“When Something is Enough”

Luke 12:13-21

July 31, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”

But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

| Centering Prayer |

It’s good to know that Jesus practices what he preaches:

If your brother has a log in his eye,

take the log out of your own eye,

then go directly to him

and help him get the log out of his eye.

Don’t invite others into your dispute with someone else.

Just as importantly, don’t let yourself get sandwiched in between two others who are in dispute with each other.

This important quality is taught in

Introduction to Pastoral Care the first year of seminary.

It is call triangulation.

Don’t do it.

Don’t get caught in it.

Jesus avoids triangulation this morning;

getting himself caught between two brothers feuding over a family estate.

By Jewish law at the time of Jesus

The entire estate went to the eldest son.

So, the argument is coming from a younger son

Without a legal claim

Who desired an abundance of possessions.

It is sad their focus is on the inheritance

and not on giving thanks to God

for the life that made the inheritance possible.

Guard against all kinds of greed, Jesus tells us.

The problem of greed,

as Jesus correctly observes,

is that greed steals the focus away from God,

away from one another

– where life is lived –

and inappropriately places that focus on the abundance of possessions.

When we chose possessions and property over people

we surrender our lives

and find ourselves increasingly isolated.

When we chose possessions over God

we surrender our souls

and find ourselves increasingly without meaning.

The issue does not appear to be one of quantity.

In other words, I find little evidence in the Gospels that wealth, per se, is evil.

It doesn’t matter if your net worth is ten dollars or ten billion.

Rather, the issue is what you do with what you’ve been given.

The stewardship of time, talent, and treasure

Is continually addressed by Jesus

as being one of where your life focus lies.

Do you think about things?

Do you obsess about money, income, expenses, or things?

Because when we do, you’re not thinking about God.

We’re not listening to the whisper of the Spirit

about God’s will for our lives

or our things.

If we keep our eye on Jesus

and live according to the will of the Holy Spirit

God can get anyone through the eye of any old needle.

Life doesn’t consist in the abundance of possessions.

Life only has meaning when it’s lived faithful to the will of God.

Not for nothing,

but when one person has an abundance

it often means

it has come at the expense of another.

When there is a huge difference in wealth,

where people with much

live next to people with little

– poverty, hunger, powerlessness –

a culture of greed and crime is nurtured and fertilized.

I’ve seen the devastating results of income and wealth inequality

In Nicaragua, Guatemala, Israel, and Palestine.


And its associated consequences, exists right here in Monroe County.

Like a meteorological flux in temperature

The resulting gusts of crime and evil

Destroys communities, neighborhoods, and families.

Is this the world Jesus wants to preserve?

Absolutely not!

Christians cannot be in the business of nurturing and growing greed

in others or in ourselves.

Loving our neighbor means

reaching out from our abundance

to the last, the least, the lost, the left behind,

the poor, the widow, the orphaned, the diseased, and the left for dead.

This is not political.

This is all about the kingdom of heaven that Jesus desires

by the transformation of the earth.

Unlike last Sunday’s mislabeled scripture

(“The Lord’s Prayer” should have been labeled “The Disciple’s Prayer”)

today’s parable from Jesus is correctly titled

“The Parable of the Rich Fool”.

Fools are not unique to wealthy people.

In my humble opinion

fools are evenly distributed across the socioeconomic spectrum.

Today, however, Jesus is talking about a rich fool.

His foolishness operates at many levels.

First, the rich man is a poor planner.

He planted way too much for his established capacity

to harvest, store, market, and transport his crop.

Let’s just say

Math wasn’t his strong suit.

Neither was business, economics, or project planning.

This dude is in way over his head.

What a fool.

Secondly, before you tear down existing production capacity,

wouldn’t it make more sense to build the new, improved barns first,

so that production could be seamlessly transitioned from the old barns to the new one?

What would happen if your contractor walked off the job?

or weather struck and building was delayed

with the fields full of rotting crops?

Even I can see that this would be foolish.

What a fool.

Thirdly, you’d rather place your faith in your storage capacity

than in God?


So, what happens next year when drought hits and your oversized barns are emptied?

Eventually the food is going to run out.

Empty barns are expensive to maintain.

