the attorney then asked the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus then tells him the parable about the man who is robbed on the side of the road. Three people encounter this beaten-up, half-dead man. A priest and another religious affiliated man pass him by and do not help him. It’s the third man – an unrespectable human that stops to help the man and cares for him.
There is no doubt that in this parable Jesus wants to make the point that we are to care for our neighbor, even those in which we may not like or care for. As Christians, we are called to love one another. And what that means we love others for who they are – regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. But I believe we cannot miss the other point that Jesus wants us to know…
We are human beings, and our human nature is to look out for No. 1 – Ourselves. It is not in our innate nature to go out of our way to help someone who is a complete stranger. It is only through our Lord – Jesus Christ that leads us and gives us the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and have compassion for one another. It is only because of Jesus’ love for us that it is then possible for us to love as He loves us. Therefore, it is our relationship with our God that enables us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
On Sunday, the following day, I witnessed the love of Christ through the people of God! These people who came on Sunday to worship, but also who brought their gifts to help a complete stranger – someone they had never even met before– evangelized loud and clearly how God loves us through their actions of loving their neighbor. Indeed, they were the Good Samaritans!
St. Stephen’s I am so blessed to be with you of this journey of life!
Thanks be to God!