May 21, 2023
• Rev. Dr. Jevon Caldwell-Gross
Over these past few weeks we have been a series around a popular theme surrounding the story of the Good Samaritan. It pushes us to think critically about how we respond to each other. It amazing to think that with all of the technological advances we’ve had over the last 2 thousand years, most societies still struggle with the simple concept of being neighborly. It’s sounds so easy. You’d think we have this figured out by now. I think at the heart of our response of being neighborly is a commitment to care for the things and people that God has created. Its assigning a certain value to Gods creation. Its seeing the living God I all things and people. That determines how we care for it and how we care for each other. Sometimes these opportunities can be planned, coordinated, but most times like in our text they happen unexpectedly in our lives.
It’s something I saw on full display a few ago while my wife was away on a trip to the Holy Lands for 10 days with about 30 members from her church. For this of you who might have just joined over the last few months, my wife is the current Pastor of Noblesville first United Methodist church. She only gave me one job and that was to make sure everyone was still in one piece when she returned. Well tried….
I won’t go into detail too much but one of the kids had bad incident on the soccer field and the ambulance had to be called. He’s fine now. He’s back playing like nothing every happened, but I couldn’t help but notice the response from the rest of the parents when the accident first happened out on the field. As soon as it happened , I rushed on to the field. After a few seconds, they were right there with me. Another called 911. Another flagged them down by the side of the road. Another one took my girls home and occupied them while we waited for 6 hours in the emergency room. Another offered to grab my keys and drop the car off at the hospital. Another parent organized a care package when they came back for their first practice. They even started writing get well messages on the text thread, but I said please stop I don’t want my wife finding out about this on a text from another country!! I had one job!!!
The parents on the sidelines became active participants. It was not their child. In was not their situation, but they made it theirs.
Fault and Responsibility.
Its why I think so many people decide to sit this one out. Its why it’s so easy to walk by certain conditions and just move to the other side of the road because ITS NOT OUR PROBLEM. Its not my child. It’s not my neighborhood. It’s not my church. Or my issue. This Jewish concern is not a Samaritan problem. His healing is not my responsibility.
There in lies the reason why so many people just decide for keep walking. It’s often easy for us to to abdicate responsibility because we can’t see how were are necessarily responsible. We can’t see how we are directly connected to the problem.
And I get it. For the priest and Levite, it was not their fault that this was a dangerous road. It was not their fault these these robbers resorted to violence. It wasn’t their fault this man was traveling alone. None of this was their fault. And if it’s not their fault, why should they be expected to participate in the healing process. And yet, we are reminded by the actions of this Samaritan, just because it’s not our fault doesn’t mean it’s not our responsibility (slide).
Being neighborly isn’t just limited to responding to the obvious instances where we are directly involved. That’s not neighborly, that just being a decent human being. That’s the bare minimum. If I knock a stack papers out of our hand, it’s expected that I be a part of the clean up. If spill coffee on the floor, I’m not a good neighbor just because I’m willing to clean up the mess I’ve created. That should be common sense! Have we gotten so depraved as a society that we want to be recognized and rewarded for cleaning what we caused.
Being neighborly comes with different expectations. So let’s change the narrative around fault and responsibility. Because as long as we deflect the fault we can excuse ourselves. This means that An invitation to participate in a process of healing is not an indictment or admission of guilt. It’s not an ask to accept blame. (Slide). For this Samaritan, an in invitation and opportunity to be a part of the solution. It’s confusing I know! Being part of the solution doesn’t always mean I’m directly involved in the problem. But I don’t have to be a part of the problem in order to be a part of the solution. However, if I willingly and knowing choose to turn a blind eye to what right in front of me, I know become a part of the problem.
Neighboring is an opportunity to participate. It’s an invitation to move from the sidelines. Because let’s be honest, no one plans for things like these.
In 1972, State Farm coined their slogan they still use today. Let’s see if you know it…. LIKE A GOOD NEIGHBOR STATE FARM IS THERE! The mission of State Farm is to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams. Its to help people when life doesn’t go right. They willingly commit to your improvement knowing that things in life will just happen! Doesn’t have to be anyone fault! It’s funny how the Lord works, while I was working on this sermon a state commercial actually came on and at the end of the commercial it said, “We are there for your what-if”. I like that mission. I’d love to steal it make it the mission of being neighborly. Listen to it. Our mission as neighbors is to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their their dreams. We are their for your what ifs. What if you have a bad. What if you your car breaks down. What if you need someone to watch the kids. What if you need a ride. What if you need someone to talk to. What if you tragedy strikes? That’s ok, because as neighbors we are here to help when life doesn’t go right!
( Because at any given time, it could us. What if it us… and it could me.)
