Summary: PENTECOST 6, YEAR C - A sermon by Greg and Rosemary Dawson. The good samaritan is about the power of parables. The weaving of a good story by which we judge ourselves and see with new eyes.
The Good Samaritan is a very familiar story in our culture. We have hospitals named after the parable, shelters, churches, and even legislation called the ‘good Samaritan laws.” In fact it is so familiar it has become a problem. We think we know what Jesus’ parable is all about. Most of us think it is an illustration of common decency, helping somebody who is in need. But that is not what parables are really for. Instead of supporting the common wisdom and morality of the culture, parables are meant to challenge our common sense about good and bad, right and wrong. When Jesus told the story he wasn’t confirming the normative picture of the world, he was trying to get his listeners to see the world in an entirely different way. But instead of confronting us head-on which will cause us to see what is coming and build resistance, a parable moves to the sideways, it finds the unguarded door, and enters into our life with a surprise. That is anyway what they are suppose to do. But what happens when you’ve heard a parable before Over and over again, time after time, sermon after sermon. You know exactly what happens, don’t you? it loses it’s affect. It becomes old hat. So how do we make it new again, something we can hear again for the first time, especially with something that is now as common place as the Good Samaritan? We start by telling a parable that no one has heard before that we might experience the true power of a story. One of the best books for understanding the power of parables is the book, “Jacob the Baker” written by Noah ben Shea. In this book a baker named Jacob is discovered by his little town to be a man of wisdom and insight. So the towns people begin coming to him seeking wisdom and advise on how to live their lives. What they get are parables. At the end of the school day the children would come and sit on the flour sacks. Jacob would sit across from the children and they would talk. As Jacob told his stories, he would from time to time shut his eyes. It was as if he was remembering what to say, not by searching through is mind, but by remembering what he saw. One day a little girl asked, “What do you see when you shut your eyes?” “Well,” Jacob said, “Once upon a time there was a man who had a vision and began pursuing it. Two others saw that the first man had a vision and began following him. In time, the children of those who had followed him asked their parents to describe what they saw. But what their parents described appeared to be the coattails of the man in front of them. When the children heard this, they turned away from their parent’s vision, saying it was not worthy of pursuit.” Jacob leaned toward the little girl who had asked the question. “So, what do we discover from this story?” The children were quiet. “I’ll tell you,” said Jacob. “We discover children who deny what they have never experienced. We discover parents who believe in what they have never experienced. And, from this, we discover the question is not, ‘What do I see when I shut my eyes,’ but ‘What do you see when you open yours?’” In the same way a lawyer, an expert in the law of Moses, came to ask a question of Jesus. Luke tells us that this man spoke up in order to "test Jesus." but that does not necessarily mean he was out to get Jesus, rather he was using a common teaching technique of the day. It would be like a professor today going to hear a college give a lecture and then having the presentation conclude with questions from the audience. ‘Rabbi, he asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” A good question, a very good question. And Jesus was a very good teacher. In true rabbinical fashion Jesus answers his question with a question. “What does the law say. How do you understand it?” The lawyer wanted Jesus to give him the key, but Jesus wanted him to discover it himself. Immediately the man replied . "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; and your neighbor as yourself." He knew the answer, straight out of the Leviticus. Jesus couldn’t have agreed with him more, and he told him so, “You are right, do this and you will live.” But that did not satisfy the lawyer so he asks Jesus a follow up question. “But who is my neighbor?”