The Good Samaritan, (Delivered by Mr. Paul Smith), Luke 10:25-37, Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10), July 14, 2019
Once there was a wealthy business man who worked in Biloxi. Each day, on his lunch hour, he would walk down the street to eat lunch at Morrison’s Cafeteria, this was before they closed. One day, as he was passing by certain alley, someone grabbed him by the arm, and dragged him into the alley. Two men began to beat this business man without mercy. They took his money. They took all of his clothes. They threw him into a dumpster. They left him to die. He was bleeding badly and struggled to get out, but he could not. All he could manage to do was wallow around in the stinking filth, until he sunk to the bottom. Then, he laid his head down, and passed out.
Now this dumpster was not far from the street. Several people who passed by heard moans coming from the dumpster. Yet, they were very busy, and their day was already planned out to the very last detail. They had no time for such nonsense as helping some bum who had fallen into a dumpster. And so, not just one, but many people passed on by, and ignored the noise. Most of these people were very religious, some were even Lutherans, (gasp!). They attended church every week. They tithed their money, they gave to the Welfare Committee, so the church could help the poor and less fortunate.
Finally, an old bum came stumbling down the alley. He was looking in all the dumpsters, hoping to find a little discarded food. He heard the moans, too. And since he had nothing better to do, he decided to investigate. This was an adventure for him, a welcome break in his day. After all, he didn’t often hear a dumpster moaning!
He carefully lifted the lid, and was ready to run at the first sign of danger. But all he saw was a naked man with trash, and filthy scum stuck to his body. He kind of snickered and said, “Fella, you know you can’t live in dumpsters, don’t ya? But all he heard in reply was more moaning. Finally, the bum realized the man wasn’t drunk, but was badly hurt. So with great difficulty, he dragged the man out of the dumpster. He tried waking the man, by slapping him on the face a few times, but the man wouldn’t wake up, he only continued to moan.
The bum thought to himself, “This is all I need, more problems in my life, one more thing to deal with.” Yet he knew if he left the man there, he would probably die. So he grabbed the man by the arms, and dragged him into the street. He waved at a cab, and as he was putting the man in, the driver started yelling at him, saying, “What am I supposed to do with him?” The bum replied, “Take him to the nearest hospital!” But the cabbie demanded, “I have to get paid, nobody rides for free!” The bum reached into his pocket and pulled out all of his money. Two dollars and some change, which was all he had after standing on the corner all day long, holding his little sign.
He had been looking forward to a nice evening, maybe some food, maybe some beer. He offered the money to the cabbie, saying, “Is this enough?” The cabbie looked at it, and his heart softened a little bit, and he said, “Yes, that’s enough.” And off the cab went to Biloxi hospital.
This morning, Jesus is asking you, yes you “Of all the people who passed by, which one of them turned out to be this man’s neighbor?” “The bum, the bum proved to be this man’s neighbor.” And Jesus very gently says to you this morning, “Go, and do likewise.”
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is familiar to us, perhaps it’s too familiar. It is all too easy to think we have this figured out, and we just hear an appeal to be kind to strangers. I guess in one sense that is exactly what the parable might say. But I am not sure that is all that the parable is actually saying.
The real crux comes in the discussion that Jesus has with the lawyer who poses the initial questions to Him. The lawyer thinks that he needs to do something in order to inherit eternal life. He must somehow be worthy of that gift, which of course means it is no longer an inheritance or a gift, but a purchase. But that failure to understand on his part doesn’t seem to trouble him too much.
Jesus starts by asking him what the Law says. He responds with the two summaries of the law, which were true. Jesus approves, but that is not really the issue, the issue is the man’s heart. Jesus is far more interested in the man, than He is in his deeds.
God commands love, but that is an impossible command. It is an impossible situation, a situation which always forces us back into the grace of God.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is regularly thought of as a moralizing parable: be nice to everyone. Be like the Good Samaritan. I don’t want to suggest that this is wrong, but I think there is more to it. Too many people hear the command to be a good neighbor as the answer to what we must do to inherit eternal life.
We feel the need to be in charge and do something, but Jesus says that eternal life is a gift given to helpless people. What we must do to inherit life? Lie there, dead, and dying? Robert Capon says that the only requirement for the kingdom of heaven is to die, because Jesus is the resurrection and life. We are all rather good at dying, humanity may have failed to do a lot of things, but dying is something we are all rather good at.
I am reminded of one more illustration. “Billy and Brenda knew that they had a serious problem before they even pulled over to the side of the highway. The car shrieked and shuttered. Something was dragging on the pavement, and whatever it was, it sounded expensive.
They got out of the car to survey the damage and sure enough it was going to cost them a bundle. Billy looked under the car and then back at Brenda, he had a worried look on his face. She asked him what the problem was, and he told her that it was the universal joint. She knew better than to ask him more.
This was before cell phones, so they raised the hood and tied a cloth to the door handle and they waited, waited for someone to stop and help. They waited for someone to call the police or a tow truck.
Brenda sat on the grass by the roadside ditch and fanned herself with the map. She was tired and hot and she prayed that God would send an Amoco tow truck, because it was the only credit card in her purse. Where would they stay? What would they do? They were in Elkhart Indiana, miles from home. They had so little money. She doubted that anyone would even stop to help them. They’d been traveling for days and they both looked pretty scruffy. Billy’s beard was down to his chest and his tee shirt was soaked in sweat and he was now covered with grease and dirt. She didn’t look so great herself, her long hair was dirty and windblown and she’d been in the same wrinkled outfit for the past three days. They’d been cooking over a small propane stove to save money and camping by the roadside.
Brenda scanned the horizon and saw the flashing lights of a tow truck in the distance. She couldn’t believe her eyes, it was an Amoco truck. And little did she know, but driving it was the Good Samaritan!
The driver jumped down from his truck and hitched up their broken car to his tow line. They hopped up in the cab with him, and within just a few minutes they were driving back to town “Sonny”, the Amoco tow truck operator, listened to their story and said you’re gonna stay with me and my wife while we get you fixed up.
He pulled over to the side of the road to use the pay phone and they heard him say: honey, we’ve got ourselves some guests for dinner.
But it wasn’t just dinner. Sonny and Mary were cordial hosts with big hearts and they opened their home and their hearts to the young couple. They insisted that Billy and Brenda take their bedroom, and Sonny and Mary slept in the living room, on the hide-a-bed. Sonny and Mary gave them all their meals and let them do their laundry. They insisted that the couple use their phone to call worried relatives.
Sonny drove Billy to all the nearby wrecking yards and helped him to scavenge for the used parts that they would need to put the car back together. The young couple stayed with them for three days and the night before they left. Sonny and Mary even took them out for a pizza party to celebrate, and picked up the check.
Then they sent Billy and Brenda off with cold drinks and sandwiches for the road. When it came to settling the bill, the entire charge was $35.00, the cost of a used universal joint.”
The lawyer asks Jesus “What must I do to get the good life?” Jesus answers, “The good life is a free gift from God, and when you have it, you will be like the Samaritan who helps even his most hated enemy.” Amen.