Summary: The heart of spirituality. Thinking outside the walls of the church. Core concerns of God. Ministry. Two options: "pass by" or "go and do."
GO AND DO LIKEWISE
We live in a world of visual images and sound bites. It is hard for most people today to imagine the whole family sitting around a radio and listening to the president speak each week for 30 minutes as was very common in the 1930’s-40’s. In our Media generation, images and messages change every few seconds.
Images and words have always been important in communication. In medieval Europe the stories of faith were depicted through the images in stained glass windows of the cathedrals. Christian art over the years has attempted to capture the visual message of the Bible. With the popularity of the Internet and smart phones the printed word is being used less and less.
Television has trained us over the past five decades to be visual creatures and you can buy audio versions of many books today so you don’t even have to read. We are relying less and less on the printed word and more and more on images - both visual and auditory - to tell the story.
We may have trouble keeping up with the new ways of communicating as it comes to us in brief sound bites, but when you think about it, the two most important messages of the Scriptures are articulated in just a few seconds . “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 .” The second succinct message says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Those are powerful sound bites that have eternal consequences.
Jesus captivated audiences with his storytelling. That is the case today in our text from Luke. In a short story Jesus challenges us to minister beyond the walls of the church building. I want to challenge each member to be thinking about the ways you would like to minister to and serve the needs of this community as well as the world at large. Sometimes we are challenged to think outside the box. I’m challenging us to think outside the walls of this church.
Our text this morning is one of the best known stories of Jesus. It is not only an extremely illustrative story but it also demonstrates the heart of spirituality. And I recognize that word gets bantered around a lot these days, so let’s briefly define spirituality. The word “spiritual” [Greek = pneumatikos] is used to describe gifts, the law, the resurrection body, understanding, and the believing community, as well as a person. But Jesus takes this technical definition and reduces it to simplistic ministry with a powerful story.
The background contrast here is having the humility and spirit of a little child as opposed to the lofty knowledge of scribes and lawyers. Jesus now has an opportunity to demonstrate the lesson.
He not only tells a story which shows the lack of understanding on the part of those reputed to be wise, but he also tells the story to one who is supposed to be very wise. The hero in the story is, of course, one of the unlearned and even despised .
Whether your translation says lawyer, expert in the law or religious scholar one quickly knows that Jesus is dealing with a heavyweight here. It is important to realize that this man wants to be recognized for his educational credentials.
Jesus quickly challenged his questioner as to what the law said and this expert immediately cited the Shema that said, “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, Love your neighbor as yourself”. To press the point further the lawyer then asks Jesus to define the word ‘neighbor.’ Many people today get involved in playing the game of semantics or word nuances when it comes to religious discussion so this is an old tactic. To counter this Jesus gives a vivid lesson that distinguishes between knowing and doing.
This is one of those stories that we probably need to read every 30 days because the principle is so foundational to ministry and how we regard others. And mind you this is not about merit or works salvation. It seems the lawyer was trying to separate the intellectual from the spiritual and Christians often make the same classifications today. But Jesus reminds us that we are spiritual all the time. A Christian can worship and praise God on Sunday and curse a fellow worker on Monday but he is still a spiritual being. Jesus underscores the totality of our spiritual being in heart, soul, strength and mind.
This lesson is saturated with the same context of love as described by the apostle John, “If you love me, you will obey what I command ”. If we love God, if we love Christ, and if we love the church we will show it in our devotion to God, our Christ-like actions toward others and in fellowship and hospitality with our fellow Christians.