“Be Like the Samaritans”
Pentecost 24, Year A – Baptism Service
A sermon by Pastor Jane Jeuland
Today we are so blessed to welcome Claire into the body of Christ through the sacrament of Holy Baptism.
We define sacraments in the Episcopal Church as “an outward sign of an inward and spiritual grace.”
As such, the sacrament of baptism is an outward sign and recognition of what God is already doing in Claire’s life.
When I meet with parents to prepare for this sacrament I usually ask them to identify a question in the baptismal covenant that stands out to them and explain why that question in particular is meaningful to them.
Claire’s parents, Vinnie and Amanda, pointed to the last two questions:
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
They explained that they strive to serve others, to treat others with kindness and love, to respect and assist anyone who is in need.
As they spoke about their beliefs and values, they so reflected the story of the Good Samaritan that I sought permission from the Bishop to replace our assigned reading with the story of the Good Samaritan.
A lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to get into heaven and Jesus responds with the story of the Good Samaritan.
A man leaves work really late after a really long day at work and walks through a dark, isolated street toward his car in the parking lot when suddenly a gang comes up to the man with guns pointed at him demanding that the man give them his wallet, all his money, his phone, and car keys. The man gives them everything and they strip him of his expensive coat, dress shoes, and his brand new Armani suit. As they take everything from him, they kick him and leave him collapsed in the rain, and drive off with his car.
Stripped of all the nice things that identify him a wealthy CEO, he now looks more like a homeless man who has been on the street for years.
He passes out on the street and as the sun rises, the streets begin to fill up with one person at a time. The man begins to wake and looks for someone to help him. First a priest rushes past the man. The priest is running to his car because he is a little late to lead a sunrise weekday service of Holy Eucharist. His whole congregation is waiting for him. The altar guild has set everything up. People are waiting for him and stopping for this man would make him very late, so when he sees the man ahead of him, he decides to cross the street to avoid going anywhere near the man.
Half an hour later, a very wealthy church leader walks by and sees the man. He is scared the man will beg for money and he has already resolved never to give anything to the homeless because he knows how many of them spend money on drugs, so he does everything he can to avoid the man. He pretends like he doesn’t see him, checks his phone, and crosses the street just like the priest had just done.
Then a Samaritan comes upon the man. The Samaritan is late for work. He counts on his minimum wage job at Dunkin’ to provide for his family of five. He also works as an u\Uber driver on nights and weekends so he ends put sleeping about 6 hours a night and rarely sees his kids. He missed his son’s first day of kindergarten and his daughter’s soccer championship where she made the winning goal. He misses every bedtime and morning routine. His boss at the Dunkin’ gave him a written warning last week because he was late after the bus he takes to work broke down and he had to walk three miles.
On this early morning, the Samaritan gets off the bus and as he starts walking he sees the naked man on the street, lying bruised, cold, and alone. Even though being late again to work would risk his job and his most stable source of income for his family, the Samaritan cannot help but approach the man, squat down and ask him how he is doing.
The man sees him the Samaritan with his Dunkin’ visor on and tears well up in his eyes. He never would have associated this man. As a wealthy, powerful man he never made time for such lowly people who are there to serve him his coffee every morning. But now this lowly Samaritan bends down to check on him the man is able to whisper, “Please help me. I was attacked.”
The Samaritan immediately gets on his phone to call an ambulance and sits down next to the man while they wait for the paramedics. He pulls off his own coat and covers the man with it knowing that his only coat would be blood stained as a result. He helps the man sit up a little and helps him take some sips water from a water bottle he had in his bag.
The ambulance comes and they assume the Samaritan knows the man so they invite him to ride in the ambulance with the man which he gladly does. He wants to make sure the man is okay.
The Samaritan spends the whole day in the emergency room and spends all his money in the hospital cafeteria on food for the man.
After Jesus tells this parable, he asks the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the gang?’ The lawyer answers, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus then says, “If you want to get into heaven be like the Samaritan,” the one who is cast out by society and yet never casts anyone else out, the one whom society judges and yet never judges others, the one whom others call unworthy and yet sees worthiness in all those around him.
Jesus says, be like that person.
Amanda and Vinnie try to live their lives like this Samaritan. They try to help those in need around them. They try to follow Jesus’ teachings to love their neighbors and respect the dignity of every person and this is what they will impart to their daughter, it is what their Godparents are charged with teaching Claire and is what we as her church community are called to exemplify for Claire.
So as we all join in celebrating God’s work in Claire’s life and as we reaffirm our faith with the baptismal covenant, let us all follow Christ’s teaching to love one another and serve those in need, let us all seek to be like the Samaritan, who without judgement or condemnation helps those in need.
We can give food to the food pantry, donate our coats, serve at a soup kitchen on thanksgiving and in the off season. Offer prayer to someone who is going through a hard time. Be a shoulder to cry on for a friend. Find a way to compliment the kid who is the least popular in your class. Thank a teacher or parent who is working hard to help you. Rock your baby to sleep as they scream through the night. Say thank you to a veteran, fireman, paramedic, social justice advocate, or police officer. Find something nice to say to the grocery clerk, your mail person, or a neighbor on your street.
Do not cross the street like the priest of the wealthy church leader, instead be like the Samaritans and bend down to see and listen to the needs of those around you. Once you open your eyes to the needs that are all around you, you will find big and small ways to make a major difference in someone’s life just like the Samaritan.
You will find ways to seek and serve Christ in all people.