Reflection for Sunday – July 10, 2022
Readings: Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 10:25-37
Preacher: Sheryl Zabel
Why do we Christians listen to readings from Scripture when we come together for worship? Why do we pick up our own Bibles to read one or more passages from its many books?
We do this because we believe that the important teachings found in the Bible come from God and were not meant only for people who lived two or three thousand years ago. Jesus’ message was not just for his contemporaries but for all of his followers.
Our world however, has changed so much since the time Jesus was on earth as a human being. So how can we apply what he said to our lives?
Today’s gospel contains one of the most beloved of Jesus’ parables: the story of the Good Samaritan.
Many of us can identify with the “scholar of the law” who asks Jesus about inheriting eternal life. Jesus asks him what is written in the law about this. The man talks about loving God “with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” Jesus tells him to “do this and you will live.”
Jesus is not talking about an emotion here but about a way of living. So what does it mean to love God with all our being? The rest of the scholar’s response gives us a hint (to say the least): “and love your neighbor as yourself.” So are we surprised when the man wants to know who are those called neighbors? It is this question that leads to the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Now when we hear the word “Samaritan,” we usually think of a person who does something really good, without expecting to get anything back. But that is not, of course, what “Samaritan” meant to the Jewish people of the first century. The Samaritans were considered to be heretical and unfaithful to the Lord God. The Samaritans and the Jewish people saw each other as rivals, even enemies. Yet, the Samaritan in Jesus’ story went out of his way to help the injured man, after two of his fellow Jews walked by him. This man showed that he did love God fully, because he was willing to help the injured Jewish man. When we go out of our way to serve people who are not our best friends without expecting some recompense, we are imitating the Samaritan. Think of this in connection with all the political struggles going on in our country.
There are, however, a couple of issues for me. One has to do with the priest and the Levite who walked by the injured man. They were actually following the law: they would have been “unclean” had they touched him. But is there not a greater law, the Great Commandment, with which this gospel began? And there were procedures for getting “clean” again. The priest and Levite were preoccupied with themselves, not with their fellow Jew.
My other concern has to do with the war in Ukraine. Is force ever justified? There are Christians on both sides. What does it mean for them to injure or kill one another? This can’t be what Jesus wants of us, based on his teachings found in the Bible. But isn’t using force, if necessary, to protect the innocent, especially children, justified? I still struggle with that question. Do you? I have read that bishops, priests, and religious from inside Ukraine and also from Poland are doing a lot to help the Ukrainians. This is wonderful, but what about the fighting. I think we all need to pray about this in connection with today’s gospel.
So, can loving God be who we are, even two thousand years after Jesus lived on earth? Many centuries earlier, Moses called upon the Israelites to return to God. And he reassured them that God’s commands are “something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry them out.” Moses was talking to us as well, and Jesus, of course, would agree.