Serving the Neighbor

Tonight as I sit in my new home as it snows outside, I am reminded of the many who don’t have a place to call home; who don’t have a bed to sleep in and who call the streets their homes at night.

I don’t always understand the choices people make. I know that some would rather buy cigarettes etc than buy the things they really need. But I also know that’s not true for everyone. There are so many for whom this is NOT the choices they would make at all. They would do what they can to provide their family with the needs they need.

Because I/we are the fortunate ones, it is important for us to follow Jesus’ example of servanthood. It brings me such joy to watch youth collect food for those who are less fortunate. It brings me joy to watch as presents are wrapped and given to Operation Christmas Child. It brings me such joy to watch families and homes work together to serve their neighbors.

“As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

Who is Your Neighbor? Sermon from 7-11-10

I got a lot of compliments on this sermon so I thought I would share it on my blog! Enjoy!

A homeless African American boy who has no idea who is father is and whose mother is into drugs. He has no formal education and barely any skills to learn.// It seems that this young man doesn’t have much or anything going for him, but then this unsuspecting woman comes across this young boy, sees something in him, and takes him into her home and her family. // The young homeless boy is well-known Baltimore Raven football player Michael “Big Mike” Oher and the woman who took him in his Leigh Anne Tuohy. // Their story is the story told in the recent blockbuster movie, “The Blind Side.”// In many ways, their story is a modern-day retelling of the parable we hear in this morning’s gospel text.//

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan stumbles upon the half-beaten man in the ditch and has compassion on him.// In fact, in verses 34 and 35, it says, “He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn and took care of him.”// The Samaritan simply has compassion for the man. He cares for him.// The Samaritan shows us who Jesus is and what he represents.// It seems to me that LeAnn Tuohy does the exact same thing for Michael Oher.// She has compassion for this young homeless boy, takes him into her own home and cares for him as if he is one of her children.// Now Leigh Anne isn’t Jesus but she does, in many ways, show Michael who Jesus is and what he represents.//

An unlikely source, this rich woman, somehow seems to empathize with Michael, just like the Samaritan identifies in some ways with the half-beaten man in the ditch.// The Samaritan knows what it feels like to be an outcast.// Leigh Anne also seems to be an outcast especially among her other rich friends.// Perhaps that is why both the Samaritan and Leigh Anne reach out to these two individuals. In several ways, the Samaritan and Leigh Anne are “wounded healers” themselves.// Through their examples, it seems it is important for us to put ourselves in the place of the half-beaten man in the ditch.//

What if you are the individual lying beaten and half- dead in the ditch?//What does it feel like to be the half-beaten person, left alone in the ditch, with no help in sight?// The reality is that we all are the half-dead person lying in the ditch in need of God’s compassion, mercy, and grace.// In all actuality, we become the recipients of live-saving compassion by an “other.”// In the words found in today’s reading from the book of Colossians, we are reminded that “He (God) has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).”// God, by sending God’s Son Jesus to die on the cross for each of us, brings us compassion, mercy, hope, and grace.//

The lawyer in today’s gospel text asks a simple question of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Now the lawyer doesn’t ask the question because he wants to know who he should love, but rather to identify who he shouldn’t love.// By the end of the parable, Jesus has flipped the lawyer’s question on its head. He simply responds by showing us that neighbors love knows no boundaries!// In other words, Jesus calls us ALL to pick up our basins and towels to serve all God’s people; to serve even the “others” in our midst.//

So who is that “other?”// Or in other words, who is the neighbor that reaches out to you when you are half-beaten, lying in the ditch, waiting for someone to have compassion on you?// In today’s gospel reading, like I stated earlier, we have the Samaritan who is the neighbor to the man lying half-dead in the ditch. The Samaritan’s example shows us what it truly means to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.//

I am reminded of the book and movie based on Dr. Seuss’ book, “Horton Hears A Who.” Horton the elephant wants to help the people and does so faithfully.// When questioned about helping these people, Horton responds by saying, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”// Horton’s example shows us what it means to truly love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Horton understands that we are called to reach out to even the “others” in our midst.//

So who are those “others” that we have a hard time reaching out to ourselves?// What if we reached out to them as they are lying half-dead in the ditch?// Or to spin things around, what if those neighbors we were least likely to reach out to, were the neighbors who reach out to us when we are lying half-dead in the ditch?// The reality is that we could learn so much from the other.// Throughout the course of the movie “The Blind Side,” it is, not only, Michael who is changed by the Tuohy family reaching out to him, but it is the Tuohy family who also is transformed by having Michael as part of their lives.// What a wonderful example of what it might look like to reach out to the “others” in our midst!//

The parable reminds that anyone of us including the “other” in our midst could be in need of grace.// Bernard Brandon Scott in his book “Jesus, A Symbol-Maker for the Kingdom” summarizes the parable as follows: to enter the kingdom one must get into the ditch and be served by one’s mortal enemy.// He expands by saying, “Grace comes to those who cannot resist, who have no other alternative than to accept it.// To enter the Parable’s World, to get into the ditch, is to be so low that grace is the only alternative.// The point may be so simple as this: only he who needs grace can receive grace.”//

We all are in need of grace; lying half-dead in the ditch waiting for God’s compassion and mercy.// However when we are left as the half-beaten individual in the ditch, it is hard to comprehend why evil happens in our world, but the reality is that evil does exist in our world.// We don’t know why the man in the parable is attacked but it does happen.// We don’t truly understand why Michael is left homeless, but he is.// However the reality is that God gets right down into the ditch with us.// Brian Stoffregen in his commentary writes, “God not only gets into the ditch with the half-dead man and with suffering parents and friends.// God also gets into the ditch of the dead.// On the cross, God died.// There is the resurrection “donkey” who transports us to the heavenly “inn” where there is complete recovery from all pain and suffering—and it has all been paid for.”//

In all actuality, God meets us in the unlikeliest of places.// God meets us at God’s Holy Table.// God meets us in the manger in Bethlehem.// God meets us in the waters of Baptism where we are called and claimed as God’s holy children.// God even crawls down into the ditch and meets us there when we are lying beaten and half-dead as the “other” waiting for compassion, mercy, and grace! Amen!//