Good Morning Palms Westminster Presbyterian Church … and a good day it is … because we belong to God, and God belongs to us … we are in Christ, and Christ is in us …
For the few years that are allowed to us, by the grace of God, we do God’s work as best we can …
We love one another … we forgive the sins of the day … we greet the morning with hope … we pray for the Holy Spirit, to guide our steps and guard our souls.
We pray that we might fulfill our calling, and finish the race well.
Recently, I came across this wee little poem by Donald Hall, entitled: Summer Kitchen …
In June's high light she stood at the sink
With a glass of wine,
And listened for the bobolink,
And crushed garlic in late sunshine.
I watched her cooking, from my chair.
She pressed her lips
Together, reached for kitchenware,
And tasted sauce from her fingertips.
"It's ready now. Come on," she said.
"You light the candle."
We ate, and talked, and went to bed,
And slept. It was a miracle.
To have the eyes of the poet …
To have the eyes to see, O LORD.
The daily miracles that come our way.
The many moments,
The little moments,
When life bubbles over.
And we can see the glory of it all.
But it’s not all glory, what we open our eyes.
When we look at life, we see sorrow, too.
Tragedy and terror.
Suffering and sadness.
We’re tempted to avert our eyes.
To look away.
Because when we see hurt, we hurt, too.
And we don’t always know what to do with our hurt.
When we hurt for someone else.
When we’re moved with pity.
But here’s a point for prayer:
To not turn away from the sorrow of the world.
To not avert our eyes from someone’s suffering.
To pay attention.
To see it all.
The good and the sweet.
And … the tears of a child, the anguish of a mother.
Jesus tells a story …
A man on the road, beset by robbers.
Stripped and beaten, left for dead.
By chance, says Jesus, a priest comes along, and when the priest sees the man in the ditch, the priest made sure to step as far away as possible … and the same for a Levite, when he sees the beaten man, he steps to the other side of the road and goes on his way.
And then along comes the Samaritan, and when the Samaritan sees the man in the ditch, Jesus says, the Samaritan was moved with pity … the Samaritan went to the man in the ditch, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them … the Samaritan put the man on his own animal and took him to a nearby inn, paid for his lodging and care, with a promise to the innkeeper that he would return to cover whatever additional expenses were incurred.
Moved with pity … the human heart unlocked … love, like a river, begins to flow … and love requires the deeds of mercy.
It all begins when the Good Samaritan allows himself to see the sorrow and pain of the beaten man … the Good Samaritan is moved with pity, and goes to the man and cares for him …
Lots of things come to mind here …
I think of man, a decent sort of a man, a Christian man, who rejects his nephew, because his nephew is gay …
I don’t know the man well, but this much I’ve seen: to reject his nephew, he’s hardened his heart … he cannot see his nephew as a human being, but only as a “sinner.”
He tells himself that the Bible has a case against his nephew, but I tell you, dear friends, the man is wrong … I’m not here this morning to go through all the Bible verses, and how they’ve been translated and mistranslated, and misinterpreted, over the centuries, and how God is leading us to better days in the church, with more openness, more kindness, a better understand of these few verses that some have used to hurt and reject their own flesh and blood for being gay or lesbian.
I’m here to tell you that the man is wrong, and what a terrible price he pays for rejecting his nephew.
It takes a lot of work to reject someone …
It takes a lot of work for the priest and the Levite to walk to the other side of the road … to avert their eyes, harden their hearts, forget about it, pretend that it does’t matter.
The priest and Levite betray the human story, they betray God, they betray all of their highfalutin words … they betray the man in the ditch …they betray themselves, and in their betrayal of all things good and right, they diminish themselves, they shrink their souls, they rob themselves of their own humanity …
It is the Samaritan, who upon seeing the man in the ditch, is moved with pity …
Moved in spirit and soul, moved toward the man in distress, moved to help him …
I think, too, these days, of the children and families on the border … the horrible conditions of the concentration camps … children in cages, babies yanked from their mothers arms … fathers separated from their families.
Just like the priest and the Levite, so many in America avert their eyes, walk to the other side of the road, go on their way, hands over their ears, to muffle the cries of a child, and hands held up like blinders on a horse, to avoid seeing the a mother’s anguished face … hardening the heart, betraying the human story, killing the spirit of pity, citing laws and rules and regulations, as if that were ever a justification for cruelty and inhumanity.
Poisoning the soul, to feel nothing for the people at the border … to despise them, call them names, shame them, hurt them, cage them, beat them and then laugh at them.
This is doing great damage to our nation, and great damage to those who enforce the law … and great damage to those who prefer to ignore it all.
To betray the human story, to deny the instincts of pity, to walk away from the suffering … the soul is damaged, chaos grows, disorder and confusion abound …
Not even religious behavior, not even the trappings of the church, our words of faith, our Bible reading, our prayers, our creeds and hymns - none of this can cover the failure to be human, none of that can make up for the loss of the soul, the betrayal of pity.
It takes a lot of work to be cruel … what a price is paid: every act of cruelty diminishes the soul … every act of rejection hurts us, every time we turn away, we lose something of ourselves … every time we betray love, the soul becomes smaller.
The man who rejects his nephew is bleeding away his soul, and it shows … it shows on his face, it shows in his words - there is no peace within him, there is no joy, because the man is betraying his nephew, he’s betraying himself, he’s betraying God.
What we’re doing at the border right now is bleeding away the soul of our nation … it shows in the face of our leaders, it shows in their words, harsh and cruel, using the words of patriotism to hide their crimes, using fear to incite the public to hatred and violence.
When humanity is betrayed, the price is enormous … whether it be the man who rejects his nephew, or a nation that chooses cruelty over compassion
Our task as Christians is to honor the instincts of pity … the instincts created within us by our Creator, to feel pity for the outcast and the broken, to feel pity for those in need, the lonely and the lost.
To be moved by pity … moved to pay attention all the more … moved to action … without judgement, without question … to offer aid, acceptance, kindness and mercy … welcome and hospitality … to make it a better world.
I leave you with a question:
Who is the Good Samaritan? First and foremost?
Is it not Jesus, who is the Good Samaritan, first and foremost?
Is it not the Son of God, the lamb of God, who comes to this world, to bring good news to the poor … to proclaim release to the captives … and recovery of sight to the blind … to let the oppressed go free … to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor?
Dear friends, the LORD saw our need, our hurt, our sorrow, our pain … the LORD saw us in the ditch, and came to our aid.
The LORD poured the oil and wine of love upon our wounds and bandaged us with mercy … the LORD took us to the place of safety, and pledged himself to pay the price, for whatever it would take, no questions asked.
It is the LORD Jesus Christ who is the Good Samaritan, the first and the foremost.
And it is he who says to us: Go and do likewise.
Amen and Amen!