Let me prove it!!! I noticed when Jesus tells this story, his choosing of the rules and characters is interesting to the say the least. Remember he’s talking to a young Jewish lawyer and the protagonist in the story is the Samaritan. Jesus could have easily told a story about a Samaritan who was beaten and left for dead, but was rescued by the young prince with high moral standards! I’m sure the young lawyer would have bought it hook, line, and sinker, because who doesn’t like to see themselves as the hero. Let me prove it! normally when we talk about the Good Samaritan we often place ourselves in the role of who?…. THE SAMARITAN. We unknowingly place ourselves in the role of the known antagonist in the relationship relationship between Jews and Samaritans. Without even saying it, we forget that Jews didn’t like Samaratian! But so what, we will identify with the hero in the story.
But I think Jesus was in to something. He flips the role of power for this young Jewish lawyer. The hero, the star, the protagonist is the ones that bruised, beaten and bartered. And it’s the Samaritan that comes in and saves the day.
“One writer puts it like this, THE ROLE OF THE HOST IS EMPOWERING BECAUSE IT IS AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT THAT ONE HAS RIGHTFUL ACCESS TO A PLACE OF MEANING AND VALUE, and that one has authority to welcome persons into it. The host affirms that what you have and what you offer are valuable. And important tea formation occurs when people without power or status have the opportunity to be more than guests, when they too, can be hosts. It is a time when their contributions can be recognized and when they are not first defined by their need.”
We often think being a good neighbor is just helping meets people needs; being the hero. But we never see ourselves as people who are broken. We never see ourselves as the people who are in need. Remember who was the one in the text that was beaten and bruised?! It easier to help people in poverty rather than admit the places in my one life I feel impoverished and insufficient. It’s easy to feed those that hunger rather than deal with the places in our lives where we feel malnourished. It’s easy to put a bandage on your wounds rather than admit the places we’ve been hurt and scarred.
Being a good being a good neighbor does just require me to meet needs but to admit them. It’s being vulnerable enough to receive help from somebody else. Because if we are always the hero, we don’t give other people the opportunity to be neighborly. We don’t create opportunities for them to show their value and what they bring! Sometimes being a good neighbor is saying I need help. It’s admitting, I don’t have it all figured out. It’s confessing, I need your advice. I need your experience. I need your gifts. I need you what you have to bring. The hardest part of being a good neighbor is actually being the one in need!
One of the forgotten aspects of the story is the extent of the Samaritans response. I think if we just frame the Samaritans response on him being willingness to stop, I think we miss a valuable details in the narrative. It says that the Samaritan saw the man and “he had pity on him.” And unfortunately this is where most people’s response starts and ends. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the same emotional response from the priest and the Levite. I’m sure they felt something. Maybe the priest even said a prayer as he was passing by. It’s tempting because we often hide our pity behind thoughts and prayers. Something happens around the world and the first thing we do as believers is give people “our thoughts prayers.” But pity alone can not be the only response we have. Pity doesn’t help people heal. (slide). Pity doesn’t heal broken communities. Let me put like this if you ever see me on the side of the road, know this. I could care less about your pity!
The world was and will never be changed by Christian’s who feel really bad about what’s happening. Jesus never said blessed are those that feel bad…. For God so loved the word that he gave his only begotten so that whoever feels really really bad she not perish but have every lasting life. Doesn’t work does it?
The reason why most people are unable to lean into… is because healing comes at a cost. The Samaritan didn’t just stop and bandage his wounds, but was commuted to committed to helping him recover. Listen for the cost underneath his response. He poured wine and oil into the man’s wound. Cost! Put the guy on his own animal and took the man to an inn and paid for his stay! Cost! Then says to inn keeper, whatever additional expenses it takes to bring the man back to health I’ll cover those too! Cost!
I’m not suggesting that our ability to participate in the process of healing is determined by financial resources. I am suggesting that the difference between pity and healing is the cost factor. Healing always comes at a cost (slide). Participating in a process of creating systems and safe environments where people can be restored does not come without a cost. It might cost our time. It might cost our reputation. People might question if we have a hidden agenda. What’s this Samaritan up to ? Redemption comes at a cost! The question is not_________ but am I willing to pay for the emotional and even physical expectations that will come as a result of_______
After we got from the ambulance, my child learned a valuable lesson about healing. We waited 6 hours in the emergency for 7 stitches. When we were done the nurse to us where we needed to go to check out. My son was frustrated at this point because he didn’t want to wait around any longer, but I knew exactly was going to happen. We got the desk and the lady gave me the amount I had to pay. My son was shocked! He was shocked to know that healing came with a price! Shocked! I didn’t get to deep but I had to remind him we pay a certain amount and their is another company that will pay the rest.
And that’s the good news in our text. It’s the realization that we will never be able to cover the cost of our own healing and redemption by ourselves. But that’s why we have a community. That’s why we have neighbors. Thats why we need the presence of God in our lives. We dont anything about the man. No details. But the Samaratian was willing to cover the cost. And the way Jesus tells the story, he was worth every penny. He was worth the cost. So whether we are the Samaratian and the one bruised and battered, you can’t put a price tag on what it means to be a good neighbor.