SERMON FOR EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST (ACNA LECTIONARY)
Thank you to Dcn. Isaac Chavez for allowing us to post his sermon, preached at Christ our Hope Anglican Church on Sunday, July 10.
I heard a statement this week that I’ve wrestled with ever since. God is raising the world up to glory, and bringing glory to the Earth. That is one of the hopes that come in the Gospel of Christ. But it is a hard statement to understand in the midst of all the chaos and heartache of this week’s events in our country. What does God’s victory over the world and the evil one and sin look like in our situation? We don’t seem to see great miracles like the apostles and prophets witnessed. And it sometimes does feel like darkness is overcoming the light, and the kingdom of righteousness is retreating from the battlefield. So where are the effects of the Easter victory we proclaim and celebrate every Sunday? I think an important part of the answer to these questions is found in our Gospel lesson this week. And isn’t that a tiny miracle itself? That the Gospel appointed beforehand would happen to be the Word of God to us today concerning this situation of our country and our fears and concerns.
So, an important part of the answer is found in our Gospel reading today. And there should be no surprise at the answer. In fact, we have already heard the answer today at the very beginning of our service. And the Old Testament reading assures us that we have the answer in our midst, for it says:
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it for us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth, and in your heart, so that you can do it.”
So it seems we should know the answer of what to do. The commandment, the Word, God’s Word to us is right now in our hearts and on our mouths. It is in our midst for us to hear, obey, live out, and be changed by. How, God? How does your victory look right now? What is the Word that we should know, that is right now in our heart and mouth?
In a way, isn’t this the same question the Lawyer was asking Jesus in our Gospel reading today when he said: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Another way of asking this question: “Teacher, what must I do to take part in your rising up all things to everlasting life?” The question I am asking today is what does God’s victory, which we believe has already taken place at the rising of Christ, what does its fruits or effects look like today in our world? What does the resurrection power look like today? So really we are asking about eternal life, just like the Lawyer. But Christ’s answer to the Lawyer, that he should love God and his neighbor seemed to only rebuke the man’s heart, causing him to give a defense for himself as he asks yet another question: “But who is my neighbor?” And, the Scripture says that he asked for the particular reason so that he might justify himself.
Something in this word that is from heaven, this Word of God, this word that is in our midst and in our hearts, something about this Word causes offense and stumbling to this lawyer. And yet, knowing the man’s discomfort, the Lord did not hesitate to make the man feel even more uncomfortable by confirming to him his worst fears: That he has not been rightly loving his neighbor. Actually, you could apply Christ’s rebuke to him even further and say that he was telling him you do not understand the nature of humanity and how precious each soul is.
Now, I think it’s important to remember here, that Jesus is using a Samaritan as an example of being a good neighbor to a Jew. And he’s using a Samaritan for a particular reason. The Jews hated the Samaritans. And a Jewish lawyer would have particularly been keen to this prejudice against Samaritans because he would have to have been familiar with the political framework of his time. So Christ did not comfort the man in his self-righteousness or illusions of himself, but rather he gave a simple parable that revealed to the man that he did not love his neighbor, as he should. Because he didn’t realize even who his neighbor was. Basically, every human, even your enemy is in some way your neighbor, that is the nature of what Christ meant by particularly choosing a Samaritan to be the one who showed mercy. The Word of God came to that lawyer that day, in the form of a Good Samaritan and it cut into his conscience.
And it is in this parable that we today are reminded that we have the answer, the Word of God always in our midst.
The answer is of course the Gospel of the Love of God in Christ. We’ve all probably heard it joked how the typical Sunday School answer to every question is Jesus. You say Jesus as an answer to any random Sunday School question and you have to at least be partially correct. Well, I would say the same thing could apply whenever you think about your actions in this world. Except there I would say the answer in some way is always: the Love of God. What am I supposed to do in this world: love like God. What are the two chief commandments? To love. What is the law of Christ? The law of the freedom to love. What is the word that is near us that we are to do? You are to love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Okay, but Lord, that is only part of the answer. What does that look like? How do we love when justice is required, or when there has been an injustice? Or how do we love in the midst of a battle or a storm? When the whole world is shaken, how is the love of God manifested in this world to us. What does it look like? Lord, how are you rising up the world to glory today?
And perhaps the Lord would say and is saying: “Well, let me tell you a small parable about a man whose world was shaken, and turned upside down. And if you listen with your ears open you’ll see what love looks like in person.”
When meditating on this passage this week I couldn’t help but notice some things about
the way that the Good Samaritan responded to the injustice of the situation. Jesus doesn’t say that he got angry at the crime that had been committed and left to look for the perpetrators of the crime. If he would have done that, wouldn’t he have been just as guilty as the others who just left the man lying there? It’s true he would have had some care for the man, where the other men who had passed by had very little, and did nothing about it. But still, the effects are the same. The beaten man would have been left for dead on the side of the road.
The Good Samaritan also didn’t take the occasion to voice out his disgust or to protest the injustice. This would have been getting angry at the theory of injustice rather than the true injustice itself.
