Rev. Dr. Martha R. Jacobs
Who is Your Samaritan?
Psalm 25:1-10, Luke 10:25-37
July 10, 2022
This is a parable most of us know very well. It has engendered the so-called “Good Samaritan” laws and comes to mind whenever I hear about a stranger helping someone in need.
Interestingly, I hadn’t realized until doing some research about this story, that just a chapter or so before this, Jesus sends two disciples ahead to find lodging. They enter a Samaritan village. They ask for lodging and are turned away. Its ironic because they wanted nothing to do with the Samaritans, who were their enemies, and yet, they needed a place to stay. James and John, when reporting this to Jesus, ask Jesus if he wanted them to “…command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” The writer of Luke doesn’t tell us Jesus’s exact words, but rather writes that Jesus “…turned and rebuked them.”
So here we are, perhaps a couple of days later, and Jesus chooses to use a Samaritan to tell this story. I wonder if Jesus did this on purpose, in light of the way James and John wanted the Samaritans punished for not having a room for them. Also, the Samaritans are an enemy of those who are hearing this parable which Jesus uses in response to the lawyer asking him a question concerning who his neighbor is. Jesus engenders a lot of angry feelings when he tells this parable, which is not surprising. It is the usual Jesus way. He makes the Samaritan the hero of this story – taking one who is so despised and making him a role model for the kind of love about which Jesus has been talking and modeling for the disciples and the wider community. Jesus’s response did not go well for the lawyer, the crowd or the disciples who wanted their enemy to be consumed by fire.
As I was thinking about my homily for today, a question arose within me, so, of course, I want to raise it with you. It may push a few of your buttons as it did mine, but that’s what Jesus does – he pushes our buttons so that we are sometimes forced or invited to look at those things that are not comfortable for us. These reflection times help us to begin to look at those places where we might have a blind spot. We grow and mature as Christians when we learn more about ourselves. Additionally, sometimes these reflection times lead us to rethink some of the ways we see, hear or experience our lives and the lives of others.
So, here’s the question that arose within me: I wonder if sometimes we get angry with people who don’t accept us as we are or don’t like us or perhaps see life differently than we do? Are there people who are our neighbor who we would not stop to help? Suppose it was a Samaritan who was injured? Jesus doesn’t tell us who it is that is injured, so what if it was a Samaritan or someone you don’t like who was injured? Would you stop to help?
Asked another way: who is your Samaritan? Who is the person or the group against whom you hold a grudge, or don’t like because of their political stands, or who you would never consider your neighbor. I mean that is the question put to Jesus: who is my neighbor? And, Jesus basically says anybody and everybody in your life and around you is your neighbor, which would include people both known and unknown to you; people who are friendly and people who are not; people with whom you see eye-to-eye and people who are the exact opposite of how you feel or think or believe. So, who is your enemy? Who is your Samaritan? Who have you been carrying around a grudge against? If you were really honest with yourself, who would you turn from and walk the other way if something happened to them without giving it a second thought?
In this fractured and hurting country and world, I’m sure that we could all come up with a long list of people or groups that we wish something ill would happen to them or for them, which is what James and John wanted to do by having fire consume the Samaritans who turned them away. We want them to “learn a lesson.” We think that somehow by their having hardships or problems or running into life’s difficulties that they will somehow have a change of heart. But, maybe, maybe it’s we – I know this is going to sound really really off the wall – but, maybe it’s we who need a change of heart. Maybe it’s we who need to revisit this Samaritan story and think about who it is that we would walk right by.
I am not suggesting that you need to change your political positions or where you think you are right. I am suggesting that you rethink how you react when someone you know sees the world through a different prism than you see it. Can you agree to disagree and still remain connected to them? Can you allow your anger, your hurt, your fears, to not overtake the command from Jesus that we love our neighbor – even the one with whom we disagree?
I’m hopeful that when we think about that, it will make us pause and stop and wonder what would Jesus do? Would Jesus agree with your walking by someone who you don’t like or has a different political or social standing or who disagrees with you or who looks down upon you? I know this is not an easy thing for us to even consider, but God does call us to welcome to our table those with whom we agree and those with whom we disagree; those we like and those we don’t like. All are welcome to our table. However, in order to welcome them to our table, we have to have an open heart, and we have to be willing to stop on the road and help them without first considering if they are someone with whom we align and love or someone with whom we disagree and don’t love.
Ann Lamott, in a NY Times op-ed piece on Friday, was writing a response to the Supreme Court’s decision to allow a football coach to pray at the 50-yard line with his team. Included in this piece was how she prays to God – I commend this op-ed piece to you. It is an excellent piece on prayer. In her op-ed, she wrote the following: “I pray to be more like Jesus with his crazy compassion and reckless love. Some days go better than others. (She writes) I pray to remember that God loves (she names a particular politician with whom she vehemently disagrees) exactly the same as God loves my grandson, because God loves, period. God does not have an app for Not Love. God sees beyond each person’s awfulness to each person’s needs. God loves them, as is. God is better at this than I am.”
This kind of love is what Jesus was talking about when he responded to the lawyer with the story of The Good Samaritan. It is about love and loving each other and caring for all of God’s people, even those with whom we vehemently disagree
Perhaps by helping someone we don’t particularly like or with whom we disagree, we will also help ourselves. Perhaps, we will heal our own wounds, and heal our own hurts and angers and fears. And, who knows, maybe at the same time, perhaps we can help them heal their wounds and hurts and angers and fears just a little bit. Love does have the potential to make that happen. Amen