Lenten Evensong – The Third Sunday in Lent – Reflection March 24, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell

LENTEN EVENSONG – The Third Sunday in Lent

REFLECTION

Psalm 19:7-14; Micah 6:6-8; Luke 10:25-37

 

Christ Episcopal Church

Tacoma, Washington

Sunday, March 24

The Rev. Janet Campbell

 

 

Tonight’s story

from Luke’s Gospel

is often called

“The Parable of the Good Samaritan.”

 

To a Jew

of Jesus’ time

there was no such thing

as a “good” Samaritan –

 

just as, to a Samaritan,

there was no such thing

as a “good” Jew –

 

such was the religious divide,

the enmity,

between these two Hebraic siblings.

 

Their hatred for each other

was fierce and longstanding.

 

 

Their religious purity laws

forbade any contact between them:

they were not to go

into the other’s territory,

or touch or speak with the other.

 

In a story

about the law and righteousness

told by a Jew to other Jews,

the natural expectation would be

that the hero,

the example of

obedience to God

and righteousness of life,

would be a Jew.

 

And yet in Jesus’ story,

even a Priest and a Levite,

bound to obedience

and righteousness

by their profession,

pass by the naked and bleeding

traveler in distress.

 

 

The truly obedient and righteous one

is the merciful one:

the hero turns out to be

the hated Samaritan . . .

 

who reaches across

the divisions of enmity

and religious law

with compassion

to help a suffering Jew,

one who, to a Samaritan,

is religiously and socially

unacceptable.

 

Yet, the Samaritan

touches him,

washes and dresses his wounds,

takes him to an inn,

spends the night caring for him,

and pays the innkeeper for more care

until he returns.

 

 

 

And thus does Jesus

test the expert in the law

who had hoped to test him.

 

“Teacher, what must I do

to inherit eternal life?”

 

“What is written in the law?

What do you read there?”

 

Love for God and neighbor

is his answer . . .

so far, so good.

 

But “who is my neighbor?”

he blithely asks,

wanting to justify himself . . .

 

thinking, I suppose,

that Jesus would have to name

those “categories”

of religiously and socially acceptable persons

whom the lawyer could claim

with self-satisfaction

that he had loved . . .

 

Instead,

Jesus changes the focus

of the question.

 

 

For Jesus

the real question is not just

“who is my neighbor?”

 

but also

“what kind of neighbor

am I?”

 

For Jesus,

the neighbor relationship

is one of giving and receiving,

receiving and giving,

 

a reciprocal relationship

of concern and compassion

unhindered by

boundaries

and differences

and religious prohibitions.

 

The Priest and the Levite,

who, because they are Jews,

would have been considered

the true neighbors

of the injured Jewish man,

turn out not to be neighbors at all.

 

The Samaritan,

caring for one who

would not have been considered

his neighbor,

proves the true neighbor.

 

 

 

The true neighbor,

doing

the healing work of God’s kingdom,

doing

what God requires

of God’s people:

doing justice,

loving kindness

walking humbly with God.

 

 

The true neighbor,

seeking not self-justification

according to a checklist

of religious correctness,

 

but humbly seeking only

to serve

the suffering human community:

 

to pour oil and wine

on the wounds

of division and hostility . . .

 

to bind up the injuries

of the oppressed . . .

 

to respond

with acts of compassion

to the cries

of the poor, the outcast,

the grieving, the despairing . . .

 

 

 

The true neighbor,

bringing healing,

and restoring

right relationships

so that the community

as a whole

may flourish . . .

may become more

like the kingdom of God.

 

 

Tonight we prayed:

 

“May we be so caught up in love

for those for whom we pray,

that we may feel their needs

as keenly as our own,

and pray for them with

imagination, sensitivity, and knowledge. . .”

 

 

May we

not only pray

with imagination, sensitivity, and knowledge,

 

may we also act

with

imagination, sensitivity, and knowledge.

 

 

 

In Jesus’ parable

of the man attacked,

robbed

and left for dead,

 

the true neighbor

is the one who imagines

the possibility of stepping out of

the limitations

of his own religious restrictions

his own world view . . .

imagining a better world

where foolish divisions

are no excuse for inaction.

 

The true neighbor

is the one who is sensitive

to the needs of another,

even an enemy,

and responds with compassion.

 

The true neighbor

is the one who truly knows

what is good,

and what it is

that God requires of us . . .

 

to do justice,

love kindness,

and walk humbly with God.

 

 

 

Years ago,

a friend gave me the gift

of a passage

(I don’t know who its author was)

that I have always kept

where I will see it every morning.

 

 

“I hope you will be heroic,” it begins.

“I hope you will be faithful in the little things.

Few of us will have the opportunity in our lifetimes

to do something really splashy and brave.

There remains, however, for each of us

the habit of heroism,

faithfulness in the little things,

the quiet unnoticed acts

that took courage and integrity

to carry out.

As we all know,

life is not lived in big events but in small moments.

To be faithful in the little things,

to build a pattern of heroic behavior,

that is what prepares a person for those moments

when (she or he) they may be truly tested.

If a person has not made a habit

of courage and integrity,

courage and integrity (they)

may not be there when one’s very life

and the lives of others depend on them.”

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