Sermon for Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Proper 10, Year C

July 10, 2022

Deuteronomy 30:9-14                    Psalm 25:1-9                       Colossians 1:1-14                              Luke 10:25-37

Jesus is asked, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers with a question, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”

Deuteronomy is a record of the final instructions Moses offers to the people of Israel before they cross over the Jordan River and enter the promised land.  The response Jesus seeks is from the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, the verses now known as the Shema.  The Shema commands us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and might.  Throughout Deuteronomy, Moses emphasizes this as he does in today’s lesson:

The Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

          To this day, in Judaism, the Shema is recited in worship, and is prayed as part of their morning and evening prayers.  Jesus asks the man who wants to know what he must do to inherit eternal life, “What is written in the law?” And the man responds, as expected, by reciting the Shema: “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.”

          In another gospel, Jesus is asked, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  Jesus, too, answers with a version of the Shema: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

          First and foremost, we are taught to love.  Love God and love our neighbors.  We are also taught to love ourselves.  It is difficult to love others if we do not love ourselves, thus we are commanded to love our neighbor AS ourselves.  It is also difficult to love God if we judge ourselves to be unworthy of God’s love and do not love ourselves.  Loving God with all our heart, mind, and soul is not a one-way street.  God, our creator, loves us and is calling us into an intimate relationship with our maker. Intimate relationships require trust. 

          Are we worthy of being loved?  If we trust God the answer is most definitely yes!   We trust our creator and give thanks for all of creation.  Understanding this moves us to act.  Paul writes to the Colossians, “we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.” 

          Paul is not quoting the Shema, but I see its influence here.  The type of relationship God wants with us is one in which we know God and are filled with the wisdom and understanding that produces the fruit of kindness to our neighbors.

          In our gospel, it is a lawyer who is talking with Jesus, and to make sure he is following the letter of the law, he asks, “And, who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds by telling him the story of the good Samaritan.  It is a story filled with lessons about loving others and bearing the fruit of God’s love in the world today.

          First, we have a man beaten and lying half death in the road.  Three men find him there, the first being a priest, the second a Levite.  Priests and Levites are men who have been called to serve God and lead the people in faithful living.   The priest and the Levite see the man and they do not stop – they go to the other side of the road as if he is simply road kill.  The next person who finds the man lying half dead on the road is a Samaritan, someone who is not one of the chosen people of God, someone who is benight a faithful Jew. 

The Samaritan stops, treats the man’s wounds, takes him to an inn and pays for a room for him so that he might recover.  He goes on his way, but promises to return and pay for the inn keeper for anything the man needs while he is away.  Jesus asks, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”  The lawyer says, “The one who showed him mercy.”  To which Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” 

          How do we show mercy?  I confess I identify more often with the priest and the Levite than I do with the Good Samaritan.  The needs of others are overwhelming.  Since St. Paul’s study of the book, Chasing Francis, I am making more of an effort to get to know the people who come to our community meal.  I have been surprised to learn how many of our guests are living without electricity or living on the streets.  Homelessness includes people sleeping on friend’s couches or in temporary housings – but someone who lives in a house without electricity is not included in that count. 

          Perhaps it’s the heat, but it seems to me that more and more people are coming to us for help.  I try to help everyone a little, but their needs are greater than we have the resources to address.  So, I suspect they go from church to church, from agency to agency and get what they can to survive.  It is painful to watch.  Like all of us, many make bad choices.  Most of us are fortunate enough that our bad choices do not result in having our water disconnected or our electricity shut off. 

          I heard a report recently in which people were interviewed and asked if they would be able to come up with $1,500 in an emergency.  It was shocking to me to hear how many people said no, how many people who did not have someone to turn to and ask for help.  I realize now that it surprised me because they looked like people with dependable jobs, people of means, not like so many of the people who come to St. Paul’s asking for help. 

We may not have the financial resources to help everyone who asks for help, but financial support is not all that is needed.  Our time is also a valuable resource we have to offer.  The Good Samaritan first took the time to help, when others hurried by.  I may not give all the cash in my pocket to the people who ask for money, but I can sit and have a meal with them on Wednesday nights. 

Our Care Team began with a focus on helping our members, but it has now begun considering how it can expand its focus to caring for others in our community.   On July 4th, in the extreme heat, members of St. Paul’s passed out bottles of cold water at the park before the fireworks.   When the Care Team meets again, we will explore opportunities for mission in our community.  I don’t know where this may lead us, but I am thankful to them for seeking ways for St. Paul’s to come together to love and serve our neighbors.  If you want to get involved, please join the Care Team for a meal and discussion when we meet again in a couple of weeks.

Let us pray.

          Loving and gracious God, fill us with your spirit that we might love you with our whole heart, mind, and soul, and that we might love our neighbors as ourselves.  Following the example of your Son, help us to go forth to love and serve you, by sharing your love with others in tangibles ways.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.