Sermon for July 11, 2010

Luke 10:25-37 (7th Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Kingsville, MD

July 11, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I bring you greetings from the New England District of our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and from the saints of God at Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer in Enfield, CT, where I have the joy of serving as pastor.  Thank you for your very kind invitation extended through Pastor Wollman to share God’s precious Word with you on your Seminary Mission Sunday.

It is a very awesome thing that each month you set aside time to focus on your mission support and highlight those ministries which you hold up in prayer—Augsburg Lutheran Home, Lutheran Mission Society, Baltimore Lutheran School, and our two wonderful Concordia Seminaries.  It’s been said that the Lord blesses a mission-minded congregation.  I’ve also discovered that the Lord takes a mission-minded congregation and transforms it into a mission-DOING congregation.  It’s never enough to think about mission support and talk about mission outreach to the lost without the actions.  As our Lord Himself concludes our Gospel lesson today, “You go, and do likewise.”

The going and doing of which Jesus speaks in our Gospel text is showing mercy and having compassion on the neighbor.  One of the foundation blocks of mission outreach and support is compassion—compassion for the lost, for those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, compassion for the hurting, the sick, the dying, the needy, the suffering, the down and out, even people who you don’t like or consider worthy.  That’s what we discover in today’s Gospel lesson with Jesus’ encounter with the expert in the Law and His story about the Good Samaritan.

This expert in the Law knew His Bible.  He knew perfectly well what is written in the Law concerning the inheritance of eternal life—to love God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love neighbor as self.  But realistically, let’s see if we can set a limit on who we have to love in this world.  Really, aren’t there some people in your circles that you just don’t want to have anything to do with?  Maybe they are a little crude.  Maybe they are not on your economic or social level.  Perhaps they lack a good education.  Perhaps they don’t have the best hygiene and smell a little funny.  Possibly you simply hate that person because of something they have said or done to you; you regard them more as an enemy.  Are any of these people to be recipients of your compassion or is your mercy and love reserved for those most like you and with whom you have good, healthy relationships?

“Who is my neighbor?” the lawyer asked.  Jesus told a story to illustrate what being neighbor means.  The Good Samaritan is one of those texts that many of us have heard over and over through the years.  It’s familiar to us.  A man gets beaten up on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and is robbed.  A priest and a Levite, who should have rendered help and aid, passed by on the other side rather than take the chance of ceremonially defiling themselves by approaching someone who might be dead.  That defilement would have prevented their service in the temple and so they chose to pass by on the opposite side rather than take the chance.  The poor wounded, half-dead man, had he been a child of the ‘70s, would likely have used the Abba lyric, “Take a chance on me!”  “Take a chance that I am still alive and help me.”  But they would not.  Along, then, comes a Samaritan with whom the Jews did not at all get along with.  The Jews regarded them as a bunch of half-breeds, their enemies.  It’s this Samaritan who risked his own neck to help a Jew, and then spent a considerable amount of money to provide for his ongoing care and recovery.  He invested a lot in order to rescue a traditional enemy.  Moral of the story: “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?”  “The one who showed him mercy.”  And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

We read in the Gospels over and over that when Jesus saw the crowds He had compassion on them and healed their sick.  In Matthew 9:36 we read, “When he saw the crowds, [Jesus] had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  When Jesus saw us, He also had great compassion for you and me.  Jesus is like the “Good Samaritan.” Our Lord did not pass by us sinners because we are by nature unclean.  No, Christ stopped with compassion to minister to our needs of body and soul.  Jesus gave up His life into death on a cross to win our forgiveness and eternal life.  He had the ultimate compassion on us when He died on the cross to save us.  Romans 5, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Rom. 5:8,10)

Jesus was not afraid of becoming ceremonially unclean, as were the priest and Levite.  He took that chance—He became incarnate, fully human.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners; Jesus touched the dead and raised them to life; Christ touched the lepers and the sick and healed them.  He even faced the uncleanness of death and the grave to save the whole unclean world from our sin.  Jesus had compassion on us who fail to always have compassion and mercy on others.  The result is that, through the forgiveness of sins, we are cleansed from our failures to have mercy.  We are then empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit to go and do, making known the Lord’s compassion though our Spirit-filled actions!

Through faith in Jesus Christ, being filled with the Gospel through Word and Sacrament, the Spirit empowers His Church to be a compassionate Church in mission.  We don’t want to be an uncompassionate church.  Today we have a couple examples of the uncompassionate church that we can learn from.  The priest and the Levite in our text chose not to take a chance and so chose not to show mercy and have compassion on someone in need.  But I want to share with you another example of what an uncompassionate church might look like.

