30 Jul Sermon: Trinity 4, Year C.
10th July, 2022
It can be difficult approaching a passage like this, the story of the Good Samaritan— so well known and seemingly understood—
It can be difficult to let these words work on us, in us— to challenge us, disturb and disrupt us – as the stories Jesus told were intended to do.
It is possible, that in our hearing of this story, we just let it confirm everything we think we already know, and go away satisfied in the knowledge that we are on the right track… even if we don’t always manage to put theory into practise.
After all, we know that the Samaritan is the unexpected hero in this story— the outcast, the despised one, who demonstrates how to love God and neighbour— better than the so called holy ones, the priest and the levite.
We know that we should expect to find God in unlikely places and people, places and people we might otherwise discount and disdain.
We can tut-tut— together— at the lawyer who questions Jesus, trying to justify himself, and we can smile smugly— as Jesus turns the table on the questioner— showing that the real question is not who is my neighbour?— but what does it mean to be a neighbour to whomever I meet on the road?
And we can walk away resolving to be more like the Samaritan— as we seek to love God with our whole heart and our neighbours as ourselves— perhaps thankful that we ourselves are not like the lawyer, the levite, the priest— or God forbid, the robbers in ambush— but that reminds me of another story Jesus told… you know, the one about the pharisee in the temple…
And so— while these are indeed some of the many ideas which Jesus conveys in this conversation with the lawyer, it is too easy, for me at least— and this is my confession— to become like the lawyer, thinking I know the answers to my own questions when, in fact, I may be missing something very important, humility before the Word of God for starters…
For even if I do understand something of what Jesus is teaching— I remember all the times I’ve failed to be a neighbour— pretending not to notice— being too busy— too grumpy— too self-absorbed— too stressed— or even just too overwhelmed by all the needs of all those neighbours that we encounter everyday.
And I know that— more often than not—I am the Levite and the Priest,
more than I have ever been the Good Samaritan. And I dare not think about when I have been the robber too.
But I guess this is where Jesus’ story is perhaps intended to bring us…
to a place of repentance.
A turning— and returning— to the God who created us and calls us— so that we can see again through different— we pray— more Christ-like eyes.
Today at least— it is the answer that Jesus drew out from the lawyer— that has implanted itself in my head and my heart.
When Jesus asks, ‘which of these was a neighbour to the man that fell into the hands of the robbers’— the lawyer replies— ‘the One who showed mercy.’
The One who showed mercy.
What happens here, in this encounter, between Jesus and the lawyer reminds me of another— that happens a little later on in the gospel— when a certain ruler approaches Jesus with the same question, saying Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
Jesus first responds by asking Why do you call me good? There is no one good— except God alone.
And then, in a similar way to today’s story— there follows a conversation about the law and commandments— the ruler— somewhat justifying himself — says all these I have kept since my youth.
Well then, Jesus says, you still lack one thing, sell all you have, give your money to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me…
Both of these people, in approaching Jesus, come with the assumption that obtaining eternal life is dependent first and foremost upon what they do.
But perhaps this question needs to be examined too… For when we remember there is only One who is Good… and there is only One whose property, whose nature, is always to have mercy… we remember that eternal life is first and foremost a gift — dependent entirely upon the grace and mercy of God.
And so before we rush off, to do likewise— or be tempted to walk away crestfallen because the task of holy living seems impossible— we might do well — to let these truths soak into the depths of our being.
There is only One who is Good.
And there is only One whose nature, is always to have mercy.
And for this One— nothing is impossible— not even the salvation of the world, or this faltering soul.
It is this One, God alone, upon whom we rely, for the forgiveness of sins,
for the salvation of our souls,
for life eternal—
all gifted to us in God’s great mercy.
I’ve noticed that in the course of praying the offices here at Mucknell we corporately seek God’s mercy at least 20 times or more a day…
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.
And it seems a good place to begin.
For it is here, that we being to understand — that the mercy shown by a Good Samaritan, is mercy that first flows to us and through us, from the heart of God.
We are— all— always— the ones in need of mercy, whether we are on any given day, the priest, the levite, the person by the road, the robbers in ambush, or indeed— maybe even— on a good day— a good samaritan.
It is by knowing ourselves first and foremost as objects of God’s mercy, a mercy not dependent upon our own goodness… but upon God’s great goodness… by this we are drawn into the merciful loving Life of God— which is our eternal inheritance. It is out of the abundance of this inheritance, that the inclusive mercy and love of Christ might begin flow through us to others.
So whatever we make of Origen’s allegorical interpretation of the Good Samaritan which we heard in the Office of Readings this morning, we can be certain of at least on thing— Christ is indeed the supreme example of the Good Samaritan— so YES, let us go and do likewise— knowing, trusting, believing, resting in the life changing Truth that You, Good Lord, have mercy on us. Thanks be to God.