Sunday’s sermon: Jesus Who Shows Compassion

Good Samaritan” by Paulus Hoffman

Text used – Luke 10:25-37

  • According to …
    • DiSC Personality Profile system (took in seminary): Creative Pattern
    • Enneagram: 1w9 (the Idealist)
    • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: INFJ (the Advocate)
    • And that’s just a few of the dozens of possible labels that I could wear thanks to the personality test industry. There are all sorts of ways we try to understand who we are and who the people that we’re working with or living with are nowadays. Corporate settings, business retreats, church conferences – any organization that has spent time trying to dig deep into team building has explored some sort of personality test.
      • Part of the call process with our CPM: reams of forms to fill out including 3 separate personality tests (MBTI, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory … and one other that I’ve long since forgotten)
      • Personality test industry = $500 million dollar industry![1]
      • We do everything we can to try to get down to the root of who we are. We feel like if we better understand ourselves, we’ll better understand the world around us – how we interact with people, how people perceive us, some of our strengths and weaknesses, some of our triggers, the best ways that we can contribute, and so on. We seek to understand what our role is and how it fits in with the roles of the people around us – what piece of the puzzle we happen to be, and how we fit with those around us and with the larger picture. → always interesting to learn about who other people are, the roles they play, and how those roles affect and inform our lives
        • Extra interesting because each different type of test reveals different facets of who we are Because whether you’ve taken 100 personality tests or zero, we all know that personalities are complex, multifaceted things. We are many things to many people, and we play many roles throughout our lives.
    • So that’s the angle we’re going to be taking throughout Lent this year. I wish we could be getting together so we could do our own personality exploration on the side with this, but what we’re going to be focusing on during our worship is the personality of the One who brings us here in the first place. We’re going to be focusing on who Jesus is by reading some of the stories of his life and ministry (brought to us this year by Luke’s gospel) and letting those stories reveal roles that Jesus plays even to today.
  • Story that we’re encountering Jesus through today = probably one of (if not the) most well-known stories in the entire Bible It’s one of those stories familiar to people who have never set foot in a church in their lives. It’s the story of the Good Samaritan.
    • Definitely familiar “Good Samaritan” moniker used in all sorts of different ways – all involving “helping” in some way or another
      • Good Samaritan charities/organizations
      • Good Samaritan hospitals
      • Good Samaritan churches
      • Good Samaritan Society = senior living/rehabilitation facilities here in southern Minnesota[2]
      • If you utter the phrase “Good Samaritan,” people know what you’re talking about.
    • Confession to make this morning: in my 8+ yrs. of ministry, I’ve never preached the Good Samaritan I’ve never preached on this text before because I’ve always felt like it’s one of the few Scripture passages that, for the most part, preaches itself.
      • All know the basic story, right?
        • Begins with one of the legal experts/Pharisees asking Jesus, “What must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus responds with question about the Law (Pharisee’s area of expertise) which encourages the Pharisee to answer his own question: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” not good enough for the Pharisee counters with another question: “But who is my neighbor?”[3]
        • Jesus’ reply = the familiar story: man traveling alone from Jerusalem to Jericho (notoriously treacherous stretch of highways) gets set-upon by a band of thieves who “stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death” a number of people happen upon this man in his gravely wounded state as they make their own way along the road – priest sees him but passes by, Levite (spiritual leader) sees him but passes by, Samaritan “was moved with compassion” and stopped to help the man bandaged his wounds, put him on his donkey, took him to an inn, cared for him, and provided funds to the innkeeper for more care to be given to the man until he was well again[4]
        • Passage wraps up with Jesus posing the Pharisee’s question back at him: “What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?” Pharisee responds, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.” Jesus gives what will become one of his trademark instructions (at least in Luke’s gospel): “Go and do likewise.”[5]
      • I mean, the end of the story really preaches itself. It’s a full sermon in two short verses: [Jesus said,] “What do you think? Which of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?” Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”[6]  Done and done, right? It’s clear. It’s concise. There’s a faith lesson involved as well as a directive to go and do (literally). What more do we need?
  • Except that it’s not that clear cut. I mean, it must not be … because here we are 2000 years later, and we still can’t get this right.
    • 2020 has proved that to us in spades
      • Violence done to black and brown bodies over and over and over again while the rest of us look the other way or look for pointless and baseless excuses
