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Samaritan Lives - Sermon on Luke 10:25-37

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Yes, God wants us to love all people, when God says love your neighbor as yourself. But unless we call out how some people aren't being loved, then saying "All Lives Matter" is just a lie. 

  Please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

July 10, 2016- 8th Sunday after Pentecost

"Samaritan Lives".  Text is from Luke 10:25-37

Click here for sermon audio


Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God.

This conversation that Jesus is having this morning and the accompanying parable both feel as if they could not have come at either a more or a less opportune time, depending on how you look at things. What's truly amazing is that it only occurs in Luke, and so we hear about this well-known parable, one that exhibits what may be the very core of Christian doctrine, only once in our three-year cycle.  Just one time to understand to hear Jesus use a parable to explain to this curious lawyer (who may just be a specific kind of Scribe) the nature of what a neighbor truly is. 

That is not to say that the base question that Jesus asks, what is the greatest commandment, is not itself contained in other gospels, because indeed, there is a manner in which the question is asked and answer as to what is the greatest commandment. But Luke has a very different and specific take. 

In the first place, Luke's lawyer seems very sincere, and not someone trying to trip Jesus up and test him, trying to get him caught in some kind of contradiction as we find in Matthew 22. It is not the scribe's question in Mark. This lawyer appears to be someone who is very intent on learning about what Christ has to offer. 


And eternal life is indeed something worth pursuing. And Jesus responds with a question. What is the greatest commandment. The lawyer is ready with the answer.  "...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." So simple and so easy. And then the question comes up. But the lawyer thinks for a moment and comes up with a second question. "Who is my neighbor?" That's a big question and an important question and it really sincerely needs to be addressed in order that this lawyer can fully understand what it is he needs to do to achieve salvation (because isn't that what Jesus is asking after all?) 

And so we have the parable that we love to call the Good Samaritan (who Jesus never in fact calls "good").  There is a man who having traveled upon the road is beset upon by robbers and left for dead.  A priest and a Levite both pass along the other side. And we can certainly go deep into their rationale, maybe they'd have to be cleansed afterwards for dealing with a body all beaten and bloody which would be no small amount of ritual in accordance with Jewish purity laws, but that kind of changes the meaning of the parable. I mean one of the points that Jesus freeing the world was so that people wouldn't have to opt out of doing kindness in order to maintain their fulfilment of the law.  The Samaritan, a person who would have been thought of...to try to make a modern analogy...as racially inferior to the Jewish people shows up. This is someone that observant Jews looked down upon and in some cases more so than Gentiles, because it was someone who practiced the faith in much the same way as Jewish people but with some very distinct and major, possibly heretical differences. So the hierarchy of Jewish priestly society would consider them people most foul and to be avoided at all costs lest their misappropriation of Yahweh infect their beliefs and practices of the good children of Israel. This Samaritan does the right thing. He takes the wounded and beaten individual, puts him on his beast of burden, carries him to an inn and pays the innkeeper to take care of him, putting all future expenses on his account. 

This Samaritan did indeed do the right thing. 

So Jesus asks, upon completing the parable, which one was the neighbor? The lawyer answers, "Well, the one who showed the mercy." And Jesus responds with "Go and do likewise."

And so we have this question about which one is the neighbor and the lawyer responds with the one who showed mercy (He can't even be bothered to say Samaritan) and Jesus tells him to do the same thing. But Jesus doesn't necessarily tell him he's answered correctly like he did earlier with the Greatest Command.  And he doesn't disagree with him, but when I looked at this parable one time I realized that the answer is not confined to the Samaritan. 

Because whether or not the Levite or the priest behaved the way they were supposed to be, they are nevertheless neighbors to the man who was hurt. They were bad neighbors, but they were neighbors nonetheless.  For that matter, the robbers were bad neighbors as well...the worst neighbors. 

Jesus is not telling us that we have to pick and choose who our neighbors are. We do not get to do that. Our neighbors are the ones who are outside, in our neighborhoods. No matter what we think about them. No matter our preconceived notions of them. The whole point of this man being a Samaritan is to say that even someone who our society has decided is not worth the time of day is nevertheless our neighbor. And here is the central core of the issue. If all of these people are our neighbor, what does treating our neighbor as ourselves truly mean? How do we uplift to our neighbor that their lives matter?

Because to be honest, when we live in a world that is constantly saying all lives matter while neglecting to acknowledge that some lives are far more likely to be the victims of brutal treatment in the hands of police then we are not in fact valuing all lives. There is a reason you hear people screaming Black Lives Matter and there is a striking reason why it bothers many of us who have the fortune of having been born white. There is nothing in those words that say other people's lives don't matter. But when a population cries day in and day out and telling you that racism isn't over that the system is still biased against them, that despite the fact that our society as a whole values open carry laws as well as concealed weapon laws in many places, that a black man cannot legally open carry a gun without instantly becoming a suspect as we found in Dallas, or carry a concealed weapon and be honest with a police man during a routine traffic stop without being shot at and killed by that same policeman as happened in Minneapolis, who have been trained within a context that is systematically designed to target minority groups in order to present the illusion of protecting the public at large, while failing to protect a large number of those same minority groups that are included in that public. Yes, people who are not black, including a large number of white people are shot and killed by police officers, many of them without provocation. Yes, race is a social construct. But anything that is a construct must be deconstructed before we can ignore it, and there are numbers to back up the disproportionality among people of differing skin colors and the treatment by police. 

When Jesus asked who is your neighbor he did not ask who is the one who treats you as a neighbor ought to be treated. He was, in effect, condemning those who would not treat their neighbors with love. His words reach out to us through the years and remind us that even though we, my sisters and brothers, feel pain when we hear about these lives lost, that we may even have some glimmer of understanding that movements such as Black Lives Matter these are central to the core of social justice, what it means to be Christian, as long as these events keep taking place, and people continue to die in such numbers there are not enough of us speaking loud enough, shouting at the top of our lungs, our black and brown sisters and brothers are being targeted and dying by far greater numbers than we are and it has got to end! 

I cannot believe that it is the will of God that says Alton Sterling or Philando Castle ought to have been shot by police or that the shootings were in any way justifiable, any more than I believe it is the will of God that 5 police officers in Dallas be murdered by an ex-military sniper suffering from PTSD during a Black Lives Matter protest. There is something truly evil in society that is driving some police officers into this fatal option, more likely with people of color and most likely with black people--and we cannot let the narrative get away from what is going on. 

God fills our hearts with compassion and the will to drive out the darkness from our midst. God feeds us with His Holy Spirit that exclaims within us "WE MUST DO MORE." God gives us the wherewithal that pushes us to cry out, "How Long Lord! What can be done?" God reminds us that we are a loving people and that his lovingkindness for all people means that yes, we are called to love our neighbors as a ourselves, and that it is meant for black lives, and that black lives do matter. And the good news is that black lives do matter. And the good news is that each and every one of us can live our own lives with that in our heart. 


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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on July 10, 2016 2:43 PM.

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