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Sermon - 7/14/19
2019.07.15 22:35:38

Proper 10/C [Pent. 5] (2019): Lev. (18:1-5), 19:9-18; Col. 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37.  

 

Wisdom,     [W]e have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding… (v. 9). 

 

God reveals himself in Christ that we might be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding”, and in this knowledge walk before the Lord in a worthy manner.  This was God’s intent at the Beginning, that we conduct ourselves as sons and daughters in the Father’s household. 

 

Some “understand” the Good Samaritan parable as a morality lesson rather than an exposition of gospel “wisdom”; this is sad!  The next time you come upon a homeless “squidgy-guy”, passed-out on the roadside, soiled in vomit, you of course will do the “moral”, the “neighborly” thing; pull to the curb and check his condition—or am I wrong? 

 

In this somewhat modern-day equivalency, you as baptized priests would seem confronted with several options:

 

1st) you might drive the guy to the nearest ER; and/or 2nd) take him to a Holiday Inn, leave your credit card account arranging for a week of room and board; and/or 3rd) on your check-up return visit invite to mass and Bible Study.

 

Christian charity may suggest, we do one, some, all, or none of these things; more likely we will choose none and drive-on by! Where does Jesus’ commendation to mercy leave us toward God?   

 

You see the problem; when we “understand” Scripture principally as rule book or upgraded “holiness code”, God’s perfect character will always accuse us of love’s lack in our lives.  We must not lose sight that we are a people being made perfect in daily repentance (Mt. 5:48) and that in the doing of love or the lack, “wisdom” commends us in the first instance to know God’s gracious character toward us as loving Father. 

 

Again, when we fixate on our various and frequent failures of love or mercy, we see Jesus principally as new “law-giver”, skewing understanding to works righteousness; rather than Jesus as the One who has fulfilled the law in its entirely.  When we lose this gospel perspective, then our response to this or that “squidgy-guy” becomes the measure of God’s mercy, rather Christ crucified and baptismal wisdom in his HS. 

 

When the lawyer of today’s Gospel attempted to justify himself, asking who is his “neighbor?”, Jesus does not directly respond.  Let’s be clear, like the priest and Levite of the parable, most, perhaps all of us, would not stop to check the physical and spiritual welfare of the man on the road; as with the priest there may be several more or less good reasons to move-on. 

 

When we ask, “WWJD?”, then we assume a faux identity, that we are other than sinners toward God and man. Asking “WWJD?” places us in morally equivalent with the Good Samaritan and the compassion of Christ. 

 

Apart from Baptism into Christ’s passion and wisdom granted by the HS, we are incapable of the Good Samaritan’s mercy, always sourced in the flesh of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our loveless sin.

 

Of course, we are saved unto good works; but again, the “squidgy-guy’s” particular distress is neither the measure of God’s mercy nor of our “wisdom”; rather their measure resides exclusively in the love of Christ guiding us by his Spirit, neither as thoughtless legality nor undiscerning of circumstances.    

 

What then is it that God wills of you? In today’s Leviticus Reading God specifies his will for Israel’s holiness:

 

You will not take 100% profits on stock trades, but leave some of your gains for the losers. You will not steal, except when appropriating ideas without attributing credit.  You will not deal falsely, unless first warning of an “as is” sale.  You will not lie, unless the truth hurts feelings. 

 

You will not swear by the name of God, except when giving evidence to massage facts advancing your legal case. You will not oppress, threaten, or use force to obtain advantage, unless running for political office.

 

You will not condone contests that have as their object tossing midgets, but in all other cases you may glorify gratuitous violence as included in the price of your coliseum ticket. You will not extend legal advantage except to family and close friends. 

 

Most importantly You will not slander, because that is murder by other means; nor will you take vengeance or bear a grudge—in all cases you will love your neighbor as yourselves. In all these, the question remains; “Who is your neighbor?”

 

If this iteration sounds irreverent, perhaps it is, to emphasize that we are not holy and of ourselves incapable of holiness. So, what do we conclude about our “neighbor’s” identity?  We repeat, Scripture is not a collection of “morality messages”.   

 

But neither are Christians ambivalent by-passers in this life; instead, in the first instance, we are to “understand” our essential identity in Jesus’ parable; we are the man half-dead on the road.  Being half-dead does not celebrate being half-alive; we are road-kill. 

 

The robbers, leaving us for dead, are Satan and his worldly agents. Our mugging resulted in spiritual death so that whatever residual physical life we retain, we are dead to God.  All that remains in this world, as with the man in the road is our decaying carcass awaiting the grave’s consummation.

 

Jesus intended the lawyer, and you, to identify with the hapless man in the road. If the lawyer’s question, “who is my neighbor?” sounds abstract, Jesus crystalizes the question, making it all-important. 

 

Were the half-dead man conscious; would he have objected to mercy from the hated Samaritan; would he have asked, “WWJD?”; or would he have praised God for grace? As it is, the man was in no position to do any of the above, certainly not criticize whom God sent for salvation.

 

Jesus adroitly rephrased the lawyer’s question, asking, “which of the three proved to be a neighbor to the man?”  By the lawyer’s admission, Jesus, hated by the legal-religious establishment for dinning with sinners, must be confessed as the “Merciful One” who is true “Neighbor”.  Christ came as the Life and the Truth in our midst.  On the Way, Satan may demand of us, “stand and deliver”, but in Christ we are on the King’s Highway.

 

Because God is holy, he commands us to the same. Satan has stripped and battered us by demonic thugs leaving behind a bloody mess; unable to help ourselves.  No one can or will come to our aid; no one loves us as he loves himself. 

 

No one is saved by rules that reveal God’s perfect character, except Christ out of heaven who by grace lifts us and transports to his place of cleansing and healing, a place of on-going wisdom and understanding in the knowledge of God’s will, his holy church for imparting forgiveness and God’s holiness.

 

If Jesus commends us in mercy, “go, and do likewise”, our “understanding” then becomes the compliment and measure of what we have received in Eucharistic “thanksgiving”, Christ’s healing and life-giving flesh. 

 

So, what to do about the “squidgy-guy”? — I haven’t the vaguest clue, nor is such advice among you within my prerogative; rather it is the province of the HS in you.

 

What I do know is that God’s law and love is proclaimed to all in the congregation, and sacramentally delivered to individuals of faith as God gives the Wisdom and repentant hearts. Amen. 

 

pem.




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