Above: The Good Samaritan’s Inn
Image Source = Library of Congress
Compassion and Scandal
The Sunday Closest to July 13
Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
JULY 10, 2016
The Assigned Readings:
Amos 7:7-14 and Psalm 82
Deuteronomy 20:9-14 and Psalm 25:1-9
O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Some Related Posts:
Proper 10, Year A:
Proper 10, Year B:
Prayer of Praise and Adoration:
Prayer of Confession:
Prayer of Dedication:
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notoriously difficult due to its geography and the reality that robbers used it as site of frequent crimes. Did only fools travel it alone? If so, everyone except the inn keeper in the Parable of the Good Samaritan was foolish. Those who passed by the crime victim probably did so for more than one reason. Safety was a concern, for sometimes bandits preyed on compassionate responses. Other reasons for moving along included apathy and a concern for maintaining ritual purity. But the unlikely hero was a Samaritan–a heretic, a half-breed, and a marginalized person.
The scandal of the Parable of the Good Samaritan has at least two layers. Even the possibility of a Good Samaritan proved scandalous to many people originally. Unfortunately, the parable has become hackneyed for many modern Christians, so I propose pondering who our “Samaritans ” are then paraphrasing the story to restore its fully scandalous nature. The “Samaritan” should always be the most “other ” person one can name. So, for one hates Gypsies, the Samaritan might be a Gypsy. For a xenophobe the Samaritan might be an immigrant. For an ultra-orthodox person the Samaritan might be a the most relatively heretical individual. For someone with an especially strong political point of view the Samaritan might be a person from the opposite end of the spectrum. For a homophobe the Samaritan might be a homosexual. For a homosexual the Samaritan might be a homophobe. For an Orangeman the Samaritan might be a Roman Catholic. The more provocative the paraphrase, the more accurate it is.
Another layer of scandal in the parable is the lesson that sometimes respectable religious concerns and practices obstruct active compassion. I am convinced that most religious people seek to obey the divine will as they understand it. But too often many of us do not love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Too often we make excuses for those who exploit the weak and the vulnerable, including widows, orphans, and the poor. Too often we seek God’s ways and follow other paths. Too often we therefore sow the seeds not only of the destruction of others but also of ourselves. Yet, as Deuteronomy 30:9-14 reminds us, the law of God is very near us–inside us, in fact. Too often we look for this law in the wrong places.
This law is as simple and difficult as following our Lord and Savior’s instruction:
Go, and do the same yourself.
–Luke 10:37b, The New Jerusalem Bible
In 2001 or 2002 I listened one evening to a public radio program about Hanukkah. My memory of one story from that program is partial, but the summary of that tale remains with me. In ancient times there was a rabbi who lacked most of what he needed to observe Hanukkah properly. He was an especially pious yet closed-minded man at the beginning of the story. At the end, however, he was pious and open-minded, for a succession of especially unlikely outsiders provided all that he needed. A Greek wrestler even gave the necessary oil. That tale, a wonderful piece of Jewish wisdom, is consistent with the readings for this Sunday. The “other” might be a means of grace, and neighborliness crosses a variety of human-created barriers.
Go, and do the same yourself.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST