The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: July 10, 2016
Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church
Oftentimes we refer to this parable as the story of the Good Samaritan, but our story actually centers around a wounded man. A man who has been stripped of everything: stripped of his wealth, stripped of his name and ID, stripped of his clothes. When we encounter the man, we have nothing and no one to identify who he is –he is simply another victim of random violence and brutality.[i]
These past few weeks we have witnessed a great many events of random violence and brutality. Two African American men killed in police shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana. Five police officers killed by an angry protestor in Dallas. The countless victims who died in the terrorist attacks in Istanbul, Bangladesh, Baghdad, and Saudi Arabia.
People killed because of the color of their skin. People killed because of their profession and role in society. People killed because of their religion. Victims of random violence and brutality.
Over the past few weeks, these images and videos of suffering stick in our minds.
Thanks to the technology of social media, we are able to see the wounded man in ways we never could. We are able to see issues of injustice around the world. We are able to witness cruelty and suffering on a global scale. We are able to perceive the needs of all people on a daily basis.
It is not an easy task to look upon all who suffer–to hear the cries of those in need. There are so many.
It is easy to become overwhelmed with the reality of evil today; to become numb to the news of more suffering and more innocent victims. It is easy to feel helpless in the face of these forces of fear, violence, hatred and indifference. It is easy to draw our line in the sand and become increasingly divided against one another.
In such times, I find myself tempted to withdraw and disconnect. I want to distance myself from the pain and suffering of the world. I want to claim my individuality; to separate myself from others so I can focus on my needs. I want to hunker down and wall myself off from the dangers and evils of the world. I want to become an island unto myself.
If you are like me, you might be tempted to be like the priest and the Levite in Luke’s Gospel. You might be tempted to look but not touch, to see but not to stop, to quickly pass by rather than take the time to help. After all, most of these things are beyond our reach, beyond our power to control. Life’s hard enough as it is…what can I really do anyway to make a difference?
This is how evil works. Hatred, fear, violence, indifference—these things tempt us to feel powerless, isolated, alone. Evil denies our true need for relationships and interdependence–deprives us of the love of God and love of community.
Evil wants us to stay behind our walls locked away in our invisible prisons of isolation—because on our own, we are less of a threat. On our own we cannot connect to the healing power of God—a power made possible in loving our neighbor.
These past few weeks we have witnessed profound suffering. Look at the back of the church:
The same suffering is there on the cross. Another victim of random violence and brutality. A man killed because of how he looked, because of his profession and role in society. Because of his religion. Take a good long hard look at what happens to God in the face of evil. That’s one way of seeing the cross. That evil wins, God dies, and we are left alone.
But that’s not the whole story. Take another look at that cross:
On that cross a man suffered and died out of love for us. On that cross a man hung for hours offering prayers and love and forgiveness for all. Look at that cross—that man isn’t there anymore. That man died and rose again to triumph over suffering and death. That man rose again to tell the world that all lives matter in the eyes of God. All lives deserve to be loved. All lives matter.
Up from the grave Jesus rose calling us o’er the tumult to remove our walls of isolation, fear, hatred and indifference—calling us to free ourselves from our prisons of separation and woundedness that we may see the whole of humanity as individual and cosmically intertwined at the same time–calling us to see that we are all individuals with our own specific paths and destinies who remain deeply interconnected with one another. Jesus calls us o’er the tumult to see with the eyes of God—to embrace everyone as our neighbor.
We see this healing embrace as the Good Samaritan binds up and cares for the man’s wounds on the side of the road. We see this healing embrace as the wounded man openly trusts the Samaritan who loves him as his neighbor.
The story of the Good Samaritan is not just about one man who heals and saves another. It’s not just about one man who is lying by the road wounded.
This story is about the healing and salvation made possible when two people love and trust one another as neighbors. The healing made possible when two people move beyond their walls of hatred, fear, indifference to show one another compassion and mercy. To love the other as our neighbor we must first go to the place where we find oneness with God—a place that transcends our likes and dislikes of each other’s personalities; that silences the internal chatter of our minds; that calms the noisy flow of our emotions. [ii]
This place is a sacred space—one that lies within each of us. We can get there from anywhere at any time. We need only spend 10 minutes—10 minutes of our day in this place of quiet meditation and we will find the ability to love one another as we ourselves are loved by God.
To love the other, go to the place where you will find oneness with God—that quiet, sacred space that lies within each of us—for this is the place where the healing power of compassion is born. Amen.
[i] The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary.
[ii] Francis Geddes. Contemplative Healing: The Congregation as Healing Community.