      • Politicization of something as simple as wearing masks as a way to protect others during a worldwide pandemic that has killed millions
      • Willfully ignoring and denying systemic racism that has perpetuated poverty, desperation, and an oppressive lack of opportunities for communities of color
    • Beyond just this past year, the last few years …
      • Immigrant families literally torn apart at our southern border
      • Flagrant violation of treaties with indigenous tribes who made their homes on this land millennia before we ever arrived
      • Violence done to the bodies and souls of LGBTQ+ people
      • General villainization of “the other”
        • Anyone whose skin isn’t white
        • Anyone whose first language isn’t English
        • Anyone whose passport doesn’t say “United States of America”
        • Anyone whose faith practice isn’t Christian
    • Not only have we forgotten how to listen to the voices of those who are different from us. We have actively denied and disparaged and attempted to silence those voices. With our words and our intentional silences. With our actions and our inactions.
      • Dr. Mitzi Smith (prof of NT at Columbia Theological Seminary): Disinterested, dehumanizing distance and ignorance makes no demands and takes no risks for others. … When do our class, race, gender, ethnic, ideological, cultural, and religious differences promote dehumanization of ourselves and of others? Dehumanizing others dehumanizes us.[7]
  • But still we have our story for this morning staring us in the face, and we hear again Jesus’ call to compassion. Let’s look a little more closely at our story again.
    • 3 people that encounter the injured man = priest, Levite, and Samaritan
      • Priest and Levite = presumably same ethnic and religious background as the injured man Jews from the area
      • But the Samaritan is another story. Samaritans = technical Jews from the northern kingdom of Israel BUT their ancestors weren’t deported during the time of the Babylonian exile These were the people left behind in the conquered city and surrounding area.
        • Resulted in Jews intermarrying with Assyrian conquerors Jews thought of the Samaritans as half-bloods and “second-class citizens”[8]
        • Resulted in a different form of religious practice Jews thought of the Samaritans as “untrustworthy heretics”[9]
        • Needless to say, Samaritans were despised and actively discriminated against.
    • And yet Jesus makes the Samaritan the example in this passage – the example of being a true neighbor, the example of right action, the example of compassion.
      • Scholar: As a way of illustrating where the center of gravity lies within the story, consider which actors are related to the nearly thirty verb forms in the parable. The victim of the mugging is the subject of two verbs. The robbers are the subject of four verbs. The priest and Levite are the subject of three verbs each, enough to walk the road, see the man, and pass by. The innkeeper is the subject of two verbs. The Samaritan is the subject of fifteen verbs.[10]  Clearly, it’s the actions of this “other” that we’re supposed to pay attention to and learn from. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that the one who crosses all of those arbitrary, societal “other” lines is the one who is acting as God desires.
        • Smith’s description: [This is] a parable narrative about human beings and how they respond to traumatized, violated, unsheltered, and/or marginalized others. This parable is about men—a priest, Levite, and Samaritan—who must make significant decisions at the intersection of ethnicity/race, gender, human victimization, and desperation.[11]
  • Friends, the reality of history is that Jesus was a dark-skinned, curly haired, Middle Eastern Jew. In circumstance, he was about as far from you and I as he could possibly get. And yet he came for us. He came for all of us. He came to show compassion in ways that continue to challenge and astound us. In his ministry, Jesus himself showed compassion in some of the most unlikely, unexpected, and unwelcomed circumstances: sinners and screw-ups, outcasts and misfits, those who had been labeled unclean and unwanted, tax collectors and even Pharisees – those whom he knew would one day take his life. But his compassion never waivered. How often can we say the same? Amen.

[1] Emma Goldberg. “Personality Tests Are the Astrology of the Office” from The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/17/style/personality-tests-office.html. Published Sept. 17, 2019, accessed Feb. 21, 2021.

[2] https://www.good-sam.com/.

[3] Lk 10:25-29.

[4] Lk 10:30-35.

[5] Lk 10:36-37.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Mitzi J. Smith. “Commentary on Luke 10:25-37” for The Working Preacher, https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/narrative-lectionary/good-samaritan-2/commentary-on-luke-1025-42-3. For Feb. 21, 2021, accessed Feb. 21, 2021.

[8] Mary Miller Brueggemann. “Luke 10:25-37 – Pastoral Perspective” in Feasting on the Gospels: Luke, vol. 1. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 298.

[9] Douglas F. Ottati. “Luke 10:25-37 – Theological Perspective” in Feasting on the Gospels: Luke, vol. 1. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 298.

[10] Mary Hinkle Shore. “Luke 10:25-37 – Exegetical Perspective” in Feasting on the Gospels: Luke, vol. 1. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 299.

[11] Smith.

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