Markets go up and markets go down.

But the everlasting love and sustenance of God never waivers.

It’s foolish to trust in anything but God!

Fourth, eat, drink, and be merry?

Dude, grow up.

What about the farm workers

who made the abundant harvest possible?

Are you seriously thinking of partying it up in front of those

by whose sweat and hard work

pulled you away from the brink of failure?

That’s mighty selfish of you!

How about throwing a party for those who earned it

and not for yourself

and your foolish failure to plan?

Fifth, think of God.

God created the land, the seed, the water, and the sunshine.

God gave life to the seed.

God created the land to produce,

To sustain all God’s creation.

To under utilize or abuse

the fields God created to support humankind

Is an ungrateful response to God’s amazing grace.

We all know a fool when we see one.

So does God.

“You fool!” God says to him.

What God gives, God can take away.

Life, given by God, can be demanded this very night.

… this very moment.

Abundance, given by God, can be redistributed

by your estate and a handful of lawyers in a New York minute.

And what will it have gained you?

Is this the legacy you want to leave behind?

Meaning comes

when we make Christ our life’s focus.

This is when we are rich towards God.

Meaning comes

when we slice out greed from our heart

and replace it with love of God and love of neighbor.

Meaning comes

when we are so focused on Jesus

that the background noise of this world is drowned out

and we can only hear the Spirit’s whisper.

Greed is such an easy temptation;

this is why greed must be greatly opposed.

Who wouldn’t want to see a swelling retirement account,

a beautiful house,

and a swag-o-licious sports car in the driveway?

Who wouldn’t want to attend a church

with a million-dollar endowment,

new carpets,

a new parking lot,

and a perfectly manicured lawn?

Yet, these things have the potential to divert our eyes off the prize.

The prize is Jesus.

God has given us all we need

with overflowing abundance.

The question is

how are we distributing our wealth

of time, talent, and treasure?

Waste is a sign of poor stewardship.

Vital and effective worship and outreach

Is a sign that we are practicing good stewardship,

Making investments in our neighbors,

And taking time for our God.

What kind of stewards have we become?

My eyes are on Jesus

when I share generously out of my abundance.

My eyes are on Jesus

when I encourage others to listen to the Gospel

and apply the stewardship of Jesus to their own lives.

Dearly beloved,

join me

in placing this vanity behind us.

Let us stop building bigger barns

and let us build bigger

the kingdom of God.


“A Posture of Persistence”

Proper 12C, July 24, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 11:1-13

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.

And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’

And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

| Centering Prayer |

Prayer is a teachable skill.

At a young age

Parents, Sunday school teachers, and pastors alike

Teach our children

Prayers for bedtime,

Prayers before a meal,

Prayers at the communion table.

Guidelines and expectations are set:

Don’t let your thoughts stray;

The posture for prayer,

Often, hands folded and head bowed;

Even how to pray in public,

Usually, keep it short and simple!

Mechanics are taught by rote memorization

And burned deeply into our memories

For recall at a moment’s notice.

The goal is to create idealism,

A placid countenance,

A reverence regarding prayer

That becomes acculturated into life-long Christian practice.

We age,

We mature,

We ripen into adulthood,

And the silver polish of prayer begins to develop tarnish.

Life experiences create questions beyond mere mechanics:

How does God answer prayers?

Why aren’t my prayers always answered?

Tragedy, illness, suffering, death

Can create a tremendous amount of

Christian frustration,



and pain.

I asked, Lord.

I begged you, Lord.

Yet, you didn’t appear to hear my cry.

You told me to pray like this;

I prayed like that,

And nothing seemed to happen.


There may come patches in life

Where we stop praying altogether.

Yes, we bow,

Close our eyes,

We may even recite,

But it is oh, so easy for our minds to be elsewhere …

Simply because we’ve become

chronically under whelmed.

Results often don’t appear to live up to our expectations.

Late life brushes with mortality,

Taking inventory of one’s ultimate concern,

I’ve observed.

Often creates a renewed passion

To re-engage in an active prayer life.

No place in the Gospel narratives

Is a better place to begin

A deeper reflection about prayer

Than this eleventh chapter of St. Luke.

