The Good Samaritan
Sermon by Rev. Combs / June, 2020
The namesake of the most famous story in scripture is everywhere. The Good Samaritan Agency for single moms in Bangor, Maine. The Good Samaritan homeless shelter in Bay City, Michigan. The Good Samaritan poverty provider in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Good Samaritan nursing home in Antioch, Tennessee. The Good Samaritan Hospice in Roanoke, Virginia.
While the biblical narrative can never be shared too much, there is danger in a story crossing over from the sacred inner circle to the secular masses, because the only thing more dismissible than the obscure is the familiar. When the lawyer inquired about inheriting eternal life, Jesus wasn’t concocting a response to be printed on the signs of nonprofits but rather a story of ultimate discipleship to be stamped on the souls of each hearer.
Rather than glossing over the fine print because of overexposure, our holy task is to let the parable lay claim on our lives as the listener, to encounter the ubiquitous again for the first time.
In today’s text, what makes the Good Samaritan good?
Luke 10:30-37 Jesus 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. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He 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. The 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.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Sometimes the most irreligious, especially Samaritans, can be the most faithful models of discipleship.
Helping is often an inconvenience but the Samaritan dismissed his schedule.
The Samaritan yoked himself to an enemy financially.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa brought an elderly black woman face-to-face with the white man, Mr. Van de Broek, who had confessed to the savage torture and murder of her son and her husband. In court, one of the members of the Commission turned to her and asked, “How do you believe justice should be done to this man who has inflicted such suffering on you and so brutally destroyed your family?” The woman replied. “I want three things. I want first to be taken to the place where my husband’s body was burned so that I can gather up the dust and give his remains a decent burial. I want, secondly, for Mr. Van de Broek to become my son. I would like for him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I can pour out into him whatever love I still have remaining. And finally, I want a third thing. I would like Mr. Van de Broek to know that I offer him my forgiveness because Jesus Christ died to forgive. This was the last wish of my husband. Now, I would kindly ask someone to lead me across the courtroom so that I can take Mr. Van de Broek in my arms, embrace him, and let him know that he is truly forgiven.” The assistants came to help the old woman across the room. Mr. Van de Broek, overwhelmed by what he had just heard, fainted. And as he did, those in the courtroom, friends, family, neighbors, all victims of decades of oppression and injustice—began to sing “Amazing Grace.”
As the protests continue to mobilize and the shameful past of our country gets narrated more and more by the voices too long silenced, American apartheid is finally being exposed. As we hasten the inflection point upon us, Haywood St. confesses to the white supremacy legalized at our nation’s founding that still incites many of our behaviors, abhors the systemic racism that privileges the already privileged majority, affirms that Black lives matter, calls for policing be entirely reimaged, and supports the promissory note that’s long past due, reparations in full.
However, as people called to another way, we cannot participate alongside a small faction inside the social justice movement fixated on demonizing perpetrators, severing connections, cheering on public banishment, and finally erasing human beings from the roles of God’s people. Excommunication is not an option in the family of faith.
The late Rev. Peter Gomes asked, “The question should not be “What would Jesus do?” but rather… “What would Jesus have me do?” The one who instructs us to love our enemies would have us do what made the Good Samaritan good: obligate ourselves to the hated rival who has wounded us most.
Luke doesn’t give us the name of the man bleeding out on the side of the road. By keeping him intentionally anonymous, the Gospel invites all of us to fill in the blank with the adversary in our midst. The power of the parable isn’t just doing good, but doing good to the very person who deserves to be passed by without even a passing glance.
For the pagan, defiled, foreign Samaritan, it was the religious man who worshipped the right God and held citizenship in the chosen nation; for the lesbian clergywoman it’s the Southern Baptist Deacon; for the head of the NAACP, it’s the Grand Wizard; for the brown dissenter, it’s the blue-uniformed cop. For you and me, its…
While the rush to soft mercy is usually a coercion of the offender, the work of faith is repairing relationship- after the needs of the victim have been expressly honored- in this life, or at least in the next. Knowing the hardest thing to do is often the Christian thing to do, may we forsake the familiarity of this parable on our way down to Jericho to go and do likewise.