It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t know the story about the Good Samaritan. Most of us probably heard it first in Sunday School when the basic lesson of good and bad behavior was taught. But there is much more to this parable than that; and like all of Jesus’ parables, there are lessons in them that we adults have a hard time learning.
On the surface, today’s story is about a man who was traveling alone on a dangerous 7-mile stretch of road from Jerusalem to Jericho and who was robbed and beaten and left for dead in the ditch. Two men passed by and didn’t help the man at all. A third man came along and cared for him, dressed his wounds and took him to an Inn where he was safe for the night.
When we go below the surface, we learn that the man lying by the side of the road was a Jew; that the first man to pass by him was a priest; and that the second one was a Levite. The third man who actually helped him was a Samaritan. Once we begin to know a little more about who these characters are, it’s only natural that we would have expectations about how they should behave. And Jesus knew that his listeners would do that.
We would expect the priest and the Levite, both religious men and well-respected members of society, to have stopped to help the dying man. And we would have expected the Samaritan – an outcast of society who shouldn’t even have been on the same road as the other travelers – to have gone nowhere near the suffering Jew. But we would be wrong on both counts.
Some of my favorite television shows to watch are the ones where you see something put together right in front of you. Cooking shows where a written recipe becomes a steaming, savory dish; woodworking shows where a drawing becomes a handsome side board; even Orange County Choppers – from a few years ago – where drawaings on paper get hammered and welded into a roaring motorcycle so beautiful it brings tears to the eyes of the salty, muscle-bound shop owner.
What I love is seeing it put together. I love seeing an idea, a vision becomes real.
Of course, the folks we see on television are experts at what they’re doing. They’re experts because they have skill and talents and above all determination to learn their craft. None of them got good at their craft overnight. My guess is that Bobby Flay has ruined more mole sauces than most of us will ever attempt.
It takes practice and hard work and failure to turn theory into practice. I think the hardest part is to keep believing you can really build a table that won’t wobble because one leg is an eighth of an inch too short. Especially if it’s about the tenth time you’ve made the same mistake. The hardest part is not giving up on an idea in the face of repeated failure.
They say anything worth doing is worth doing right. But none of us gets it right the first over even the fiftieth time. It takes practice.
If there were Bibles in our pew racks, I’d start by asking you to take out your Bible and turn to chapter 9, verse 51 of the gospel according to Luke, which is where our gospel reading for this morning begins. And I’d do that to point out, not what’s written there, but so that you could see the blank space on the page that comes between verses 50 and 51. In lots of versions of the Bible I’ve seen, there are extra spaces before verse 51. It’s there to give us a heads up that we’ve come to the significant conclusion of one section and the significant beginning of the next.
So after the blank space, verse 51 reads: “When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” The time has come for Jesus to turn his face towards Jerusalem and the cross that is waiting for him there. The larger than usual blank space is there to let us know that we’ve come to a turning point. The early days of Jesus’ ministry with his disciples is over. We’re leaving that behind and crossing over to a more perilous time.
To be clear, it’s not that this big turning point happens because Jesus sees that his disciples and those closest to him are now somehow now ‘ready’ for this more perilous time because they have successfully completed their initial training as disciples. It’s not like he has observed that they have mastered the introductory courses and can now move on to the more advanced level. In fact, recent events make it look like sort of the opposite has happened.
By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation
I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity. This hymn known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate is one of my favorite hymns. It probably falls into my top 10 list. I remember singing it in church as a kid and struggling to match the words to the notes. That’s a generous statement which might lead you to think I read music. If you have stood anywhere near me while singing you know that is not the case. I just know that the notes go up and down and I try to match my voice accordingly. But I sing this one out no matter what.
It is so solid and strong and sure. The Trinity. The Three in One and One in Three. The solid foundation of our faith. There is something about declaring the name of the Trinity that seems fixed as well. Unmovable. And for certain, I through faith and experience I believe in the three persons of the Trinity and the unbreakable strength in that. But I’ve also learned that the Trinity is anything but static; it is always on the move. Moving me. Moving others.
In the course of church history the doctrine of the Trinity has sparked controversy and debate and heresy and schisms and all kinds of messes. To try to explain how three separate and distinct entities are one in the same can produce some consternation. But I am convinced that God is most interested in how I respond to the Trinity at work around me. Accepting the mystery of the Trinity can be easier than seeing the work the Trinity calls me too. The strong name of the Trinity demands that I stop naval gazing and to look out see what our Triune God is up to in the world. The Trinity in truth is simple, it’s just not easy.