In thirteen short verses we are given

The Lord’s prayer,

A parable on prayer, and

Several sayings on prayer.

Answers to our deeper questions

Can be squeezed from scripture.

The words of Jesus

Give us direction

And set the larger context

In which conclusions about prayer can be made.

I don’t know why we’ve come to call

Jesus’ response to the disciples question

“The Lord’s Prayer.”

Given the disciples exposure to our Lord’s practice,

(Luke gives at least nine accounts of Jesus praying)

it might more appropriately be called

“The Disciples’ Prayer”

[With thanks to David Lose, Marbury E. Anderson Biblical Preaching Chair, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN, as found at workingpreacher.org]

More plain,

more simple

than Matthew’s version,

Luke offers a more down to earth signature

That emphasizes bread for tomorrow,

The importance of forgiveness,

And an intimate invitation to address the Holy One of Israel,

Whose name no Jew would ever speak or write,

To address God as Pater,


As a child would ask a loving parent

For anything of need or desire.

Pray simply.

Pray intimately, Jesus teaches us.

“Suppose one of you has a friend,”

Jesus begins his parable with a premise

That almost sounds like an attempt at Scottish humor or a skit from Monty Python.


“Go away!” is the first response to the knock.


“I’ve got company, and nothing to serve.”

“Can you help me?”

“We’re already in bed; go away!”


Persistent knocking, however,

Persistent pleading

brings results.

“Alright, already! Let me see what I can find you.

Just stop the knocking; you’ll wake the entire neighborhood!”

I’m told by Greek scholars

That the word Persistence,


Is better translated as


It implies

a boldness that comes from familiarity and

the knowledge that the neighbor is beholden by the community’s expectation of hospitality.

The friendly neighbor is probably thinking to himself,

“you know I can’t turn you away!

Let me see what I can find you,”

As he sighs in resignation.

I like this boldness;

This parables’ posture taken towards prayer.

Pray with Anaideia!

Pray boldly.

Pray persistently.

Pray shamelessly, Jesus teaches us.

In a similar way,

Ask, search, knock.

This is often thought of as a directive to be persistent.

However, it appears that when these commands are coupled

With Jesus’ hyperbolic, rhetorical questions

… Who would give your child a snake when they asked for a fish? …

… Who would give your child a scorpion when they ask for an egg? …

one can advance these sayings beyond the obvious:

Ask, search, knock may be

more about confidence

… knowing that you will receive what you ask for …

and more about trust

… trusting that God will respond to your every petition …

than it is about persistence.

Yes, persistent prayer is the obvious reach that Jesus is making.

Yet, confidence and trust are the foundation that lay just below the surface

Text, letter

Description automatically generatedFor those willing to dive deeper.

Pray with confidence.

Pray, trusting that God will respond, Jesus teaches us.

So, where does this leave us?

Like the original disciples

We love the questions about mechanics:



When should we pray?

Given the complexity of life

And our innate desire for instant solutions

…. Point zero nine seconds for a Google search, finding 14 billion results …

…. 40 minutes to resolve the toughest case on CSI or Law and Order …

it is entirely understandable

why most of us never move beyond

the mechanical question about prayer.

Yet, for those who are spiritually evolving and curious

It is important to recognize that

Jesus is more interested in invitation than explanation.

Prayer becomes the means

To invite us into a relationship with God,

“offering us

the opportunity to approach

the God whose name is too holy to speak

and whose countenance too terrible to behold

with the familiarity, boldness, and trust of a young child

running to her parent

for both provision and protection.”

[Quotation by David Lose, Marbury E. Anderson Biblical Preaching Chair, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN, as found at workingpreacher.org]

Indeed, prayer is less about getting

Then it is about

being in relationship with God.

Though God may know all our needs before we ask,

Today we are invited to ask anyways.

Ask because we are invited into the conversation with our Creator,

We are invited into an intimate relationship with our God.

We are invited to ask

With the confidence that

Regardless of the outcome

Our relationship with God

Can bear the strain,

Will survive the immediate need,

And finally, will continue to deepen and grow.

Perhaps our relationship with God

May even depend upon God hearing our every need.

Pray intimately.

