8/16 Message “Who’s Your Neighbor”

This week Sunday service at 11 am, and Food Pantry is open on Tuesday 5:30-7 pm.

For those joining from home, here’s the message for this week.

Call to Worship; Luke 10:25-29

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Tithe, Offering, and Prayer Request; Father in Heaven, creator of all, thank you for our very being. Lord today we ask you to bless our society, country, and community, as we struggle to understand who you are, and what we are not. Father, thank you for all the blessing that you have visited upon our little church, and guide us Lord in your path of salvation. In Jesus Christ’s Heavenly name; Amen!

Message Reading: Luke 10:30-37

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Message: “Who’s Your Neighbor?”

It just never ceases to amaze me how consistent God is throughout all of scripture! And yet as consistent as God is, I continue to need His reinforcement, His reassurance, His calming grace to smooth out the storms that reside within the sinful me.                            A work in progress!

Today I am excited to have the honor once again to discuss with you a passage from the Bible that most people have probably already heard about, but might just be due for a refresher review of this wonderful teaching of Jesus Christ! Honored, because it is an honor to learn from and to serve a forgiving Lord and Savior, and we sit in pews of privilege when compared to our fellow Christians across the planet now, or those before us in the windings of history.

I say honor because of the incredible people who have instructed this passage before me, and the actual people who were the doers and advancers of our Faithwalk before us who actually built up the church as we know it today. We stand on the shoulders of great humble, faithful Christians who have advanced our faith family for two millennia through service to others.

And yet every generation must learn these same tried and tested truths that God has provided, afresh as a new morning. Today is no exception, as we follow the Lord’s teaching with our 21st century mindsets and conceptions.

We begin our study today with an expert of the law asking Jesus the age-old question, “what must I do to have eternal life?” Right out the gate many of us have our backs up because the Gospel of Luke tells us that it’s an expert in the law. AKA ambush time! Let the games begin.

As typical in all of the dealings the Lord had with scribes, rabbis, and law experts, when they flaunted their arrogance, negligence, and cruelty, the Lord will instruct them. We begin with our Call to Worship reading from Luke 10:

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

My reading of this question is that the expert is asking, what rules must I follow to be in with God? The Lord is going to lead our expert to the Promised Land by way of teaching both the expert and us what really is important to God. And the conversation continues; Jesus replies:

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

This is awesome! I have tried to live and teach the same thing myself and could not say it any clearer. Over and over throughout scripture God is saying this same thing to us generation after generation, Bible-school, Sunday-school, and Sunrise Services to boot.

Loving God, loving your neighbor, it’s straightforward. I didn’t hear the Ten Commandments, or the 613 Mitzvahs sited throughout the first five books of the Old Testament (known as the Torah or instruction) cited. What I hear is Loving God with all that you have and are, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

Pretty basic, even I can understand what the Lord just agreed to, as he tells our expert to “do this and you will live.” It seems that all should progress on now, or until reaching the destination at the Gates of Perl, but no. Now that our rule follower has been given the script, it’s time for loophole discovery, bifurcation (splitting hairs), and addendums to be discovered. Clarification is requested by our expert in the Law.

You see when it’s all about rules and laws, and when I cite them to someone else, or someone else submits them to me, the first thing we want to do is find a loophole to wiggle our way through or out of the requirement. Let’s face it, the human condition is a mess, and it’s primarily because we don’t like rules being imposed on us by anyone even God, going back to Adam & Eve. The minute I am told that I have to follow some rule, all of a sudden, I become a self-made lawyer with loopholes, excuses, and release clauses ready to employ.

So our expert, not satisfied with his understanding, responds to Jesus as our passage continues;

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

As much as this sounds to me like the response of a Smart Alek, some credence should be given the question. How many times have churches argued over who was a part of the faithwalk, and was not? How many times do we try to justify ourselves? Answering this question, Jesus will give us one of the best-known lessons in scripture. A masterpiece called “The Good Samaritan”.

Today I am commenting on a passage I have heard all my life, and yet I didn’t really hear what I am hearing today. Yes, what I am commenting on to you in the here and now. Scripture is like that. A person can go back time and again and get new meaning from what God is saying to your generation, your community, and your present place within your faithwalk. Our Lord begins his teaching in verse 30;

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

Let’s start out with some quick facts to help make up for not knowing who the person is that is beaten and robbed. What we do know is, that the road from Jericho to Jerusalem was a tough road over rough terrane. Just look at the elevation change; Jericho sits at 864 ft. below see level, and Jerusalem at 2,575 ft. above see level, a 3,439 ft. climb taking approximately 21 miles of winding rough road. Ideal for robbers, just waiting for travelers to take for the picking.

There would also be traffic going uphill to Jerusalem to worship God at the Temple. Jesus now describes two such travelers; …

31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

In the past, when I studied this passage, I found some explanations for why both would have passed by a person in need without stopping to help. Mainly for religious purity reasons before worshipping God in the Temple. But face it, the Jericho Road represents our walk in this life, and we face the unexpected at any time in our travels. These two guys could be any one of us at some given time in our lives. Too busy to get involved, especially if we are running late for Worship, pot luck, or Bingo Night.

