PENTECOST 5 Proper 10 Year C
Deuteronomy 30:9-14; Ps. 25:1-10; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37
Christ Episcopal Church
Sunday, July 14, 2019
The Rev. Janet B. Campbell
You are driving alone
in the late afternoon heat
through a stark and desolate landscape
mile by mile
you are drawing closer to home
and a good night’s sleep.
You’ve been on the road
since early morning
and you’re really rolling now,
and there’s music on the radio,
the melodies and yearnings of
your teenage years
fading in and out
as you follow the long and winding road
through the sun-bleached hills –
and as you round a curve
you see it –
a shape by the side of the road,
a shape that resolves
as you speed closer
into the sprawling figure of a person,
in the dust
of the shoulder of the road . . .
You slow down . . .
curious, concerned . . .
and stare through the glare
in the windshield
trying to make out
just what sort of person it is –
because – well, because
it might make a difference,
as to whether you stop . . .
The person’s clothes,
or what is left of them,
are disheveled and torn;
or what you can see of it,
smeared with dirt and blood . . .
You are driving alone . . .
If only you had
someone in the car with you . . .
it would be so much easier
to decide what to do . . .
“A man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho
fell into the hands of robbers,
who stripped him, beat him, and left him
“ . . . a priest was going down that road;
and when he saw him,
passed by on the other side.
“So likewise a Levite, when he . . . saw him,
passed by on the other side.”
Did either of them stop and stare
from across the road
at that crumpled form,
trying to make out
just what sort of person it was . . .
And why did they hurry on,
these ones who were supposed to stop –
for fear it was a bandit’s trap
for the tender-hearted and un-wary?
(a real possibility on that dangerous road)
or because it was no business of theirs,
or because they were late for their temple service,
or because a stranger on the other side of the road
was beyond the range of their caring . . .
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
a lawyer asked Jesus.
“What do you read in the law?” Jesus replied.
He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your strength, and with all your mind;
and your neighbor as yourself.”
“You have given the right answer,”
“do this, and you will live.”
“But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus,
‘And who is my neighbor?’ ’’
“You were going down from Jerusalem to Jericho
and fell into the hands of robbers,
and they stripped and beat you
and went away leaving you half dead.
“A Priest passed you by.
A Levite passed you by.
“But a Samaritan came near you,
and when he saw you,
was moved with pity . . .”
or was it a Palestinian who was moved with pity,
or an African, an Asian, a Latino, an Anglo . . .
was it a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist, an atheist . . .
was it a panhandler, a politician,
a sanitation worker, a teacher, a drag queen . . .
was it that kid from school you never liked,
the co-worker who got the promotion you wanted . . .
“Who was it who bathed your wounds and bandaged them,
carried you safely to shelter,
and tended you through the long, painful night?
“Who was it, do you think,
who was neighbor to you?”
“Wait a minute . . .”
the lawyer said to himself,
“he’s twisting my question all around . . .
What I meant was,
‘who is the neighbor I must love?’
That’s what I asked him, I’m quite sure of it.”
(How much easier it would be,
to keep this commandment
to love one’s neighbor,
if one could only be sure
exactly who it was talking about!)
The lawyer just wanted a simple answer
to the question –
“Who must I love?”
hoping to get a simple answer at the same time
to his real question,
“Who do I not have to love?”
It’s risky to ask Jesus questions . . .
he can’t be maneuvered
into giving you
the answer you want –
So expansive is he in his thinking and living and loving,
he takes you far beyond where you wanted to go –
and suddenly you find yourself
on the road from Jerusalem down to Jericho,
and you are
the victim of a brutal robbery,
a self-absorbed priest,
a timid Levite,
a compassionate Samaritan,
a vicious roadside bandit . . .
You ask Jesus for a simple answer
and you get a story
as wide open as his heart –
a story that plunges you into the ambiguity
of human living and human relationships,
human kindness and human cruelty,
and into God’s hope for a neighborhood
called the Kingdom.
Some years ago,
when I lived in Seattle,
I was going down from Capitol Hill
to Second Avenue on Friday night,
to the Moore Theater to see a production
called the Maafa Suite –
It happened to be the weekend
I was to preach
on this parable.
A bicyclist stopped to let me cross the street,
only she hit her front wheel brake instead of
and flipped over, right in front of me.
I was running late already,
but it was a no-brainer –
I stopped to see if she was okay,
(which she was)
and I went on my way amused
to have stepped into the parable
I’d been thinking about all week long
and to have passed with flying colors.
The Maafa Suite, however,
would not yield such an easy passage.
Maafa is a Kiswahili word
meaning the great tragedy:
the transatlantic slave trade,
the abduction and enslavement of
uncountable numbers of
Our country was built on the Maafa
and its effects still permeate every aspect
of our American way of life.
Entering the lobby of the theater,
I found myself assaulted by
the screams and wailing
of dark-skinned men and women
in tattered rags,
lying on a tanbark-covered floor,
chained to the handrails of the ramps
into the theater.
To get to your seat
or the refreshment counter
or the restrooms
or the T-shirt and hat and tote bag souvenir stand,
you had to pass them by
despite their pleading eyes,
their outstretched, beseeching arms –
They were, of course, actors
playing the role
of their suffering ancestors.
