July 14, 2019

2019 July14_FrIan

Proper 10 - Year C

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger

 

Save the weak and the orphan; defend the humble and needy;
Rescue the weak and the poor; deliver them from the power of the wicked.
Arise, O God, and rule the earth, for you shall take all nations for your own.
Amen.

 

In the summer, I craft the prayer before the sermon from the Psalm that we don’t use. During the Season of Pentecost, or Ordinary Time, there are two tracks for the Old Testament Lesson and the Psalm. In odd years, we use Track 2. So, this opening prayer is from the Psalm in Track 1. I am, of course, going to preach from the readings set for us today, but I thought these verses from the Track 1 Psalm were fitting and appropriate for a topic I am going to return to.:

 

Save the weak and the orphan;
defend the humble and needy;
Rescue the weak and the poor;
deliver them from the power
of the wicked.

 

Friday and yesterday, over 600 vigils, marches, protests and other acts of social action took place across the United States organized through the support of the national movement Lights for Libertyliberty Lights for Liberty SLO to demand an end to the humanitarian crisis in the immigrant detention camps at the US-Mexico border. Lights for Liberty is a loose “coalition of grassroots activists, with support from long-standing immigrants’ rights organizations and other organizers.”

 

Two weeks ago, I preached on the importance of somehow getting involved: volunteering, joining a march or vigil, donating to a cause, or writing our representatives. It is by the command to love your neighbor as yourself and the Baptismal Covenant that we are called to speak out against this kind of injustice. And today, we are faced with a Gospel reading that challenges our understanding of who our neighbor is. As we well-know, the Samaritans were despised by the Jews; yet it was a Samaritan who cared for, and ensured the continued care for, the injured Jew.

 

One of the paragraphs from the Oxford Bible Commentary on the Parable of the Good Samaritan resonated with the struggle many are having with how to effectively deal with the humanitarian crisis at the border. The struggle many are having is how to effect change by focusing on the humanitarian crisis without closing the ears of the decision-makers by expressing party-political and divisive anger. Listen to this paragraph of commentary and see if you can hear how the Parable is speaking to us today:

 

For Luke, the parable is an indictment of the lawyer’s attitude. Some have seen this as evidence of [Luke’s] alleged anti-Semitism. It reflects criticism, however, rather than hostility. It challenges rather than condemns. The Jewish religious leaders, the priest and the Levite, are there not as objects of attack, but as examples of the deficiencies of the best in Judaism. Their proper consideration of the purity requirements of the law (for contact with a possible dead body would have prevented them from functioning in their proper tasks) led them to make a decision which the action of the Samaritan showed to be wrong.

 

The first suggestion in the Christian response to the humanitarian crisis at the border is to stop the hyperbole, stop the rhetoric – this is not a political issue for us as Christians, it is a humanitarian issue that only politicians, government agencies and aid agencies can solve, and we need to make sure that they do. Just as Luke’s portrayal of the Samaritan’s response as better than those of the priest and the Levite is not anti-Semitic,

 

responding to the humanitarian
crisis at the border is not
anti-Government,
anti-Administration or
anti-American.

 

Your response challenges our leaders to correct the deficiencies of the what America stands for and who we are as Americans – to correct the deficiencies of the best of the United States.

 

The improvement of the conditions of migrants is the untouchable; the potential for political loss on the issue of Immigration is preventing them from functioning in their proper tasks; and our demand for action is to show the Government and the agencies that some of their decisions thus far are wrong. Fortunately, an emergency spending bill was passed and a new emergency shelter with far better conditions was opened, but the humanitarian crisis is far from over.

 

The Parable of the Good Samaritan has two very strong messages for us:

  • When you test God or Jesus about what is right and proper, the test will likely be upon you. Every time you test God, you will be reminded that God is in control, not you.
  • The other is that, if your response to your neighbor does not glorify God, it was the wrong decision.

The lawyer’s question can be more fully expressed as ‘What are the limits of inclusion for my acceptance of who is my neighbor?’ We are faced with that question every time we meet someone new, particularly someone who looks, sounds, thinks and behaves differently than we do. By using a Samaritan as the key actor in the parable, Jesus challenges the lawyer and challenges us to rethink what compels us to even ask the question in the first place. The whole parable could have been summed up in a response from Jesus that went something like, “If you have to ask who your neighbor is, then you won’t inherit Eternal Life.” [Paraphrase of Ox Bible Comm]

 

It bears repeating the importance of getting involved in a humanitarian crisis that is happening on our own soil with our own tax dollars under the direction and actions of our own fellow citizens. Whether you write letters, donate money or join a march, however you choose to show up:

 

  • Showing up shows the people affected that someone cares.
  • Showing up shows your community that you care.
  • Showing up shows the decision makers that you care.
  • Showing up shows that you really want to live the Baptismal Covenant.
  • Showing up shows that you actually do know who your neighbor is and that you genuinely love your neighbor as yourself.

 

The law which lawyer recites is known as the Shema, which forms a Jewish prayer called the Shema Israel, translated as “Hear, O Israel.” It’s a direct quote of Deuteronomy 6:5, part of the longer passage of Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

 

4) Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5)You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6)Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7)Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8)Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9)and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 

Our devotion to God is something shall never be forgotten; our devotion is to be lived, daily, perpetually. Jesus amends the Shema to include that you love your neighbor as yourself. By showing the Jewish lawyer that the despised Samaritan was better than the priest and he Levite, better than he Jewish holy classes, Jesus illustrated many things, including that actions speak louder than words: One can say that one loves one’s neighbor; but the actions of the despised Samaritan toward the upright Jew far out-speak the recitation of the Shema.

 

Save the weak and the orphan; defend the humble and needy;
Rescue the weak and the poor; deliver them from the power of the wicked.

 

When you see what is going on in the world, remember that bad things are happening to your neighbors, wherever in the world they might be. The test on how you decide to respond is here in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. And like the Shema, and like we keep hearing, so it is true about our response to our neighbors in need:

 

If it’s not about love,
it’s not about God.

© 2019 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
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