We also know what Jesus Christ instructed on the importance of fixing things with your neighbor before giving to God in Matthew 5:23-24

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Let’s face it, Pharisee, Sadducee, Priest, Protestant, or Agnostic, we all have a hard time knowing who a brother or a sister is, especially when it’s inconvenient, we’re afraid of the unknown, or just judging.

I’m only guessing, but I’m pretty sure that the near dead guy on the road could care less just how devout the Levite or Priest were, as he lies in his own blood and struggling to breath. Kind of like the hungry or naked could care less if the person who clothed or fed them was a Lutheran, Latter Day Saint, Presbyterian, Buddhist, Pagan, Catholic, Methodist, Muslim, Jew, a Disciple of Christ, or for heaven’s sake, a Baptist.

Our Lord continues His instruction; …

 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.

Why Jesus citing a Samaritan in this passage is so radical in His day, was due to the fact that Samaritans and Jews hated one another. They lived next door to each other, and were neighbors without being neighbors. Saying something good about a Samaritan to a Jewish audience was sure to get a rise and hopefully their attention.

Kind of like saying; you are the robbed man in the story, I am the Priest, my wife the Levite, and the person you can’t stand in this life, who you have had a grudge against for months and years is the Samaritan that saves you. Still open for some assistance as you bleed, cold and alone? Jesus continues; …

 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

Our good neighbor has not only helped our beaten friend, he has taken him to an Inn, paid for his upkeep, and intends to return and pay more, do more later. The Good Samaritan / Good Neighbor is actually going to know the person he is helping.

Helping others is more than just paying money to fix the situation. It’s about getting to know the person you are trying to help. How else can you really help that person? I can’t help but ask myself, would I have settled for just helping that person that was robbed, or maybe on a good day taken them to and then ditching our injured friend at an Inn. Just to ease my conscience, and then off on my way. Nothing but sunny skies and a good slate ahead.

Well, thankfully, there are people like our Good Samaritan, even in this day and age. People you hope are there when you are in need. Our Lord now finishes his teaching and conversation with our expert in the law; …

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

So, let me ask; Go and do what? Fill a quota? Say if I help 3 people a month, and blow off anyone else that delays my plans for bridge, canasta, hiking, or watch episode 13, season 3 of Bonanza.

What If I pay someone, say 5% of my overall income to patrol the road so that no one else is robbed? Now if I have an increase in church offering to cover say a church sale, can I deduct the overall 5% off the top, then round off to the closest whole number, divided by 2? Now if this happens on a Sunday after church but before the Football game, am I even required to do anything because hay, I’m an American, and were talking Football.

And that’s how following rules and laws distracts. Immediately, I’m looking for a way out of doing whatever because we human beings are a mess.

My thought, and it is my thought. You have to do the heavy lifting by thinking, praying, and studying scripture, both with other Christians and alone with the Lord. Then deciding for yourself. My thought is that Jesus is saying something very specific when He tells our Law Expert to “Go and do likewise.”: He is telling all of us to be like the Good Samaritan!

The Good Samaritan is living his faith. Which means that he is not concerned will following quotas, rules, and laws, because his faith has risen above that stuff. In other words, rules and laws teach me right from wrong. Great. Now when I internalize right and wrong through my love for God and my neighbor as myself, I am transformed. We call it born again, and now just living my faith allows me to anticipate what God requires, and what my neighbor needs.

For the Samaritan, a bloody beaten person, is more important than making it to temple, synagogue, or church on time. Because serving the needy person is praising, magnifying, and glorifying God precious and Holy name!

This is not new with Jesus and the New Testament. I refer you to a scripture quoted last week (Isaiah 1:13-18), Where God dismissed going through the motions, and today Where God makes clear how He feels about a phony faith and vacuous / empty worship. Today another prophet, another passage from; Micah 6:6-8

With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

       To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God!

Like the Samaritan. Walking humbly with God as the two of them saved a beaten robed man. I did say the two of them, since it appears our Samaritan has a real relationship in the Lord. For he was living his faith, not following rules, but loving mercy. That’s why this is such a great passage!

When any of us decide to become Christians and live like Christians, living our faith, God will open up a whole new way of looking at living our lives. From that point on, instead of seeing people in need and only thinking of how inconvenient being a part of their lives will be. Now we are filled with excitement. Thinking of all of the possibilities God has in store for people looking for our help.

My hope and prayer for you this week, is that you progress on down your path, the faithwalk of our calling. Find someone who needs you and give of yourself. Because you have to lose yourself, to find the real you, the you who can make the difference in this hurting world. Who knows, God and you might just save someone.

Amen!

Benediction based on Isaiah 61:1-3

If we are walking in His footsteps, these words are appropriate for you the Good Samaritan / Neighbor in this walk of ours!

May the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord be upon you,
because the Lord has anointed you
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent you to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
May you be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.