Monday, July 12, 2004


As urged by friends, I'm going to post my sermons. Here's my very first official one.

"In the name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick and the lonley." These are not just any words or any sentence. This is part of the diaconal charge that my bishop read to me at my ordination, and I think it is particularly appropriate today.

We've all heard the story of the Good Samaritan, and we all know it: Good guy happens upon a victim after a priest and Levite pass by, offers help, happy ending for all. In some ways, the Good Samaritan has become a caricature of everything good in our society. In fact, most states have Good Samaritan laws that keep you from being sued if you happen upon an accident and offer honest help in the best interest of the victim. But that's not how it was originally delivered.

To get a sense of that, you have to understand that Samaritans were a Jewish sect despised by the general populace. They didn't worship at the temple. They didn't follow all of the bible, only Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. They were separate and despised. To get a feel for how the lawyer probably heard this story, you have to say Ssssamaritan; with that little hiss of disdain in your voice. The same way that people today say, "blacks," "southerner," "Yankee," "homosexual," "Californian," "Iraqi." That's how the lawyer heard this. Someone despised who becomes the protagonist. And he's told that this "Samaritan" is a good neighbor.

What is a good neighbor? Is it the people you bbq with over the backyard fence? Someone who cleans up the neighborhood? Someone of a particular social status? According to Jesus, a good neighbor occurs when someone's need intersects with someone's willingness to help. Need intersecting with willingness.

Before I go any further, you have to understand that the priest and the Levite were really doing the right thing. They've gotten a bad rap over the years, but they were doing the right thing. The priest, because of cleanliness laws, couldn't touch the wounded body or he himself would be rendered unclean. And then he wouldn't be able to perform his priestly functions. Likewise with the Levite. But sometimes what we think is the right thing differs from what God thinks is the right thing. "In the name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all peopole . . . "

So, who is your neighbor? In one sense, God is our neighbor. God looked down on humanity, saw our tendency to lie, cheat, maim, kill and leave each other for dead. God became man in Jesus and picked us up, healed us, took us to be cared for, and paid our debts so that we could become healthy again. God is our neighbor.

Neighbors are also those you know. We were in the middle of packing up to come to Montana, and everything was falling apart around us. Plans were ruined, stress was increasing, and we were in danger of being left for dead in Chicago. But our neighbors came to our help, picked us up, cleansed our wounds, and offered to finish what was left so that we could get on with our lives. That group of people at Seabury were our neighbors.

Or the episode of "The Jeffersons," where George is mistakenly invited to a rally to clean up the neighborhood, but it turns out that the rally is run by white supremicists and the "clean up" has to do with getting rid of the blacks in the area. The speaker has a heart attack and it is George who gives CPR.

"In the name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick and the lonely." So, who is it you despise? Blacks? Southerners? Californians? Democrats? Republicans? Iraqis? Homosexuals? Pick your type, and then imagine them coming to your aid.

Who is your neighbor? When you figure that out, then, as Jesus said, "Go and do likewise."


First time comments will be moderated.