Eighth Sunday after Pentecost 2016 | The Good Samaritan
We’re about halfway through the service now,
and I can’t help but notice that you’re all still here.
And to be truthful, I’m still not sure whether or not I should be surprised.
This Friday, around the time that the news cycle began to go on a loop,
When Monday’s sermon had been thrown in the trash,
And all the clever memes had been shared,
And the FB debates had reached the point of death threats,
And every expert on race and policing and the constitution had their five minutes in the spotlight…
After all of that, the desperation, the despair, and the confusion,
When so much seemed so unclear,
What seemed perfectly clear is that we desired justice.
More than anything we desire justice.
You heard the shouts and the rants, didn’t you?:
These are paraphrases. But tere are three that I saw a lot of:
- “Hillary belongs in jail!” Perhaps.
- “When the police tell you what to do, you do it.” No arguments there.
- “Those who enforce the law are not above the law.” That’s true beyond a doubt.
And, as a pastor, it is a somber reminder of my own duties and limits.
If there is anything that these slogans have in common: it is this:
They are declarations of judgment and demands for justice.
Statements like that, which you’ve no doubt seen or spoken this week, are good lawyer statements.
That is to say, they’re the sorts of thing the lawyer who approaches Jesus this morning would have said to justify himself.
Statements like that free you up to judge and criticize.
Principally because they’re not about you.
They’re not even about your neighbor.
Because any neighbor worth having, after all, would be more like you.
A real neighbor looks like you.
A real neighbor talks like you.
A real neighbor is kind like you.
A real neighbor, to put a cap on it, would act more like you.
And in every circumstance, you would have done the right thing.
You would never have told a secret – not for thrill, and certainly not for convenience.
And then, of course, you would certainly never have lied about it.
You always obey those who have authority. Like it or not, you do what you’re supposed to. Every time.
And you’ve certainly never abused the authority entrusted to you.
You’re the picture of benevolence.
And so you can turn up your nose as you pass along by on the road.
You can pass by them because they are now unlike you.
You’ve created enough distance.
If they were ever your neighbor, they’re not anymore.
They’re not like you.
You, the priest too pious to anoint the wounded with prayer.
You, the Levite, too selfish to give, too busy to live in mercy.
Too clean and righteous to get their blood on you.
I said a moment ago that your neighbor is one who is like you.
I said it sarcastically.
But I also meant it.
The people who come across your news feeds,
those whom you judge.
those whom you half-pity before scrolling down.
They’re you’re neighbor, too.
And they’re more like you than you care to admit.
They are like you because the devil seeks to rob and kill and destroy them.
The same as he wants for you.
To lure you into the shortcut, the convenient sin, the clever cutting comment.
To tempt you with fear and violence and despair and selfishness.
And leave you for dead on the side of the road.
Sometimes sin is very easy to see.
It’s easy to see when the FBI gets a hold of your computer.
It’s easy to see when a bystander gets some not so flattering footage of you in a conflict.
But other times, when the camera isn’t on,
Sin isn’t so easy to see then is it?
It’s not so easy to see when the blows you’ve struck break someone’s heart instead of their face.
It’s not so easy when your cursing of others is heard only by you.
It’s not so easy when your favorite sins are so very secret, hiding in the dark, unconfessed and unforgiven.
Attacked by sin, robbed by Satan, lacerated by death –
There you lay, unable to help yourself.
And certainly unable to help anyone else.
Yet Jesus the Perfect Samaritan comes,
He washes your wounds with the blood that pours from His own.
He revives you with the chalice of life, He anoints you with oil. Your cup runs over.
He strips Himself and wraps you up in His own garments of righteousness and love.
When He saw you bleeding and helpless he did not go to the other side of the road and pass by; but came, knelt down, and extended mercy.
He is the perfect priest: loving and interceding.
He is the perfect Levite, coming and seeing and doing.
He is the perfect neighbor, who shows mercy because He is Mercy.
Maybe you can find justice in a courtroom. Maybe not.
Maybe you can find it on an internet blog. But I doubt it.
Wherever you can get it, I pray to God that you didn’t come to get it here.
Because you will not find it.
Just like Christmas, if Justice is looking for a place to stay, there is no room at the Inn.
Almost all the early Church father’s thought of the Church that way.
The Church is the Inn where Jesus has entrusted you until He returns.
And all that you receive here, Jesus has paid for.
Baptism, Holy Absolution, the Eucharist
All of this has come at great expense – More than two denarii.
The cost of all this mercy was justice.
On the cross, Jesus has taken all of your lies and your selfishness, your refusal to be a neighbor, and everything else you brought with you this morning.
On the cross, Jesus bore every bit of it, and suffered the pain of justice for you.
And so Justice has been fulfilled by great injustice.
The Perfect Samaritan has fallen among robbers.
One on His right, and one on His left.
And they rolled a stone in front of His tomb.
There is no such stone here.
We didn’t even lock the doors.
And yet, you’re still here.
You’re still here and I’m actually not surprised.
Perhaps you really do desire mercy more than justice.
So be it.
Robbers, priests, Levites, and unfortunate travelers
All is forgiven now. Wounds are healed, Your debts are paid;
Along with a good, long all-expenses paid stay in the Inn.
You’ll find plenty of neighbors here.
But out there, too.
Check the side of the road.
They live in mansions…and ghettos,
And the wombs of their mothers.
And they need you more than you know.
It might seem strange at first, but they’ll know that you’re their neighbor
when you have mercy on them.
Bring them to the Inn.
We’ll take care of you all.
Don’t worry about the cost.
Jesus promised He will pay it all back.
He’s good for it.