Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Neighbor By Side Of The Road

This week's scriptures are Deuteronomy 10:12-22 and Luke 10:25-37.

A couple of things before I start to blog about this week's scriptures.

First, I've been invited/challenged to preach a series of sermons that will help us sharpen our vision of who we are at Broadneck Baptist in terms of our life and mission moving forward into this next phase of our life together. This coming Sunday will be the first sermon in that series.

The scripture that we're using this Sunday is the Good Samaritan parable that Jesus told in answer to the question "who is my neighbor?" And, throughout the following week at Music and Arts Camp, the kids will be using this same story to frame their work and play around international neighbors. I think this is an interesting way to explore the passage. At the beginning of the work the kids will be doing we as grown ups will be doing some grown up 'theological reflection' on the passage. My hope is that our reflection will trickle down in some ways in the work done with the kids; that the things we discover about our identity on Sunday will be reflected as the Church's (as in universal Church) identity is expressed to kids.

In Mark 12:28-31 Jesus is asked, "what is the greatest commandment?" In his answer, Jesus doesn't settle for one commandment. He responds, "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" but he doesn't stop there. Jesus isn't content with leaving the most important thing about our lives being our attitude toward God; he goes on to say, "and the second is 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself' there is no more important commandment than these two." Matthew has Jesus follow up by saying that all the Law of Moses rests on these two commandments. Luke, on the other hand, has Jesus telling the parable that we call the Good Samaritan.

There are a number of lessons that can be learned from this parable. There's the judgement lesson about letting 'religious' laws and rules interfere with compassion-it shines a light on the Priest and the Levite. There's the 'anti-discrimination' lesson about recognizing and valuing couragous compassion where ever it comes from-it shines the light on the Samaritan. But in terms of our exploration of our ministry as Broadneck Baptist Church, I'd like to point us in a different direction. I'd like to shine a light on the man on the side of the road.

We don't know much about this man. Though it is often assumed that he is Jewish, we don't know for sure. Many people traveled the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. He could be any one of them. We know nothing about his economic or social status. He'd been stripped of all his clothes. All we know is that he had been robbed, beaten, and lay bleeding by the side of the road. Jesus defines him only by his need. There is no discussion about "the deserving poor" or about his history or family or his religion-or lack thereof. There's not even much discussion about the kind of need he has (is he brain injured, or just cut up?)Nor (as Jeremy pointed out in our Bible study on Monday night) is there any discussion about the wounded man's response to the Samaritan's kindness. He's there; he's wounded and needy.....what will the passers by do? It is in this response that their "identity" for future generations is defined.

For Jesus...and he makes this point in a multitude of ways and places in scripture...there is no seperating our love of God from our love of neighbor. He goes so far as to say "if you did it to the least of these (the most pitiful, the most powerless, the most despised) you did it to me." If we want to wake up every morning and see Jesus; if we want to encounter God every day; we're told to open our eyes and look at our neighbor.

For us as a congregation in the midst of exploring, examining, struggling with what our ministry to the Cape and surrounding area should look like this is an important lesson. Let's put it in stark terms: Who is bleeding on the side of our road? Where is the need? How do we equip ourselves to respond to it? Maybe we've already got some gifts and tools (the Samaritan had oil and wine), but not having the tools isn't an excuse for inaction. Our action has to be determined by the need.

You might ask, "well what if we don't know a lot about this issue/need?" My answer is that we educate ourselves. We've just been given a tremendous gift by 20+ years of giving at Broadneck...our morgage is paid off. That frees us financially, should we need to, to put money into education ourselves about the need, to develop an intelligent response, to live out our call.

But let's be blunt. We're not talking about "issues" or "needs"....we're talking about people. Who's bleeding by the side of our road? Or better yet...where by the side of our road do we see Jesus wounded, bleeding, in need of help?

That's where we need to start.

Hope to see you Sunday.

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