A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves who robbed him all that he had and left him lying by the side of the road.  Before long a member of the church came by and saw the man lying there.  “Hello there!  I’m Charlie and I’m a member of First Lutheran Church.”  The injured man groaned.  “Speak up, man, God helps those who help themselves, you know.  You look very . . . dirty!  If you’d clean up a bit you could come to my church.  We have a parish-nurse program that could be of some real help.  How does that sound?”

“Well, I could use some help all right,” the injured man replied, “but I don’t think I could . . .”

Charlie said, “Of course you could.  Just set your mind to it.  That’s what I do.  Once I was injured worse than you, and I turned out okay.”

“Good for you.  It’s just that I can’t seem to get my legs moving,” the man replied.

“What were you doing on this road anyway?” asked Charlie.  “Everybody knows you’re a target for trouble along here.  Did they get all your money?  I only travel with the bare necessities, and I leave my credit cards at home.  Next time you should too.

“Uh, yeah.”

Charlie said, “When I’m having trouble, I pray about it.  You do know how to pray, don’t you?  Didn’t your mother ever teach you what’s important?  The Bible says, ‘Bring up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.’  It’s pretty obvious that somebody didn’t get brought up in the way he should go.  I guess you could just go the Bible bookstore when you get to Jericho and look in the prayer section.”

The injured man replied in frustration, limping away, “I don’t want to go to the Bible bookstore.  I don’t want to read a prayer.  And I don’t want any part of your church or your God!  I can take care of myself!”

Charlie called after him, “Hey wait a minute!  Here’s a tract!  Call the pastor if you need anything.”  Then he said to himself, “I guess you just can’t help some people.”

Christ empowers His Church to be a compassionate church by helping all people.  It is the mission of our church’s seminaries to train pastors, missionaries, and deaconesses who will demonstrate a compassionate ministry in the congregations and fields of service to which the Lord calls them.  Our seminaries prepare the pastors of our congregations to extend the compassion of Christ, not only to the members, but also to those outside the congregation, outside the Church.  Our seminaries also get pastors ready to be equippers of the congregation so that the people of God can go forth mission-minded and mission-doing with the compassion of Jesus Christ.

We don’t want to be uncompassionate pastors and people.  We want to be, with the help of the Holy Spirit, compassionate Christians and compassionate congregations—pastor and people together—going and doing in the name of the Lord the work of mercy that He has placed before us.  As you come to this house of God, you are filled with the power of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins.  As you regularly feed on God’s Word and the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, your faith is strengthened and you are equipped to show compassion every day by being neighbor to not just your friends, but to whoever happens to be nearby or close at hand who has a need.

Through the gift of faith, Christ has motivated you as a congregation to support financially and with your prayers your missions.  As you support our seminaries today, you are blessing congregations with future pastors who will demonstrate mercy and lead those congregations to a compassionate ministry in their communities.  Last October our congregation in Enfield saw a need in our community.  We have a town food bank called the Enfield Food Shelf.  They are currently serving over 600 families just in our town with non-perishable food items.  But there is a need for other everyday things—toothpaste and toothbrushes, razors and shaving cream, deodorant, bandages, shampoo.  Until we started this monthly ministry I never saw a person smile or cry tears over receiving these simple, everyday, personal care items.  But they have.  We are able to meet these physical needs by showing them the compassion of Christ.  What’s more, we are giving these people Jesus.  We speak with the clients and invite them to know Jesus.  Our members have given out over 220 English Bibles and 15 Spanish Bibles, each one marked with a reading guide to make it easier for the reader to follow the story of the Lord’s compassionate love in Jesus.  Three weeks ago, instead of us asking “Would you like a Bible?” we had Food Shelf clients asking us for Bibles for themselves and their friends!  Can you believe that?

I share this with you as encouragement for you in Christ Jesus to continue to be the compassionate congregation and people of God that you are.  Show the love and mercy of Jesus to those with physical and especially great spiritual need for Jesus the only Savior.  Support your congregation’s ministries with your participation, prayers, and gifts.  Support your congregation’s missions and continue to look for new ways to reach out with the compassionate love of Jesus to the lost, the hurting, and those in any need.  With a confident faith in your Lord, who provides love and compassion to you, take a chance on your neighbors and share with them the joy that is being a child of the compassionate Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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