Monday, September 11, 2017

Sermon on Luke 10:23-37, for the 13th Sunday after Trinity (1 Yr. lectionary), "The Good Samaritan"

To know and to do—very different things (P. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary). Jesus established that the teacher knew the Law correctly—but to do it is a far greater matter. A great many good things we know we ought to do, by the 10 Commandments, but how much harder is it to do than to simply know? A child may know their parents told them not to fight with their siblings—but doing it…
Jesus teaches the Law’s promise: “Do this and you shall live”. That’s all well and good if you can do it, but if you don’t do it? Gal. 3:10-11 tells us this very command becomes a curse to us, because “cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them. 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.””
Teacher wanted to justify himself. Betrays his motive. Wants the law to do what the law cannot do, because of our sinfulness. 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Gal. 3:21-22). Law can’t give life—only the promise of Jesus Christ gives life. Last week: the letter (law) kills; the spirit gives life.
Law commands good things—love God with heart, soul, mind, strength. (self-examination—how is our love?) Love neighbor as ourselves (self-exam—how broad and expansive the command, and how short our love?) Prayer of the day: “give us an increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain what You have promised, make us love what You have commanded; through Jesus Christ”.
Parable shows how the law is not given to give us life, but for us to love our neighbor. By trying to give the law an “unlawful motive” the teacher tried to narrow the law down enough so he could justify himself. But in wishing for the law to be narrowly defined, he would have left his Samaritan “enemies” and others out of the command. Jesus blows open the narrowing and legalizing that even we are tempted to do.  “legalizing” might come up with definitions of who is and isn’t my neighbor, how much and how far I am required to help. Turn the law into a “low bar” that we can achieve. But the parable teaches: Who is my neighbor? Everyone! Better yet, you are to be the neighbor to whomever  is in need! The law is not about who they are, and whether they fit the bill for you serving them—it’s about who you are to be—a merciful neighbor, regardless of whom you are asked to help or show compassion to.
There is a chilling coldness in the actions of the priest and Levite, who have the appearance of religion, but who pass by on the other side of the road. By contrast, just look at how Americans have pulled together regardless of race, religion, political affiliation, social status, etc, to help each other in Texas. Loving the neighbor doesn’t examine who they are—it examines who we are. What kind of person am I? A neighbor to the person in need, or a pious priest or Levite who ignores the suffering? When we reexamine our obedience to the command “Love your neighbor as yourself” in this light, it becomes clear just how earnestly we need to pray: “give us an increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain what You have promised, make us love what You have commanded; through Jesus Christ”. God, we need that increase! God wants this. He wants hearts humbled and hungry for His mercy, open to being vessels of His love to our neighbors.
Reflect on how you are called to be a neighbor to someone in need. It may cause you cost, delay, inconvenience, discomfort, messiness, etc. But that is God’s calling, to love our neighbors. But remember that Christ has freed you from the law, so you are free for God’s love to flow through you to them! Shape of service will look different, but generous, compassionate, love—same.
Examine the Good Samaritan—no law could adequately describe what he did—not to prescribe how much help to give, or what form it should take. Not a minimal effort. But he goes above and beyond, bandaging wounds, incurring expenses, inconvenience and delay—not to mention he would have been eyed suspiciously since Jews hated Samaritans. Wine, oil, time, physical exertion, extra expense, promise to pay overages on return. Not extravagant, but his kindness is not restricted or measured, rationed or withheld—it is generous.
Reminds me of Galatians 5:22 “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” And 5:18 “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law”  The fruit of the Spirit is a love that goes above and beyond the law. Generous, without rationing or restriction.
Whose love can this better describe, than that of Jesus? We of course, were dead in our trespasses and sins. The curse of the law is inevitable doom for us, who stand under its judgment. But Christ comes, to perform a costly act of self-sacrifice and service that goes far beyond what the just law of God demands. Even greater than the acts of the Good Samaritan, Jesus perfected love, by incurring the greatest cost imaginable—surrendering His own life to death on the cross for us. And not just a human life offered in sacrifice—which is great in itself—but the very precious blood of God Himself, as Paul says in Acts 20:28, commanding pastors to “care for the church of God, which he obtained with His own blood.” The precious blood of God’s Son, no costlier gift can be given to mankind. He came into “enemy territory”, facing the hatred and scorn of those who wanted to crucify Him—but He was not deterred from helping the wounded, the left for dead. Jesus came to earth and saw that we were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”, and He did not pass by on the other side; He did not stay away to keep Himself from getting defiled by meeting us in our injury and death, but He had compassion on us, and came to help.
Jesus binds up our wounds (traumata)—brings us healing. “Surely by His stripes we are healed”. Jesus is the master healer of both body and soul, as His numerous miracles prove. It is His hands, His balm, and His healing Words that must but applied to the traumas of our bodies, hearts, and souls. For our dying bodies, He proclaims His resurrection from the grave, and ours to follow Him. For our sin-sick hearts, He gives a new heart and a new spirit within us, turning our  hearts up to Him. For our lost souls, He buys us redemption and healing by God’s precious blood.
He brings us to the inn of the church, as our hymn says: “Unto his church my steps he led, The house prepared for sinners lost; Gave charge I should be clothed and fed; And took upon him all the cost.” (John Newton, The Good Samaritan). Here we are a hospital for sinners—so you should not expect to see the healthy, but the sick, who are in need of mercy. Mercy given, mercy needed, mercy received—these things you should see.
And Jesus promises to return again, and all our restoration, all the expense of our recovery, is on His tab. He is good for it. Because the law was not given for our righteousness, or to give us life—but Jesus Christ is given for our righteousness. That is the Gospel, the Good News! There is nothing we can do to inherit eternal life! We can only be given it, by faith in Jesus. He gifts eternal life—we don’t earn it. This freedom from trying to justify ourselves, gives us the liberty to love our neighbor as ourselves, not for personal gain or spiritual advancement, but from a new definition of who we are—a neighbor to show mercy to whomever needs it. Grant us an increase of faith, hope and charity, oh Lord! Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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1. The parable of the Good Samaritan begins with a teacher of the law asking Jesus a couple of questions: 1) What shall I do to inherit eternal life? and 2) who is my neighbor? Jesus answers the first question with a ______ and the second question He answers by telling a ______. (Luke 10:25-30).
2. In Luke 10:29, we see that the motive of the teacher was to justify himself, when he asked “who is my neighbor?” Why is our “justification” not a motive (purpose) of God’s law? Galatians 3:21. If the law can’t justify us, how are we justified? Galatians 3:22-24.
3. If we examine ourselves, do we find that we have kept the law, by loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves? How have we fallen short? Roman 3:23. If we have not perfectly kept the law, how does it leave us? Galatians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 3:6-7 (cf. Luke 10:30). If we are dead, and cannot help ourselves, where does God’s Word turn us for rescue? Ephesians 2:5.
4. What is so discouraging about what the priest and the Levite did in the story? Why did they avoid helping? Why was it so surprising that a Samaritan would stop to help? Cf. John 4:9-10.
5. How did the Samaritan go “above and beyond” the call of ordinary kindness? Luke 10:34-35.
6. When Jesus answers the question with this parable, He changes it from a question of “who is my neighbor” to “who am I to be a neighbor for?” What is the answer to this question?
7. How is Jesus the ultimate “Good Samaritan?” How did He come as the unexpected helper? How was He despised by those He came to save? Acts 4:11. How did Jesus go “above and beyond” to show His love for us, and rescue us from every evil? 1 Peter 1:18-19. How is the church like the “inn” where we are nursed back to health? 1 Corinthians 12:25-27

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