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THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD MUSLIMS


It is difficult to imagine more bleak circumstances; the young mother and her small children, truck packed full of all of their belongings, were in process of moving from rural North Carolina to the mother’s childhood home in Connecticut. Life had taken a tragic turn only a few months earlier, as her handsome young husband had been killed during training exercises at Fort Bragg, leaving the young widow with two children under the age of four. Now, at the encouragement of friends that this would truly be best, she had determined to move back home to Connecticut, back to live with her ailing mother. Father had been gone for nine years now, and it seemed the best thing to do in the situation. Old Charlie down at the sporting goods store had promised her that there’d be an opening for her as office help, and while it wasn’t a glamour job, it’d pay the bills until the little family could get its bearings.


A light snow greeted the young family as they awakened on Sunday morning somewhere north of Philly, but determined to move ahead, the young mother bustled the kids off to Denny’s for breakfast. Leaving the restaurant and driving up the New Jersey Turnpike, her thoughts returned again and again to the incredible events of the past few months; she wondered again if it were true, or all just a bad dream. “Well”, she thought, “maybe there’ll be a fresh start in Danbury.”


It was just south of Newark when the engine in the truck started to miss, and before she knew it, something had gone terribly wrong—right in the middle of one of the worst metropolitan areas in the country. Now she was scared; this was not the place to break down! Cold and terrified, the young mother climbed from the cab of the Ryder truck and surveyed her options. Who’d stop to help her at 10:30 on a Sunday morning, she wondered, and could the person be trusted?

Rev. Scott Dabney, for over 35 years the rector of St. Michael’s, was hurriedly making his way to church services. His alarm hadn’t gone off—again—and while his habitual tardiness was something of a standing joke around the parish, it still embarrassed him to be late. Perhaps he could make up time on the Turnpike, he thought. As he sped along, he couldn’t miss the sight of the big yellow truck up ahead, and what looked to be a worried young woman standing by the side of the truck. As she put her face in her hands, he thought to himself that there must be something wrong. A voice inside him said, “stop”, and he considered this option, even as he passed the truck—but then glancing again as his watch, he realized that if he did, there’d be no way he could make it to the service in time. He’d put a lot of time into the morning’s message—and so as he glanced in the rear view at the truck and the lady, he breathed a silent prayer that God would send someone along…


Dave Greene thought he recognized Pastor Dabney’s car up ahead—the “Clergy” bumper sticker amid the rust of what had to be the only brown AMC Gremlin in Newark gave it away. Dave was an “up-and-comer” at St. Mike’s; Pastor Dabney knew deacon material when he saw it, and had mentioned the possibility to Dave on a couple of occasions already. As the Greenes followed along, Dave too noticed the Ryder truck and the distraught lady, and the thought crossed his mind as well to stop. But frankly, it was pretty cold outside, and having had to miss church the past couple of weeks due to business trips weighed on his mind; it wouldn’t do too well for a deacon to keep missing services. As he passed the truck, he looked in the rear view and saw a little blonde head pop up from behind the dashboard. “Lord, take care of that little family”, he prayed as he sped past.


Meanwhile, the young mother waited, and a shiver ran down her spine. She couldn’t tell whether that shiver stemmed more from the cold or from the situation at hand. Silently she breathed a prayer to a God to whom she hadn’t spoken much since her husband’s death. Soon, a car did pull over, and quickly from the front seat sprang two young men with long beards, each wearing the distinctive head coverings marking Muslim men. A terror struck her as she watched the two men quickly approach—she swore their faces looked just like terrorists she’d seen on CNN. Debating whether to jump back in the truck and lock her doors, she froze for a split second, and before she could say or do anything, the driver spoke up. “Can we help you?” he asked, and a wide smile spread over his face. Grabbing a cell phone from his belt, the other man dialed the number on the side of the Ryder truck, while the driver spoke words of encouragement to the young mother. In short order, two Muslim ladies, dressed in colorful long dresses, the sisters of the driver, pulled up in an SUV, and after locking up the truck, the young family climbed into the SUV for a trip to McDonald’s with the ladies and their brother, while the second Muslim man waited in the cold for the mechanic.


At St. Mike’s, Pastor Dabney delivered his message, as the Dave Greene family listened. His subject? “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”


Perhaps you recognize the story—in a 21st-century incarnation! A man whom the Bible says was seeking to “justify himself” asked Jesus a question in response to Jesus teaching that we find here, namely, “love your neighbor as you love yourself”; the question was, “who is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus told a story, but the impact of that story is lost on us due to the fact that we live in a different time and cultural situation. Nobody who listened as Jesus told the story would have qualified the word "Samaritan” with the adjective “good”, as most of us today. Perhaps you’ll remember “The Parable of the Good Muslims”.


Who is my neighbor? “One can never ask, ‘who is my neighbor?’ because the question implies that there is such a thing as a non-neighbor. Whoever needs me is my neighbor, and we express love with active compassion and justice.” - Garland



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