Healed Through Service

Sunday, June 9,2024
Deacon Stephanie Anderson

Luke 10:25-37

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Today’s story is called the Parable of the Good Samaritan, arguably the most well-known story from Christian scripture; a story that has informed not only our faith and understanding of our own call as followers of Jesus, but a story that has informed our public and communal life as well, with “Good Samaritan laws” and protections a part of our society at large. This “Good Samaritan” is sometimes also known as the Merciful Samaritan. But it’s no wonder it’s most well known as “good”; “merciful” doesn’t roll of the tongue quite as easily and comes with some needed clarification for what that means. “Merciful” or “mercy” is one of those words we use at church a lot, but when we really think about it, we might not be quite sure what it means. We ask for God’s mercy; for what exactly are we praying?

Today’s story is about a man who is bleeding on the side of the road. He’s been violently hurt and robbed. He’s likely unconscious, there might even be a question as to whether or not he is alive.

There are many people around him who have the authority, ability and the power to help. A priest – a religious authority of the day – happened to come down this road, but as we know, crossed the street to keep their distance and continued on their way. Similarly, a Levite did the same.

Now, it’s always a little difficult to compare our current context with ancient Palestine because we can’t even really comprehend the differences in context. Every time we crack open the Bible and read of these ancient stories we are engaging in a cross-cultural exercise and I don’t mean to imply that we can even imagine how this story would unfold today. But I do know that the people who are supposed to help ignore him. This aren’t random passerbyers, these are the people who you might have called to help. This would be like finding someone on Robert Street in this state today, calling the police and the ambulance and first responders and the church, and when those people arrive, they instead leave him for dead. Jesus tells us that those with power to help, passed by.

Instead, we then read of a Samaritan (so a man from Samaria) who happened to be traveling along that road, who, when he came upon him, was moved with compassion. He helped to heal the man, using his physical resources – he bandaged his wounds and provided first aid; his resource of time – he transported the man, using his own animal, to a safer location; his financial resources – paid the innkeeper for the man’s stay and for his care and said, ‘Take care of him, and when I come back I will repay you whatever more you spend.’

This is a pretty overwhelming act of care extended, in general, but especially to a stranger. Especially when we consider that this Samaritan man had every reason – every excuse – to also pass by on the opposite side of the road. No one expected this from him, especially because the people of Samaria and the Jewish people have, in the past, had huge conflict; these people were not supposed to like each other. Which is maybe exactly what helps us define what makes him “merciful”. Because “mercy” is extending kindness and gentleness and compassion, when you had every reason and right and the power to do that opposite. Let me say that again: mercy is offering care or forgiveness or compassion, when you could choose harm or retribution and no one would blame you.

So what does this story of mercy have to do with us today? In this ancient and very familiar parable, what might God be saying to us anew this morning, as we hear these words?

For one, I think this story today is asking us where we extend mercy. It’s clear that God is calling us across lines of division. Where might we be asked to soften our heart or shift our perspective on those who we have every right to dislike or disagree with or disregard? How might it look to extend compassion, even if it’s unearned?

Second, let’s go back to how this Samaritan found himself in the role of healer and servant; how it is he found himself extending mercy to a stranger. Scripture says that he was moved by compassion. Encountering this man on the road wasn’t simply an encounter that filled him with compassion, it moved him to act. It moved him toward something. It required something of him.

So many of you are moved by compassion and care in your own lives. Those of you who serve your church or your community. Those of you whose work requires patience and understanding and mercy. Those who care for aging parents or loved ones. Those who show love and patience to your children. Those who check in on your friends or loved ones who you know might need support. Compassion and our care for others isn’t just something we feel, it calls us to action. And the healing we engage in changes us as well.

And lastly, this story isn’t called the Parable of the Robbers or the Violent. It’s easy to look around our world and see things that might remind us of this man on the side of the road. We turn on our tvs or glimpse at our phones and see war, violence, corruption, disasters. We’re told to fear one another or those who are different. We worry about the future and it can feel like the world is burning – and in so many ways, it is.

But today is a reminder that scripture doesn’t give air time to the robbers in the story; Jesus focuses on the healers. Look at this story, the robbers (the violence, the corruption, the danger) get a line or two. The healer? They get most of the paragraph. Today’s media might know that violence get the clicks, but Jesus emphasizes mercy and compassion always.

Our call is people of faith isn’t to ignore the awful things in our world. It isn’t to deny that there are real and dangerous and terrifying things that exist not only on our tv screens, but in our day to day life as well. As people of the cross, we know this; our God was crucified and acknowledging the pain of humanity is an integral part of our faith.

And, while our call as people of faith is to clearly and honestly name those things, we follow the lead of Jesus today and turn our attention and our energy toward goodness. In the name of our faith, we do not tend to or dwell on the evil. We do not let hate and violence prevail. We live a life oriented toward love – toward being the servants and the healers and the merciful. We are called to forgive. To extend ourselves – our time, our energy, our resources – across lines of division. And we live in certain hope; that the day of Jesus Christ, promised to us by the One who walked among us as God made flesh, is near and calls us into the merciful and gentle and healing power of God’s love.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

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