Pray shamelessly.

Pray with confidence, trusting that God will respond.

Pray, beloved, and be drawn closer to God.


“Learning from Martha”

Luke 10:38-42

July 17, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

| Centering Prayer |

I marvel at the diversity of relationships

I’ve observed between siblings, in general, and sisters in particular.

Some are so close they are able to complete each other sentences.

Some are competitive.

Others are cooperative.

Some intuitive, others distracted.

Gender matters among siblings.

Sibling relationships are shaped and molded by life circumstances.

Birth order, emotional health, acceptance, and love are key ingredients for healthy development.

Crisis, trauma, stress, violence, abuse can poison an otherwise healthy relationship and lead to separation, disease, even death.

Caring for an aging loved one

Sends ripples throughout sibling relationships.

Hold on tight when it comes to death, mourning, and estate distribution.

At the end of the day

When the sun is setting

Sit with your sibling (if so blessed) and drink in the moment

In the presence of God.

Close the gap and be at peace.

The narrative of Mary, Martha, and Jesus is as familiar

As a thirty-year-old pair of shoes.

Familiarity with scripture comes with its own danger.

It becomes easy to take it for granted,

As if all God’s gems of truth have already been extracted,

As if there is nothing left to learn.

What is to be learned?

What does it mean?

How can I apply it to my life?

1. There is much to be learned in this familiar passage.

It is found only in the Gospel of Luke.

It is absent from Matthew, Mark, and John.

John has a narrative about a different Mary and Martha,

Who have a brother, Lazarus, who live in Bethany,

But that is a different family.

It is a part of Luke’s travel narrative,

A description of events between Jesus, his disciples, and those encountered

As they make their way south from Galilee

To Jerusalem, his geographical and theological destination.

Our narrative follows Jesus sending and receiving 70 disciples

To bring peace, cure the sick, and proclaim the close proximity of God’s kingdom.

Jesus answers a lawyer’s question about inheriting eternal life

By teaching him the parable of the good Samaritan,

As we heard last Sunday.

Still early in his multiple day journey

Jesus is welcomed into the home of Mary and Martha.

Much of the painting is left incomplete.

Where are the parents? (if there are any)

Are there any other family members or guests?

How many?

Mary remains silent.

She doesn’t say a word.

The dialogue is exclusively between Martha and Jesus.

There are two dangerous pitfalls to avoid

When interpreting and discerning this narrative.

First, is to avoid casting Mary and Martha as an archetype

Of two different, exclusive approaches to discipleship:

One to learn, the other is to serve.

Learning and serving are not mutually exclusive.

It’s not a zero-sum game.

Both can be true.

Neither may be true.

One way is not greater than another.

Secondly, gender matters; avoid typecasting.

Generalities easily do violence.

They are women.

They are sisters.

Most importantly to Jesus

They are individuals with names

Created in the near perfect image of God.

2. What does it mean?

“Martha, Martha,” Jesus gently chides,

“You are worried and distracted by many things;

there is need of only one thing.

Mary has chosen the better part,

which will not be taken away from her.” (10:41-42)

One thing.

Perhaps Jesus is communicating to Martha

That he doesn’t expect a fancy, multi-course meal.

Or, maybe Jesus is advocating for simplicity,

A simple, uncomplicated approach to discipleship.

I’d suggest the one thing Jesus is referring to

Is the Word of God.

Logos, in the Greek.

The Word of God,

As spoken by Jesus and received by Mary,

As taught by Jesus to his disciples, the crowds, and powers that be,

As recorded by Gospel authors, editors, and redactors,

As birthed and baked into the values of the early Christian Church,

As delivered, received, and discerned by us today.

Pay attention to the Word of God,

The language of Jesus.

Listen with a critical ear

Because questions are good.

Questions lead the curious to previously unrecognized truth.

God speaks through these truths

And reveals Divine will for our

Individual and collective lives.

The Word of God brings reverence and caution.

We worship God, not the Word.

The Word is the bridge between God’s will and our will,

But it is not the focus of praise or thanksgiving.

Be cautious;

The devil quotes scripture,

Knows it better than you or me.

