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Sr. Sermon - The Good Samaritan

Preached by David M. Crosby, VTS, Class of 2012 in the VTS Lettie Pate Evans interim chapel (Sr. Sermon) on October 3, 2011. 
Year A (RCL): Jonah 1:1-17, 2:10; Psalm 130,
Luke 10:25-37

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

We’ve just heard the parable of the Good Samaritan. So where do all the characters end up?

• The robbers, having done their vicious deed, have long since made off with whatever they stole from the poor man they attacked;

• The priest and the Levite, each having separately bypassed the half-dead man beside the road, continued on their way to Jericho;

• The victim is now recovering at the inn, where the keeper entrusted with his care has received a down payment for whatever it will cost; and

• The Samaritan continued his journey, promising to return to settle accounts for the victim's expenses, someone previously unknown to him.

Where are we left, you and I, who hear this story? We listen with the lawyer who wants to know where his neighborly obligations begin and end. With him, we hear the command of Jesus, "Go and do likewise." We are given, as an example of neighborliness, this Samaritan who seems out of place and vulnerable himself because of the long history of hatred between Jews and Samaritans.

This story could open wide the floodgates to drown us beneath the worries of the world. For, truly, we all see needy neighbors in every direction. It's hard to know what to do. How do we guard our souls from turning numb in the face of wholesale sorrow that surround us? How can we avoid ending up exhausted, adding ourselves to countless others who ache for attention? Is there a way to sidestep compassion fatigue, so that the fire of concern within us does not flare up and then burn out?

The Washington Post had a recent story about 26-year old Trell Thomas who waited for a bus in NW DC. Having moved to the district last year, he often traveled the city alone, walking or riding Metro, without any trouble. But suddenly this night, he was surrounded by a gang of 10 youths. When the attack began, the first blow broke Trell’s jaw. He managed to escape, and then stumbled 2 blocks on a street busy with traffic.  

Trell tried to flag down cars for help. The 1st wide-eyed driver sped away. A 2nd checked that her doors were locked before leaving him behind. Trell finally sought protection at the Mt. Vernon Square metro station. Later at GW Hospital, his jaw was wired shut with titanium plates that he’ll have the rest of his life.

The article’s banner read “Random Violence remains a bane of urban living.” If you’d stopped there, you would’ve missed the ‘rest of the story.’ 

What caught my eye is that Trell Thomas works for a nonprofit aimed at helping exactly the kind of young people who attacked him. But detailing the violence, the article seemed to miss a higher message. Trell spoke out, not to condemn his attackers, but to highlight their behavior. He said, “I don’t want to be angry with them. It just concerns me that their future is being taken away from them, by them, so early.” Effectively he said, ‘I’m beaten, but not defeated. We hear you and we are here for you.’

When Jesus ends the parable of the Good Samaritan with "Go and do likewise," he’s not imposing one ironclad way of responding to travelers who have ended up in trouble. His intent is greater and far more practical, something that applies to countless situations.

We are to truly see someone in need. We won't be accounting for every needy person on the planet, but we will be recognizing somebody with whom we have life and hardship in common.

The sight of that person will not lead to compulsive activity or obligation or guilt. Instead, we will be moved by pity. We will feel compassion for that person in our gut, as deeply as we can feel.  

This will prompt us to act. Because we have truly seen and truly felt, there is reason to believe that the way we use our resources will be wise and effective.

Thus we will find that, by grace, we have turned out to be the right person in the right place at the right time.

Later, when another neighbor lies broken beside the road, we will be better able to see, to feel, and to act in a way that shows us as neighbor to that person.  For the answer to our question, "Who is my neighbor?" will appear there before us, as plain as day in the one who awaits our action.

I hope to meet Trell Thomas one day. His is a unique kind of ‘good Samaritan’ story, where the victim of the crime is also the one who shows great mercy. Like the Good Samaritan, Trell’s story shows us something beyond the norm. He was attacked and hurt, but he also showed care for his neighbor. 

Who is our neighbor? Look around. 

Who will show great mercy? Look to yourself.

Go and do likewise. 


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 6th, 2011 09:32 am (UTC)
Sitz im leben
I just read your sermon that you delivered on Oct 3rd at the Seminary. Once again I think you did an excellent job. Bringing in the local story to open up the scripture for the 21st Century is always good. Dr. Trotter use to tell us in our New Testament classes that is what is always needed, if not, people can be confused as to just what Scripture is trying to convey to us. Jess use to say, "It is important to under stand the 'sitz im leben'". Keep up the good work - God will lead you to where He wants you to go. Love-Dad
Oct. 14th, 2011 12:44 am (UTC)
You keep doing it!
Well done. Gotta catch one of your sermons again soon, before the word gets out and I'll be sitting in a back pew. Hmm, might be doing that anyway. Mighty stoked to see how far you've come on this journey.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 01:18 am (UTC)
Thanks for your share! very impressive!

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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