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Sermon for July 14, 2013

Luke 10:25-37 (8th Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

July 14, 2013

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

Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in Luke 10:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

It’s been said that the Lord blesses a mission-minded congregation.  The Lord also 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.  He became incarnate, true God and true Man, the Word made flesh and dwelling among us.  Jesus had the ultimate compassion on us when He gave up His life into death on a cross to win our forgiveness and eternal life. 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 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

Holy 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 the 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.  We want to be, with the help of the Holy Spirit, compassionate Christians and a compassionate congregation—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. 

In Christ Jesus 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 our congregation’s ministries, like the Food Shelf Ministry, Vacation Bible School, and Sunday School, with your participation, prayers, and gifts.  Look for new ways that we might 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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