Nor did the Good Samaritan use the occasion to re-emphasize his prejudice, nor to remind the Jew of his own racism towards his people. But rather he overcame prejudice by simply loving his neighbor, even a man who might consider him his enemy.
So how did God lift up the man who was dying? How did God’s love bring some justice back to the world and to this situation and to this man?. Simple, by doing to the man what should have been done to begin with.
It was unjust for the man to be wrongly beaten. So he bound up his wounds and poured oil for healing. It was unjust for the man to be left alone on the side of the road. So love rights the situation by bringing the man to the safe shelter, and leaving him in good hands. That is how all people should be treated, and cared for, and it is how things will be in the Kingdom of God. In other words, through the Good Samaritan, the situation is being healed and God’s kingdom is coming to Earth, to this little spot of earth. The Kingdom of God is coming to this man through the love of the Good Samaritan. Justice, healing, care, life, these flow from love, and this is what Christ declares to us today is to be our response to all of life’s situations, particularly the chaotic and fearful ones.
Let’s look at some more injustices righted. It was unjust for the man to have his things stolen; so the Good Samaritan takes from his own to try to give back to the man some of what he lost. It was unjust for no one to be willing to give their time and energy to help the man in his need, so the Good Samaritan showed that the sacrifice of one’s time and energy is the sacrifice of love. How is God rising up the world and bringing justice?
Through manifesting his love through people. In other words: THROUGH US. Through those who have the Word of God, and the Spirit of God in their hearts to do it. We should know that the answer is love. This commandment is not in heaven, but it is right here in our midst, repeated to us every week. Through our sacrifices and generosity. Through our self-giving and self-denying. Through our caring and kindness. And all in the name of Christ, by the Spirit of Christ, and in the way that Christ himself loved. Through all this, God’s victory over sin, and all our enemies is established and experienced in our own lives and those around us. We have already been lifted up to glory. Our epistle reading is from the Book of Colossians, the same book that tells us the glorious truth that we are even now sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. God is already changing you through his love, if it is so that you are part of his Body and New Creation, he is changing you, and making you and all the church, vessels of this love that is the salvation and healing of the world.
Because really, it was Christ who was the Good Samaritan, and we are now his body. Truthfully, Christ went above and beyond the love of the Good Samaritan. Christ did not stop to help the man; he went ahead of the man and took his place as the one beaten and stripped by the thieves. And he allowed himself to be left to die, on the side of the road, knowing no Good Samaritan would come to help him. Christ had to not only take the beating of the Jewish man in the parable, but also had to show the mercy of the Good Samaritan to the thieves. Christ went all the way to Hell, for God so love the world, and this is divine love. Christ went far beyond the Good Samaritans charity. But Christ only asks us to be like the Good Samaritan that is all he requires as our duty of faithfulness. Take your time, and care for others. See yourself as your brother’s and sister’s keeper, unlike Cain who could not see himself this way. Be concerned for the pain of others, and let it draw you to prayer and action. Don’t just pass by, but also don’t lose heart, or be overtaken by the cares of this world. Rise above the situation and raise the situation up, through the Love of Christ that is in your heart.
Brothers and sisters. I can’t give you many answers today concerning our worldly situation. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen politically in our country in the near and far future. I can’t tell you what justice is going to look like in each situation that happened this last week. And I can’t tell you what place the church is going to have in the years to come as our nation takes whatever shape it will. But though I can’t predict the future, I could proclaim that whatever happens: you know already what to do. The Word of God is in your heart. The commandment is not in heaven, or over the sea. It’s all around you. It’s in the Scriptures, and proclaimed always in the Church, and lived out by some who have been examples of Christ to you. Today the Word of God comes to us in the form of the person of the Good Samaritan. And even though it is likely that this parable was made up by Christ for the sake of instruction, Christ still chose to make the Love of God manifested in a person. HE didn’t give a theological doctrine, he pointed to a person acting in love to his neighbor. Meditate on the Good Samaritan, for that is the love you are called to have and show: a love that does not ask who is my neighbor, but rather sees all as his neighbor and seeks to love all in each unique situation.
As the body of Christ you all have gifts and are called to share your spiritual gifts with the Church. And as members of a country and a society, you do have some citizen duties. And, I would make a side note that even in those duties the wisdom and love of God should rule your thoughts and actions. If you are in a position to make changes on a political or social level that will bring true equity and justice and will apply God’s view of justice and humanity to the sphere of our politics and justice system, then please in prayer go forth, and God go with you in all you do.
But please don’t give into the temptations that all this could bring. The temptations that come when security is threatened. Don’t allow yourself to be overtaken with the same rage and anger that fuels the flames that cause more violence and injustice. Don’t be drawn down. You are God’s instrument to raise the world up. But first we must allow ourselves to be raised by God. We must allow ourselves to be transformed by love. In all that happens, in every storm or trial, in the face of every enemy, never forget the answer to how to act and feel has been delivered to you by the very Blood of Christ, and now dwells in your heart and on your mouth. Be a Good Samaritan, and then you will at least take a small sip of the self-sacrificial Divine Love that Christ drank to its full. Amen.