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05.14.17 Giving God our Lives through Service Luke 10:25-37 Sermon Summary

by on May 15, 2017

What if Jesus isn’t the Good Samaritan in the parable known by that name?

Summary Points

  • The power of Jesus’ parables
  • The surprising place of Jesus in the Good Samaritan parable
  • How service saves our faith and gives us life
  • The “spiritual gifts” and the Samaritan way
  • Helpful guidance in discernment and decision to serve

Jesus loved to teach in parables, sometimes using words, sometimes using actions. One of his most famous active parables was when he washed the disciples’ feet. After doing so, he said, “As I have done to you, so you should do to one another.”

Sometimes we recognize Jesus in his parables, like in the depiction of the woman who turns her house upside down to find one lost coin out of ten. Jesus is that woman, turning the world upside down to find those who are lost.

How about in the parable of Good Samaritan? Perhaps Jesus is the Samaritan, the socially outcast individual who saves victims of the violence of sin. See here for a sermon from that perspective. Or perhaps he is one of the other characters in the parable.

What if we saw Jesus as the man traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho, where he would bring sight to the blind, and call Zacchaeus the Tax Collector to follow him? What if Jesus was the one who walked through that stretch of road between Jerusalem to Jericho called the “valley of the shadow of death?”

What if Jesus is the man who fell into the hands of robbers, who was stripped of his clothing, beaten, and left for dead? What if it is Jesus laying on the side of the road, unrecognized by the Priest and Levite, ignored and avoided by the religious leaders, waiting for someone to love not only God but to love their neighbor as well?

It isn’t too difficult to imagine Jesus this way given another of his parables—the one about the sheep and the goats. There Jesus depicts a final judgement scene where those who are invited to enter God’s Kingdom are the ones who have been living it all along—by caring for those in need. Jesus says to both the sheep and goats that, “Whatever you did for the least of these members of my family, you did it for me.”

Now we can see how the needy person on the side of the road is actually Jesus. And Jesus’ words to the Lawyer are his words to us. “Do you know your Bible?” Jesus asks him. And of course the Lawyer does. But then, “Do you live your Bible?”

And now Micah’s words to the Southern Kingdom are words addressed to us: Does your religion pursue justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God?”

It isn’t enough to know the Bible and participate in religious observance. If we only know the faith, but don’t live the faith, our faith will die. It dies because it is only an intellectual experience, not a heart, soul, and body experience also. It turns out, that loving our neighbor in service saves our faith. It is the key to the “abundant life” Jesus promised. It is the path to the “eternal life” the Lawyer wanted.

But you may ask, “How do I know where to serve?” Or in the words of the Lawyer, “Who is my neighbor?” Some people look at the lists of “spiritual gifts” and try to discern where they should serve. They prayerfully weigh each one and consult close friends and family for insight. This discernment can be helpful but it has some problems.

One problem is that people figure if they don’t have the “gift of mercy” or of “generosity,” they’re not called to be merciful or generous. But another problem is that all this spiritual discerning can get in the way of actual doing. I imagine the Priest and the Levite, being professional religious folk (like I am), were well practiced in discernment.

The more immediate way to determine where we can serve is to seize an opportunity that is right in front of us. This is the Samaritan’s way. In truth, when we take time to both discern and respond to immediate service opportunities, the way of love and life will open up to us.

This week and next I invite you to both a time of discernment and a time of decision. To help you in this process, I suggest to you to the following aids:

This discernment and decision is important not only because service is the path to abundant and eternal life, but also because the church and the world need us to serve. God has called us to walk with the Samaritan from Jerusalem—the place where we worship—to Jericho—the place where we serve. For the Jesus who is on the side of the road is waiting for us to stop and help.

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