Be cautious;

Keep scripture clear of motive and intention,

Subverting the will of God

To the will of the self.

Be cautious;

Not proof text, that is,

to take scripture out of context.

Be reverent;

Handle the words of Jesus with sacred respect.

Learn the trajectory of God’s salvation history embedded in the Word

And humbly find your place in it.

3. How can I apply it to my life?

Jesus correctly identifies the source of Martha’s anger and resentment.

He tells her she is worried and distracted by many things.

Worry and distractions.

When I worry,

My relationship with God suffers.

I fail to rely upon God and tend to trust in my own ability or strength.

Worry that isn’t checked and contained

Can contribute to chronic anxiety,

A decline in mental health.

If the object of worry can not be changed,

Turn it over to God.

God created it.

God can change it.

If the object of worry can be changed,

Be the change

That God has called you to be.

See the need,

Meet the need,

Exceed expectations.

The distractions of Martha

Encourages us to examine the distractions of our own life.

Distractions steal our focus away from Jesus.

Like Martha,

We may be distracted by doing good things

Instead of doing the right thing.

I suspect we share many of the same distractions.

Here are my top ten.

  1. Idle talk, instead of issues of the heart and soul.
  2. Money. Accumulation, compensation. stewardship, temptations, investments, especially in this period of inflation and recession.
  3. Pride. My need to justify myself, prove myself, show my best side while hiding my least lovely characteristics.
  4. Body shape and size. Weight, diet, consumption, calories, clothing, surgery, appearance, grooming, looking good and feeling good, even though I disappoint myself ten out of ten times.
  5. Health. Aches, pains, disease, questions, the unknown. Decline, and rate of decline. Repair, and rate of rehabilitation. Memory.  
  6. Aging. Changes, transitions, housing, nourishment, who is in and who is out of my social circles.
  7. The mysterious nature of God and faith. “It’s mysterious for a reason!” I tell myself.  
  8. Unhealthy thoughts about sex. Objectification. Violence. Exploitation. Boundaries. Inuendo. Identity. Attraction. Disgust.
  9. Politics that are unbending, not listening, offensive, aggressive, that don’t square themselves with the Gospel. 
  10. The human manipulations of the Church, the Body of Christ. Denominations. General Conference. Schism. Unification. Appointments. Power. Authority.

This is my list.

I encourage you, dearly beloved,

To put pen to paper and make your own list.

What are your distractions

That keep you from the better part

The one thing

That Jesus is talking about?

Not the good thing,

But the right thing,

The Word and will of God?


“Get in the Ditch”

Luke 10:25-37

July 10, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “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.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”


Once upon a time

A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out.

Many people came by:

  • A subjective person came along and said, “I feel for you down there.”
  • An objective person came along and said, “It’s logical that someone would fall down there.”
  • A Pharisee said, “Only bad people fall into a pit.”
  • A mathematician calculated how he fell into the pit.
  • A news reporter wanted an exclusive story on his pit.
  • A fundamentalist said, “You deserve your pit.”
  • An IRS man asked if he was paying taxes on the pit.
  • A self-pitying person said, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit.”
  • A charismatic said, “Just confess that you’re not in a pit.”
  • An optimist said, “Things could be worse.”
  • A pessimist said, “Things will get worse.”
  • A Methodist preacher ran home to look up how many times the word “pit” is found in the bible.
  • A doctor told the man to make an appointment with his office next week so he could take a look at his wounds.
  • A lawyer offered his services to make the responsible parties pay.
  • His children asked him if this meant that their trip to the mall was canceled.
  • His father told him, “You’ve made your bed, now sleep in it.”
  • Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit!

(taken from Homiletics, ne David Gibbs, ex Barbara Johnson in Ecunet)

We have been taught over the centuries

that the Parable of the Good Samaritan

is a story about a Samaritan who does a good deed for a hapless victim,

and, therefore,

disciples of Jesus should go and do likewise.

I mean, isn’t this the final word of Jesus?

“Go and do likewise”

‘See this, do that.’

That’s a little too predictable and one dimensional, in my opinion.

What if this story had been given a different title, such as,

the Parable of a Man Beat to a Pulp and Tossed in a Ditch?