I passed them by,
but would I pass by
the story they were telling?
I settled into my seat
in an audience mostly African-American;
not many people white like me,
like the ones who made
whose lives of privilege and advantage
still are based
on conscious or unconscious assumption
of white supremacy.
in this gathering where I was
much in the minority,
I experienced myself
the one who must be difficult
to see as neighbor.
In the darkened theater we waited,
hearing still the wailing from the lobby,
and now also the sounds of surf,
the Atlantic ocean, I supposed,
carrier of those slave traders,
washing against Africa’s western coast.
Then the story began –
people snatched from homes and lives,
tight-packed like cargo
into airless holds of slave ships,
sold and bought
(the ones who survived the passage)
on the auction block.
pouring out sweat and blood
in white folks’ cotton and tobacco and sugar cane fields,
in white folks’ plantation kitchens and laundry sheds,
whipped for punishment or pleasure,
raped for humiliation or lust,
hanging from the limbs of poplar trees
as warning and deterrent,
along the country roads of America’s Southland . . .
Their story was one of horror, despair, grief, anger;
but also of courage, hope, laughter, joy;
of the fierce determination of a proud people
not just to survive,
but to thrive.
It was a transforming liturgy –
of song and drumming and dance and drama,
of poetry, scripture, prayer and ritual . . .
It was a wounding and healing liturgy –
one people’s suffering
and another people’s sin,
God’s faithfulness and compassion
toward both peoples,
the possibility of redemption, reconciliation,
It was past 11 o’clock
when we emerged
into the night,
black and white together,
united at least for that moment
by the power of our shared experience . . .
maybe a little more able to
look at one another
beyond black, white, female, male,
straight, gay, transgendered, transitioning,
beyond young, old, poor, rich,
to look at each other
and see a wondrous mystery suddenly revealed:
a person uniquely and marvelously made
in God’s image,
a person beloved of God,
valued by God
to the point of suffering and death
on a cross.
The Maafa Suite,
a creation and ministry
of St. Paul Community Baptist Church
in Brooklyn, New York
to admit and own this heritage
of terror and triumph,
and perhaps to admit and own
other stories of terror and triumph:
of the native peoples of this land;
of Japanese people interned in World War II,
of women intimidated, exploited, held back,
of the GLBTQ community,
of the children of asylum seekers
separated from their families
and housed in inhumane conditions;
of asylum seekers themselves
crowded into cells with no room
even to sit down . . .
The Maafa Suite is an invitation
to see, to admit, to repent of these patterns,
to seek forgiveness and to forgive,
to be reconciled,
to be true neighbors to one another.
I wonder if we were closer to that vision
those several years ago
than we are now.
So many of the demons in this life
are demons of our own creation.
In the Kingdom neighborhood,
the particulars of each human life
no longer divide and estrange
person from person,
but enrich and enlarge our lives
and our love for one another,
revealing the unity we have always had
in the God who made and loves us.
Jesus came to proclaim
and enact that Kingdom.
In his association with the
outrageous and the outcast,
all simple and comfortable ideas
about neighbors and who they are,
and what it means to be a neighbor –
The neighbor we are commanded to love
as we love God,
as we love ourselves,
the neighbor who is commanded to love us
as he or she or they loves God
as he or she or they loves theirself . . .
That neighbor frequently turns out to be
the inconvenient one
God has thrust in our path,
the one who is strange to us,
of whom we are wary and afraid,
the one we can’t understand,
the one who gets in the way of
having things our way,
the one who forces us to let down our guard
to step out from behind our barriers,
the one who stretches us to the limit,
the one whose wounds open up our wounds . . .
the one of whom we want to say,
“Not in my backyard,
not in my heart . . .”
The sharing of the peace in the Eucharistic liturgy
is a symbol and an enactment
of the indiscriminate neighbor-love of the Kingdom –
you never know, after all,
who is going to be next to you,
behind you, in front of you –
or who will approach you
with extended hand –
and in taking the hand of that one,
the often unexpected
and sometimes inconvenient one,
you share in
God’s prodigal desire
for reconciliation and peace
for everyone and among all.
And then you share the meal
of the Eucharist,
the Kingdom banquet,
the outpouring of God’s
the body and blood of Christ
given without limit or condition
your life, your neighbor’s life,
the life of the world.
Going down the road of life,
there are no simple answers
if you want to hang with Jesus . . .
who welcomed everyone as neighbor,
saw no one as stranger,
who wandered this world
with an available heart,
open to the pain and suffering
of everyone he encountered,
himself the very embodiment
of God’s love and mercy,
and no stranger to the ambiguity of life
and its dangers.
you are going with him
Christ Church to your home . . .
And you see someone
lying by the side of the road . . .
or holding out a hand for some spare change . . .
or speaking a language other than yours . . .
or shivering under a sodden blanket in a chill Tacoma drizzle . . .
or trying to start a car with a dead battery . . .
or wearing a T-shirt of a different political persuasion . . .
You slow down and you look
just what sort of persons
these are . . .
and you see
that they are all