8th Sunday after Pentecost—Year C—July 14, 2013

8th Sunday after Pentecost—Year C—July 14, 2013

Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight oh Lord, our strength, and our redeemer.

We do not know for sure why the priest and Levite do not stop to help the man in the ditch, but there sure are plenty of theories.

–       It could be that they were in a rush to get to the temple, to worship God, that they didn’t have time to stop and help.

–       It could be that they already thought that the man was dead, or he was so bloody that even if he weren’t dead, they still would have been made ritually unclean to touch him.

–       It could be that they thought it was a trap set up by the robbers to lure victims into their grasp.

–       No matter what the reason was, the fact was that the priest and Levite did not see the man as a neighbor, someone they should stop and help no matter the circumstances.  For some reason, he was not worth the inconvenience stopping would have resulted in.

–       Either the two men did not see him at all, did not see him as someone they could help, or did not see him as someone worth the time, effort, and possibly money to help.

–       They did not see his inherent worth as a human.

Has this ever happened to you?  Have you ever been passed by or passed up, either on the side of the road or elsewhere, physically hurt or just emotionally in need of some support?  Have you ever been treated as less than another human, or less than a human at all?

It happens everyday in our town, our country, our world.

People are passed by, neglected, passed up, demeaned, left in need, not seen as human—as inherently worth something…time, money, effort, recognition, comfort, support.

–       Sometimes it is because of what color their skin is, what language they speak, what side of the tracks they live on.

–       Sometimes it is because of the clothes they wear, or the piercings and tattoos they have.

–       Sometimes it is because they are seen as part of the enemy or just lazy.

–       Sometimes it is because of who the person is attracted to and loves.

–       Sometimes it is because they are just not seen by others as full humans—they are different, somehow of less worth, a distraction from what is really important.

–       We do not see that each person’s inherent worth and provide them with the corresponding dignity and attention due them.

But this is not how God sees!  God sees differently.  God sees all of creation as highly valuable, worthy of time, attention, consideration, and care.  Humanity is just a part of that.  But God sees us all as equal—all created in God’s image.  God sees us and precious and priceless, as children of God, as neighbors.

The writer of Colossians suggests in the opening snip-it this morning, that we humans can “truly comprehend the grace of God.”[1]  But I have to admit that every day I’m surprised by the grace of God.  It is hard to wrap my head around the immensity of God’s love and grace.  My finite brain cannot really see, let alone comprehend the infinite, but I do know that it is huge and for all of us.

Even though we can’t comprehend it, we can see glimpses of the immensity because “the word is very near to [us].”[2]  And so we can know how God sees, and we can strive to do the same.  For seeing as God does is what leads us to mercy.  Instead of practicing mercy because we are supposed to, when we start to see as God sees, the mercy will follow automatically.

The Word tells us how God sees, but sometimes we still struggle to do so.

–       Sometimes we are like the priest and Levite, so focused on getting to the temple, on right worship, on our personal relationship with God, that we do not see the ditch.

–       Sometimes we are so focused on the ditch—suffering, struggles, etc—that we miss God at work in the world, manifested in our neighbor.

–       Sometimes we are so focused on “acting right” that we lose sight of why we are called to act.

The common way of concisely summarizing the parable is: love and serve your neighbor, and just the ones who live next door to you (and look like you).  But the parable is about more than just charity, it is about seeing the other as the human they are, having the same worth as any other human.  As one colleague put it, “this parable asks us to do the unthinkable.  It asks us to heal and to be healed by our enemies, our neighbors, our sisters and brothers.  It asks us to live an eternal life today.  It asks us to live on earth as it is in heaven.”[3]  That we see and treat everyone else as a human, neighbor, child of God, embodiment of Christ, for that is how we show love of God—by showing love of neighbor.  As the Bishop of the Virginia synod puts it, we are called to have “the Christ in [us], sees the Christ in [others].”

This parable is not one told to correct behavior and charity, but one to shake us to the core, challenge how we see, and remind us that God’s word is near and has something to say about the worth of all creation, of all humanity!  Amen.

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