What if there’s more here than meets the eye?

The Gospel today challenges us

To dig deeper than the moral outer crust of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

A closer look at this exchange between the lawyer and Jesus may reveal

more grace than works,

more love than obligation,

more God and less me.

Let’s consider the possibilities …

Every good script needs a cast of characters.

Jesus gives us some good ones.

First, there is a lawyer who seeks Jesus out to ask him the question:

“what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

On its face this may appear to be an innocent question.

Hidden behind the curtain, however,

is the possible motive that the un-named lawyer wants to trap Jesus

by eliciting a self-incriminating confession

that Jesus was breaking one or more of the 613 laws of Judaism.

Trap Jesus into confessing.

Then kill him before he reaches Jerusalem and the Passover crowds.

This was a simple trap,

because the question of eternal life

was hotly debated between competing Rabbinical schools of the day.

Regardless of how Jesus answers,

he’d be wrong and held for contempt

by either the scribes and lawyers, on the one hand,

or the priests and Sadducees, on the other.

Conservatives vs Liberals, so to speak.

The wisdom of Jesus is apparent

when he avoids a direct answer

and follows with a safe question:

“What is written in the law? What do you read there?”

Rabbinical tradition is to learn by asking questions and listening for the response.

The lawyer is all too eager to show off his knowledge

– who knew? a lawyer with an ego! –

He combines two separate passages of law

to love God

and love neighbor.

“Do this and you will live,” Jesus responds.

Great answer for the lawman,

“Follow the law, and you will live.”

Sheriff Baxter would shout out with an “Amen”!

The frustrated lawyer won’t give up.

“Wanting to justify himself,” he begins.

In other words, he wants Jesus to hang himself no matter what.

“And who is my neighbor?”

Which leads us to the

Second lens through which we can view this fictional parable,

Created and told by Jesus himself: A review of the cast of characters.

We start with the victim.

He is silent.

He took a risk and it didn’t turn out well.

He travels a dangerous road.

He is beat to a pulp and discarded like trash, kicked to the curb.

This man hangs on a thread between the here, and the hereafter.

Next are the robbers.

Martin Luther King, Jr described their philosophy of life:

“What’s yours is mine.”

They are thieves, felons, predators

in the worst sense of the word.

They devised schemes to boost their profits

and improve their efficiency.

They remind me of carjackers and gang bangers today.

Then, there is the Priest and Levite.

MLK’s philosophy of life:

“What’s mine is mine.”

These are the elite, the pampered;

contemporaries of the lawyer.

The Priest was preoccupied on his rotation at the Temple.

The Levite was preoccupied on keeping himself clean according to Jewish cleanliness law.

God forbid he touch a corpse.

Both were foolish to travel alone,

perhaps inflated with the false sense of security,

“it could never happen to me.”

The innkeeper, though interesting, is not central to the parable,

other than to say he extends credit to his best and most frequent customers.

Which brings us to the Samaritan.

MLK described his philosophy as

“What’s mine is yours.”

He came prepared

– a first aid kit stocked with oil, wine, and bandages.

He was willing to place himself in danger to help another

– even at personal risk –

– even if the other person was a different race, color, or belief –

– even if the likelihood of being repaid was zero.

He was a frequent traveler with good credit.

He was a mixed-race Samaritan

who would have been despised

by the blue-blood Jewish lawyer.

Jesus knows how to weave a good tale.

On the surface

Jesus responds to the question of

“What must I DO to inherit eternal life?”

One cannot DO discipleship.

We are called to BE disciples.

The distinction is important.

Discipleship isn’t a cookbook approach to life.

Despite popular belief

following Jesus isn’t about perfectly following the law,

or perfectly following the example of Jesus, for that matter.

Being a disciple of Christ isn’t about obtaining merit badges through life

of good deeds, trophies for the mantle, or plaques for good citizenship.

There is no book of list or general ledger for each person that details

“Naughty” and “Nice”

where the Lord, completes a final tally in the great beyond

to determine each person’s eternal destination.

Such lists might be known to Santa Claus but they are entirely outside the grace of the Gospel and

out of character for Jesus.

Salvation by works alone does not square itself with God’s revealed salvation history.

