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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

Proper 10C
Luke 10:25-37

Brothers and sisters, the Samaritans are back! Only two weeks ago, we heard about Jesus’ attempt to visit a village of Samaritans, and being rebuffed. Remember, the Jews from Galilee and Judea, and those from Samaria, didn’t get along well at all. They were distrustful, and tended to avoid one another where possible. Scripture doesn’t say so specifically, but I imagine that when they did encounter one another, they were wary, and touchy, and likely very good at misunderstanding, putting the worst possible spin on anything that was said or done.

Have you ever done that? Had to deal with someone with whom you couldn’t see eye to eye, whose words seemed designed to jab at you whenever they got the chance? I had just that experience with a classmate of mine at seminary. We couldn’t seem to click, regardless of how we tried-- and I will freely admit that, at one time, I wasn’t trying very hard. I was convinced that, for whatever reason, he just plain didn’t like me. Anytime he spoke to me, he seemed to be deliberately abrasive, and I could hear an intended slight in his words far too often to be comfortable. Quite frankly, I found him intimidating; and, as you might guess, I do not like to be intimidated. I took to avoiding him whenever possible-- staying out of his way seemed to be the least painful option.

However, Seabury is a small place. Fewer than 100 students, most of whom live right there “on the block.” Between chapel three times a day, and classes, and community activities, and committee meetings... we are together all the time. It’s rather like living in a very small town: everyone knows everyone, and you can’t help but run into each other just about every day. And so the whole avoiding thing was only marginally successful.

Then too, as time went on, we found ourselves running in the same circle of close friends, much of the time. The people I have come to treasure most, and with whom I have developed the closest friendships, were often also the same people with whom he connected. Even his wife-- a smiling, generous soul, just a sweetheart-- became a real friend. And these good folks would speak of this man, and what a great guy he was, with such love and respect that I found I had to try again to look past the surface, beyond my fearful gut reaction. What did they see that I was missing?

Seems to me that’s just what Jesus is doing in this Gospel today. Two weeks ago, remember, the Samaritans were The Bad Guys; they had turned away Jesus and his followers, had not welcomed them into their village.

Did you ever wonder, by the way, whether the disciples’ approach in seeking shelter might have affected that decision? James and John were incredibly eager to rain fire down on them for the perceived insult; How much of their “we’d be better off without them” attitude do you suppose existed before they found out they weren’t welcome? How much might it have in fact contributed to the Samaritans being less than eager to entertain them?

So now, back to today’s Gospel. It’s just a short time later, and Jesus is telling a story. This time, the Samaritan is the Good Guy: the one whose actions are held up, and offered as the example of what we can be, what we should be. Jesus as the teacher, one who at least some of those gathered listening loved and respected, is reminding the Judeans that the person who makes them the most uncomfortable, just might be better than they thought-- might, in fact, be compassionate, and generous, and kind in ways they wouldn’t expect. He’s asking them to reconsider what they think they know, to look past their fear and mistrust, and see a beloved child of God, doing his best to live in a godly manner, worthy of emulating.

You know, that’s exactly what I found. When I stopped being so defensive and really began to look and listen, I learned that the man by whom I had been so cowed, and had worked to avoid, had been (and this still amazes me) feeling the same way about me as I had about him. In fact, we had been rather like the Judeans and the Samaritans: at loggerheads not really because of our differences, but precisely because we were so very much alike, in our defenses and our self-consciousness. And finally letting go of that, I discovered with joy, brought me the priceless gift of a dear friend: strong and gentle and caring.

Maybe this is one reason why Jesus tells us to “go and do likewise:” to care for one another beyond the expectations of self, or society. Not only for the benefit of others, but for the healing of our own souls, as well. It’s not always easy; but we are blessed when we let God work between us. And think what we lose, otherwise. I might, for example, have missed the opportunity to know, to love and be loved by, one of the finest men I have ever met.

So, my brothers and sisters, think with me, please: who are our neighbors? And how can we loosen our defenses a bit, and be neighbors?

Lord Jesus, bless us to be ever mindful of the needs of others... and our need of them.


Blogger Reverend Ref + said...

Hey -- the library has a computer!! Good job, my fellow Samaritan. And yes, I've posted mine. Check it out.

July 12, 2004 4:34 PM  

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