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Trinity 13 – Luke 10:23-37

by pastorjuhl ~ August 26th, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Saint Paul ends his famous “love chapter” in First Corinthians this way: And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. If you grew up hearing the Bible read in the King James Version, you might recall that the world “love” is rendered “charity”. Jesus’ parable about someone helping a half-dead man when a priest and Levite would not help is about charity. The charity shown in Luke chapter ten comes from the unlikeliest person. Jesus sends shockwaves through His hearers when He says three words that turn everything upside down: a certain Samaritan.

What if you fell among thieves, who stripped [you] of [your] clothing, wounded [you], and departed, leaving [you] half dead? Would this be a different parable if you could help yourself rather than receiving aid and comfort from a mortal enemy? Perhaps it would. If a so-called enemy, if one who does not share the same faith you do – even to the point of believing their help on your behalf is part of earning their way to an afterlife – is willing to show charity to someone who is their so-called enemy, then a Christian should show charity to everyone, even a so-called enemy, without expecting anything in return.

Charity and love should prevail in your life. As a new creation washed clean in baptismal water and forgiven through the blood and righteousness of Jesus, you should be willing to give to those in need. You may need to give money, talent, time, effort, or merely your presence. You should not be selfish about any of the gifts God gives you. All that you have is His alone, a trust from the King of heaven and earth.

Instead of giving to others as God first gave to you, you would rather choose your spots to give. Yes, there are those who are not deserving of charity. There are people who beg for help while smoking a cigarette, holding a lottery ticket in their pocket, or have a trace of alcohol on their breath. They have squandered charity for selfish wants. Nevertheless, what about the truly needy? There are plenty of examples of truly needy people in Kankakee County right now with unemployment around 13 percent and rising. The person needing charity doesn’t necessarily have to be half dead on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. That person might be sitting right next to you. That person might be a family member or a close friend. That person might even live in a nice home, drive a new car, and eat the finest foods.

I saw a mural on the Internet this past week that cut me to the heart. The mural was based on the parable of the Good Samaritan. Someone was bleeding in the street, dying right before your eyes. Next to them was an icon of what looks like Mary holding Jesus Walking past him down the road were two people: one dressed in liturgical vestments much like mine holding what looks to be a loaf of bread. The other was wearing a t-shirt, singing, and strumming a guitar. Ahead of them were father and daughter on a bicycle. The daughter was holding something in one of her arms. The story the mural tells is that we who are blessed with so much by a merciful God are so selfish not to help others with what God gives us.

No wonder today’s Collect says “Almighty and everlasting God, give us an increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain what You have promised, make us love what You have commanded”. The Lord God commands go and do likewise, that is, have mercy on all people, even our enemies. If the Samaritans in the Old Testament reading took care of 200,000 Jewish prisoners of war by command of the prophet Oded, then think of what you can do with the handful of people you know who are physically and spiritually half dead.

Faith, hope, and charity are gifts from the Holy Spirit. An unbeliever may give charity, but it is civil charity, being nice because that’s what’s you’re supposed to do. A Christian receives the gifts of faith, hope, and charity in order to help the helpless. A Christian receives faith, hope, and charity to show forth the mercy of Christ. You can be like the priest and know what sacrifice to make in the temple, but if you have not charity then you are sounding brass and clanging cymbal. You can be like the Levite and know everything there is to know about the Christian faith, but if you have not charity then you are nothing.

The Son of God according to the flesh is the Good Samaritan. No one should expect God in flesh to stop and help someone half dead. The Son of God defies our feeble expectations. Whether half dead like the man in our Lord’s parable or wholly dead like Lazarus in the Gospel of John, Christ’s charity knows no limits. Jesus made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant. To human reason that is impossible and unexpected. God should come down to us not in the form of a slave but in the form of a master. However, the Master becomes a slave to free those in slavery to sin and death.

Jesus heals. Jesus raises the dead. Jesus also shows mercy. Remember that funny-sounding Greek word “splachna”? It means, “having compassion”. It sounds like guts churning. That’s the point! Our Lord has compassion on those whom He created. For Christ, compassion is more than feeling sorry and giving aid. Compassion goes all the way to Calvary’s cross, where Jesus was forsaken by His Father in heaven for your sake. Compassion goes all the way to blood and water spewing forth from Christ’s limp body; blood and water that saves you from eternal death, claims you as Christ’s precious child and gives you forgiveness and life.

Covered and washed in Christ’s blood and baptismal water, you go and do likewise as Christ first does for you. You have mercy and show compassion for the last, the least, the lost, the little, and the dead of this world. When you do so to the least of Christ’s brethren, you do so to Jesus Christ Himself. The Christian faith is more than mastering information about God. The Christian faith is trusting in Jesus Christ, Who gave His life for you in order that you may give your life to others as a living sacrifice.

Here’s how the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews puts it: Therefore by [Jesus] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our] lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. The Heavenly Father is well pleased with the all-availing sacrifice of His Son upon the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. As He gives to you, so you give to others, not out of merit, but in response to God’s grace showered upon you by Jesus, your Good Samaritan.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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