Summary: Willingness to take up the Call, and the Samaritan
In 1836, in the plaza of a small-dilapidated Texas church one hundred and eighty men were faced with a frightening decision. Whether to stand and fight the whole of the Mexican Army, or try and either escape or surrender. Their leader was an inexperienced officer, who drew a line in the sand and said cross the line and fight or run.
Legends and some witnesses tell us only one of those men did not step over that line. This one man snuck out in the night to live another day, and faded into obscurity as the coward of the Alamo. However for the one hundred and seventy nine men who stayed, even though they all were killed in battle, they became immortalized not only in Texas, but also in America as heroes. For they were willing to stand up for what they believed in, even when the odds were so stacked against them.
In our readings for today, we see a similar line drawn in the sand. God tells Amos about drawing a line using a plumb bulb. He uses the plumb line to hold all those accountable for their actions.
So does this story relate to our Gospel reading for today? If so, how? Well the question it asks of us is, who do we count as our neighbors? Think of all those “good and devout” men that passed that man lying in the road. Why? Because he represented someone or something they did not agree with? Or was it because if they were seen helping this man, they would be scorned? Just like the coward who did not cross the line to defend the Alamo, these men refused to cross the line to help another. Even when they were commanded by God to do so.
If one were to take time to look at this story, of which we are all familiar, with we see different nuances in it. We see a story of a man in need. We see a story of other men who are so trapped by the chains of their society that they are unable to come to the aid of a fellow man.
According to William Barclay in his writings on the New Testament, he explained it this way:
There was the priest. He hastened past. No doubt he was remembering that he who touched a dead man was unclean for seven days (Num.19:11). He could not be sure but he feared that the man was dead; to touch him would mean losing his turn of duty in the Temple; and he refused to risk that. He set the claims of ceremonial above those of charity. The Temple and its liturgy meant more to him than the pain of man.
There was the Levite. He seems to have gone nearer to the man before he passed on. The bandits were in the habit of using decays. One of their number would act the part of a wounded man; and when some unsuspecting traveller stopped over him, the others would rush upon him and overpower him. The Levite was a man whose motto was, "Safety first." He would take no risks to help anyone else.
You see these men let their fears over whelm their faith. The priest was more interested in the service itself over the service for God. The Levite failed to let God lead him and protect him.
The Samaritan crossed the line in the sand. He made the step beyond religious and ethnic bigotry to help a man not of his own people. He stepped out on faith and the love of another human being.