Thursday, October 21, 2010

What does God want?

Today we get back, at least a little bit, to the daily lectionary readings, which as always can be found here:
In the Gospel reading we find Luke 10:25 - 37, which includes the story of the Good Samaritan.  There are few stories in the Bible with more widespread recognition than this particular parable.  As such there is in some ways, not much new that can be said about it.  
But having said that there are still some things we can glean from the familiar, and maybe even some things that we don't think about so much.  
And that is exactly where I want to start today.  At the beginning, as it where.  We all know the story of the Good Samaritan, but we often miss or overlook the fact that it is a story that Jesus tells in response to a question.  The question, 'Who is my neighbor?'
That question was itself a follow-up to another question asked by a lawyer (religious authority), a question meant to test Jesus.  That question was a simple one - 'What must I do to inherit eternal life?'  
Jesus asks the man a question in response, asking what is written (in the Scriptures).  The man then responds by quoting the Scripture: "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 commends the answer and says that if you follow those words you will indeed 'live'.  
Luke then says that the man wanted to 'justify himself', asking 'who is my neighbor?'  Justifying himself meant finding out what the requirements are.  Finding out who qualified for the status of someone that he would be required to help.  
At this point is when Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan.  A story of a member of one ethnic group reaching out and going above and beyond - really sacrificing and giving of himself - to help a member of another ethnic group in need.  But of course these were not just members of different races - the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans was much more complicated than that.  The relationship is better understood as something closer to a blood feud.  These groups had actively been at odds for centuries.  
In a time when all travel was difficult, costly and time consuming it was common for Jews to go up to 50 miles out of their way to avoid travelling through Samaria.  Jews loathed the Samaritans and the feeling was mutual.  
The point Jesus is making in using a Samaritan in this story is that if anyone would be thought of as 'other' by the Jews it would be the Samaritans.  And as one of my seminary professors always put it, this is a 'kitchen sink' story.  Meaning that Jesus used the relationship between Jews and Samaritans to illustrate that if a Samaritan could be considered 'neighbor', then really everyone you meet, come into contact with and are aware of that is in need must be understood as our 'neighbor'.  
Simply put, Jesus is saying that if you see or are aware of someone in need that person is, by definition your neighbor.  Probably not the answer that the lawyer was looking for and probably not 'new' thoughts for you.  But always good to be reminded of.  

No comments:

Post a Comment