Last Sunday was supposed to be a day of celebration for our community. We received a piano in memory of a member, and it would have been her 100th birthday. Her entire family came for the celebration, and I had the service all planned. I wrote the sermon early in the week.
And then two black men were killed by police officers.
And then five police officers were killed.
I tore through the pages of Scripture to find a new text to preach on, and came up empty handed. I couldn't find the words that honored both lament and celebration, that could meet us in the tension. Until, I looked to the assigned text in the lectionary. Like always, it was spot on. It was the words that I needed to hear, the words that the world needed to hear.
Jesus’ story in Luke 10:25-37 is about a man who wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. And that’s when Jesus asked him about what’s written in the law. The lawyer said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
That’s it. That’s what it takes. Love God. Love Others.
But it’s not that easy. Especially when our world is calling us to choose. To choose a side. To choose someone to align with. To choose someone else to hate. To label someone else as the enemy. Loving our neighbor gets complicated quick when we try to figure out who is included. Is my neighbor limited to the person on my block? The person in my community? Is your neighbor the person who looks likes you, or shares your faith?
Just who is your neighbor? Just who are you supposed to love?
Jesus told a story about the man beaten, lying in a pool of blood on the side of the road. Left for dead. A priest walked by and left the man there. A Levite, an interpreter of the Law, walked by and left the man there. It’s the Samaritan that stopped to help.
Samaritans and Jews were bitter rivals. When the monarchy split, Jerusalem remained the capital of Judah (Southern Kingdom) and Samaria became the capital of Israel (Northern Kingdom). They ended up with political, religious and ethical differences. They were enemies.
The Samaritan walked by his enemy, a dying Jew, on the side of the road. He did everything he could. He soothed his pain with oil, he cleaned his wounds with wine. He saw that the man was in danger and so he picked him up and put him on his donkey. He found him a place for him to stay.
Jesus asked the teacher, “Which one do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The Lawyer responded, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Go. Loving God. Loving Others. Go.
This week, I held the faithfulness of a saint and the tragedy of our world closely as I searched for a message of hope. Then I realized, this is always the tension and it's also the hope. There will always be brokenness in our world, and there will always be saints working to put it back together. The good news of our God needs to be experienced today. God is working through the lives of people, and we must allow God to work through us. Here's how we do it:
We must bring peace where there is violence.
We must bring love where there is hate.
We must bring hope where there is despair.
We must bring light where there is darkness.
Go and do likewise.