Sunday, July 11, 2010

“Being in the Ditch"

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."

A Message from the Pastor (representing the man in the ditch)
I must admit that I used poor judgment. When traveling, one needs to go with a group and not at night. I knew that.

I’m a merchant. I deal in fine cloth, ointments, perfumes, and other items as incense. I sell those expensive items that people dearly love. I have a booth at the market in Jerusalem. As I was plying my trade, a person from Jericho told me about the situation there. I realized that, if I travelled to Jericho, I could probably do very well. So, I closed my booth and began the trip. I didn’t bother to take time to find out when a caravan might be travelling there. I didn’t pay any attention to the time and left after noon. I was still travelling when it was dusk.

Along the way, I was accosted by a band of highway thieves, common everyday robbers. They not only took all my merchandise and money, which was the greater part of my wealth, but they also stripped me of all my clothes. Then they beat me with their fists, rods, and sticks. But that wasn’t all. As I lay in the ditchm they kicked me and continued to beat me with rods. I could feel my life slipping away. They left me for dead.

As I lay there, going in and out of a blackout, I cried out to God, “Why God? Why me? I love you. I am a highly religious person. I observe all your laws. Please send me someone who will rescue me. Please help me so that I won’t go down into the Pit.” As I lay there in the ditch, I sensed someone coming close to me. I looked up, and there was someone standing over me. It was a priest. I cried out to God, “O God, thank you, thank you. You sent one of your own. You sent a holy man.” However, as I reached up a hand for help, he shook his head. No, he couldn’t help me. If he touched me, he could not serve the people in the temple. He went the other way.

I again cried out to God. “What is more important God, your laws or mercy? What is more important, following the rules or caring about someone’s life? Oh God, I have obeyed all your rules. I have memorized the first five books of scripture. I read the Psalms and the Prophets. I obey the Sabbath. Help me, O God. I do not want to go down to Sheol. I will gladly serve you. Send someone to help me.”

As I came out of another blackout, I realized that there was another person standing over me. It was a Levite! I thanked God for sending me another holy man. I reached up with both hands, seeking help. He responded the same way as the priest.

I cried out one more time to God. “Please send me someone. I don’t care who it is. Just send me someone. My life is slipping away. I want to live.”

As I was lying there, getting weaker by the moment, I felt someone touching me. I opened my eyes. There was a man kneeling beside me. He was treating my wounds with oil and wine and bandaging them. He was also treating my bruises with ointment. I looked at him. “Oh my God,” I said, “He’s a Samaritan. I hate Samaritans. We don’t associate with Samaritans, we don’t talk to Samaritans, and we’ll go out of our way to avoid Samaritans. They don’t worship you the way we do. They don’t believe the way we do.” Then, he picked me up and put me on his animal. He walked the animal to an inn. I don’t know how long it took. He carried me into a room and gently laid me on the bed. Then, he stayed with me the rest of the day and night. He continued to dress my wounds, and he even fed me because I was so weak. He left the next day, and I found out later that he told the innkeeper that he would be back (and he did come back) and would pay whatever it was for any additional care the innkeeper gave me.

We talked a little when I was lucid. I asked him why he helped me. He said that it was simple: I needed help. He believed that God had sent him to do so.

Talking, as we did, I found out that he was not much different than me. He had the same understanding of God as I did. He desired to have a relationship with God. He had the same visions, dreams, and hope about life that I did. By the time he left, I considered him a friend and a neighbor – someone who was near me.

I found out some things about myself and about life. We will experience mercy and grace when we seek it and/or when we need it. When we are helpless and hopeless, we will let down our walls that we think protect ourselves from others and be open to the mercy and grace that others are willing to give.

I wanted to tell you this story for a couple of reasons. First of all, I became a Christian. I realized that to experience the grace and mercy of God, through Jesus and the cross, I needed to want what Jesus offered from the cross. I needed to be open, honest, and willing to accept the grace and mercy offered to me.

I also want to ask you some question. If you were in a ditch and a victim of Aids knelt to clean your wounds, would you consider her or him a friend? If you were in a ditch and an undocumented immigrant was willing to take care of you, would you allow him or her to provide you with mercy and grace? If you were in a ditch and a Muslim came to help by touching you, carrying you, and caring for you, would you consider him your neighbor?

I have heard a lot since becoming a Christian. I will always remember one of the comments said to us, “For God so loved the world . . . . . .”

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