Summary: The parable of the Good Samaritan. Our trouble is not in understanding the gospel. Our trouble is in performance of the gospel.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
July 15, 2007
It is becoming more and more important, in the visual age in whch we live, to try to paint pictures with words. The church is always in search of new ways to do that. Lately we have had ads placed on placemats in area restaurants, in newspapers, and community newsletters. We have had water bottles made advertising “The Ark” which we have passed out at T-ball games. For one week beginning on July 22, we have placed forty 30 second ads on WAJI radio 95.1. The ads are part of the radio station’s efforts to raise money for Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.
On the 30 second ads, we get roughly 8 to 10 seconds to talk about Calvary church. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but you can say a lot of stuff in eight seconds.
Generally, advertisements on television or radio are 15, 30, or 60 seconds long, but advertising executives are learning that shorter ads work also.
How many of you, when you are listening to the radio in the car, switch channels when commercials come on? If you do that, you are among the 13% of listeners who change stations as soon as those commercial breaks come on. Another 20% of us switch channels after hearing just one commercial. From what I am understanding, radio stations believe that if they can shorten the time devoted to commercials, they ought to be able to better hold listener’s attention, which in turn, helps advertisers to decide to continue to use the radio. It is all a big circle.
Watch the commercials on television and notice how quickly the images move from one to another and back again. Watch music videos – either MTV or if you like country music instead – CMT. Notice how quickly the videos move from one image to another. That is what we are getting used to in this culture.
Back in Medieval times in Europe when the great cathedrals were being built, most people were illiterate. So they built those cathedrals with enormous stained glass windows to tell the stories of the faith in ways that people could understand. The same thing is happening today. 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 are looking for ways to get our message across – quickly and without confusion.
That is why we have begun using power point during the sermon. We are not doing that to drive you crazy. We are not doing it just to join the crowd. We are not doing that because the preacher enjoys disrupting worship. We are doing it because our aim is to reach new people for Christ. It is really not about us. It is about them; the folks who have not heard the Good News. This is not a worship strategy as much as it is a mission strategy. In our day and age, the story was told by the printed word. In today’s world, the story is being told once again, just like in the great cathedrals, by pictures and images. The people who produce advertisements and commercials know that. Even on the radio they paint pictures with their words.
You 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.” Or as “The Message” puts it, “…love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence…” The second message is this one, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It doesn’t take long at all to get the message across.
That comes in the course of teaching by Jesus, the context of which is different in Luke than it is in Matthew or Mark. In the first two gospels, these teachings occur while Jesus is in the Temple. In Luke, they occur in the long section of stories, from chapter 9 through 19, as he makes his was to Jerusalem to be offered up on the cross. So in a lot of ways, this parable of the Good Samaritan parallels the story of Jesus and the rich man in Mark chapter 10, which also takes place as Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem.
So, along the way, a man who was well versed in the minutiae of the Law of Moses stood up to give Jesus a test. “What do I need to do to get eternal life?” Jesus, as so often happens, answers the question with a question of his own. “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?” The fellow quoted the two great commandments about loving God and one’s neighbor, to which Jesus replied, “Good answer. Do it and you’ll live.” In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus adds, “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”