Sermon for Proper 10c
St. Francis’ Church
Scriptures: Deuteronomy 30:9-14; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37; Psalm 25 or 25:3-9
Have you ever wondered what it would really mean to follow Jesus today?
I know sometimes I used to think about it and I’d think it’d take a lot of work…
Like super-human effort
I had this mental list of what I really needed to do and I knew that if I really got done with all of it I would be living a faithful life…
I would’ve been a sort of cross between a monk and a super-hero too, but I had this idea….
And the odd thing was, that as long as I had this idea that I had to accomplish all these amazing things for God…
I didn’t get any of it done…
So how can we be faithful
How can we serve Jesus without trying to be some sort of spiritual super-hero—which we can never really be?
This question becomes even more urgent when we take a look around us and see some of the things that happen on a daily basis, some of the things that we do to one another,
The horrible way many of the weakest and most needy among us are treated for no more reason than they have no way to stand up to the way the world is…
I read an article several months ago about a case of something that has evidently become an increasing problem in larger cities such as Los Angeles: it’s called “homeless dumping.”
Basically this is what happens when a sick homeless person is treated at a hospital and discharged before they are well.
Since they aren’t healthy, they can’t really get themselves anywhere, and since they are homeless they don’t really have anywhere to go, so they end up being “dumped” somewhere on skid row…
The LA times reported that there are more than 10 hospitals being investigated for over 50 cases of homeless dumping by the LA county attorney.
One of these—Hollywood Presbyterian—has been investigated for a situation in February when a 54-year-old homeless paraplegic was discharged from the hospital and later found wearing a soiled hospital gown and with his colostomy bag still attached, crawling in the gutter near a skid row park.
In the article “Police said that as onlookers demanded help for the man, the driver for a van company working for the hospital applied makeup and perfume before speeding off.
Hospital officials acknowledged that some procedures weren’t followed. They said they have made changes and will make more.”
I’m thankful that they are making changes and pray they’re effective…but notice the name of the hospital—Hollywood Presbyterian.
That hospital like thousands—maybe millions—of others founded by Christians since the time of Constantine when Christianity became a legal religion, was founded because Christians wanted to follow our Lord’s command and “Go and do likewise…” in caring for the sick, the injured and the forgotten.
And many, many Christians still get involved in healthcare because they want to help people, to heal people…
There are several people in our own congregation—Shelly and Linda for example, who I know have hearts for those who are in need of help.
I know that my mom, who’s also a nurse, does what she does because she believes in helping people…
But why is it that even as individual Christians are still fulfilling the call, are still stepping into vocations to help and serve others, that the Churches have largely abandoned the institutions they founded and for many years funded?
Why have most hospitals in the Catholic Hospital system been sold?
Why is the most Christian element about many hospitals—besides the Christians who may work there—their name or their letterhead?
I think I have a practical answer—the rising costs of healthcare and administration coupled with a decline in the resources that originally enabled Churches to run these organizations have led to their sell off…
But that doesn’t answer the spiritual question of why we, the Christian people, have allowed things to get to this point…
And Hospitals are not the only place this pulling back, this narrowing of ministry is happening…
Did you know that modern Prisons were also originally founded by Christians as a more humane means of punishment at a time when almost everything—I’m only slightly exaggerating—was punishable by death?
And yet, with the exception of a few strong Prison ministries like Kairos, Christian ministries rarely reach behind bars.
Have we forgotten what it means to love our neighbor?
To go and do likewise?
In our gospel reading this morning, Luke tells us that a “lawyer stood up to test Jesus,” saying “teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus responds, as he often does, with a question of his own, “what is written in the law? What do you read there?” The lawyer answers “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.”
Jesus tells the man, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But our lawyer friend couldn’t leave it there—he had to ask another question…
“Wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “and who is my neighbor?”
You can tell he’s a lawyer…
“I’m not letting you off that easy Jesus,” he seems to say…
“You haven’t answered my question….I can love god well enough. I know who God is…
but who is my neighbor? Could you clear that little bit up for me?”
That certainly sounds like a lawyer to me… of course it sounds like my own response and I suspect many other peoples’ as well.
Rather than respond directly to the question, Jesus tells a parable about a traveler—in those days they had strict cultural laws of hospitality and rules for the treatment of travelers.
They had to have these rules because travel was so dangerous, especially if you were alone, and people needed some sort of assurance or protection.
The traveler in Jesus’ story finds out first hand just how dangerous travel can be as he is beaten, robbed and left for dead.
Here’s this poor traveler, away from his home ad friends, beaten to within an inch of his life, lying in the dirt, broken and bloody… when up the road comes a priest…
Ok, you might say, the priest will take care of him—but instead the priest passes him by….
But he doesn’t just ignore him or pretend he doesn’t see him—he moves to the other side of the road to avoid him.
I imagine him picking up he robes, sort of sniffing the air a little, looking out of the corner of his eye as he moves quickly to the other side.
Then Jesus tells us a second person—a levite, a preist’s assistant—comes by and does the same thing, moving quickly to the other side of the road and walking right past the traveler who’s still laying there in the ditch, hurting and bleeding.
Finally a third person, a Samaritan this time, comes down the road, sees the man and we’re told that his heart was “moved with pity” or “compassion”
After telling this parable, Jesus asks “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The lawyer gives the only answer he can, “The one who showed him mercy.”
It would be easy to just condemn the priest and the Levite for being hard-hearted…why didn’t they just help the poor guy?