Individuals whose spiritual journey never leads them past the moral crust

of Christianity

are absolutely crushed and devastated when they can’t

live up to their own expectations.

After all, we all have feet of clay.

On the top level of this multi-level parable,

Jesus makes the point

that to be people of God

– to be his disciples –

is to be person who LOVES:

One doesn’t do love.

One can be, however, in love with God and neighbor.

Martin Luther got this right:

He knew that no works can avail for salvation.

Only Christ’s righteousness,

as described by the Apostle Paul throughout his Epistles,

– grace through faith –

Only by the grace of Jesus Christ are we saved into eternal life.

We can do nothing to earn it.

As a result of God’s grace

We are called to LOVE God

and LOVE our neighbors as ourselves.

LOVE isn’t a passive spectator sport.

Being disciples of Christ means

we become immersed in the LOVE of God and LOVE of neighbor.

Our hearts are warmed with the love of God when we gather for praise and worship.

We become the love of God when we reach out in compassion to our neighbors in need,

especially, the last, the least, the lost, the beat up and left-for-dead.

If we become the love of God,

It is impossible to pass by the other side.

We can’t leave someone on the road left for dead.

God’s love propels us to act instinctively;

to patch up and take the helpless victim to the hospital,

to tend to his care and make certain all bills are paid.

(That’s how you spell UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE)

“Go and do likewise,” Jesus tells the Lawyer.

“Go and do likewise,” Jesus tells you and me today.

I teased earlier that there is more here than meets the eye.

Indeed, Jesus has embedded a jewel prime for our picking

for those who will stop and search a third step further.


being the good Christians we like to think we are,

have for centuries listened to this Parable of the Good Samaritan

and identified ourselves with the Samaritan.

Of course,

we would be the virtuous one

who goes out of our way

to act compassionately

to assist this hapless victim,

thus demonstrating the pure love of God,

wouldn’t we?

Before we break our arms giving ourselves a self-congratulatory pat on the back, consider this:

What if we get off the road and get into the ditch?

That is,

what if we identify ourselves

with the broken, bloodied victim in today’s parable?

Jesus did.

The victim beat to a pulp didn’t say a word; neither did Jesus.

He was led down the Via Dolorosa, much like the beat-up man traveled the road to Jericho.

Jesus was beaten, bloodied, and crucified on a cross.

He gave his life completely for our behalf.

Jesus more than teetered between life and death in the ICU,

Jesus became dead.

The man headed for Jericho was left for dead.

Likewise, let’s reconsider the Samaritan.

He empties himself,

sacrifices himself,

puts in play everything,

– chips all in –

– even life itself –

on behalf of this unknown victim in a ditch.

Like Jesus,

the Samaritan dies to self

that others might live.

If we get off the road and into the ditch this morning

it means that we are prepared to make ourselves dead.

Don’t be so startled.

Despite the futility of attempting to delay it for as long as possible,

each of us end up dead to this world,

sooner, or later.

To die to this world is to hang on the cross with Jesus.

As in baptism,

So too in death,

Does our path converge with Jesus.

To die to this world is to expend all our riches

give up all our status, hubris, and ego.

To die to the self

that others might live?

That, my beloved, is where love truly begins.

When we get off the road and get into the ditch

we can begin to see that this isn’t only a parable about a moral imperative

or a command to love God and neighbor;

this is also a parable about the grace of God.

When you’re on life support laying in the ditch of life,

there is not one thing you can do to inherit eternal life.

What needed done,

has already been done

on the cross of Calvary.

God so loves you and this world

that He sent His only Son,

not to condemn the world for our multiple moral shipwrecks and repeated failures,

but to save the world,

you and me,

into everlasting life.

An ocean of grace awaits us

when we get ourselves off the road

and into the ditch.

So, today, three things,

from simplest to most difficult:

1. Take the right and moral road when confronted with those in need.

Christians: if you see need,

meet it; and do so, in the name of Jesus Christ.

2. Love; love God and love your neighbors.

Be the love of God in this world.

God’s love provides all the passion any of us need.

3. Lastly, claim the grace already given you,

paid for by the cross on which Jesus died.

God loves you,

and so do I.