“Serve the Lord with Gladness”
A sermon by Lay Preacher Ginnie Glassman
The Good Samaritan. How many times have we heard this story? Even people who are not familiar with the Bible know it and what the term means. It means someone who does a good deed, right? … Maybe there is more to it. Let’s look at it.
I just finished mentoring a group of new lay preachers at the end of June. Their final assignment was to prepare a sermon on the Gospel for today: the Good Samaritan. By the end of the classes, I had heard nine excellent sermons from various perspectives: one looked at the story from the lawyer’s point of view, one from the innkeeper’s, several from their own experiences. After hearing all the sermons, I wondered aloud if anyone has ever looked at the story from the traveler’s point of view. Imagine all that the traveler went through. Can you imagine him telling you his version of the story?
My name is Josh. I am an accounting clerk at a firm in downtown Bridgeport. Last week, I was walking down the street to get some lunch. Suddenly, three guys grabbed me from behind, beat me up pretty bad, took my wallet, my cell phone, and even my shoes. Then they ran off leaving me on the sidewalk, half conscious. Since it was lunchtime, I hoped someone would come by to help me.
I saw a priest walking on the next block. I tried to call out but all I could do was moan. He looked up with his cell phone to his ear. He saw me. I know he did, so I thought for sure he would come and help me but he crossed over to the other side of the road, avoiding me. I heard him say into his phone, “I’ll meet you at the church in ten minutes to talk about the food pantry.” The food pantry! What about me? I was right in front of him! Couldn’t he stop his work to help me? Couldn’t he at least use his phone to call an ambulance?
As I grew more desperate and started to shiver, I noticed a woman with a child coming my way. I thought a mother would stop. She surely would help me, so I tried to raise my arm. She looked right at me in disgust. Her child noticed me and said something to her. I heard her reply “Oh, he is probably on drugs. Hurry up, we are late for your doctor’s appointment.” She crossed to the other side and then rushed on.
As I was starting to slip in and out of consciousness, a Muslim man approached me saying, “Brother, you must be hurting!” I heard him call 911, but then I blacked out.
When I came to, he was standing over me. I was in a warm bed, with my wounds cleaned and bandaged, and a food tray next to me. After a few minutes, I realized I was in a hospital. He said he had to leave for a bit. A nurse came by a little later. She told me that I had been unconscious for two days and that this stranger had stayed with me the whole time. He wanted to make sure I would pull through. Then to my surprise she told me he had gone to Accounting and told them that he would pay for all of my medical bills and co-pays. This is someone I probably would never have met or spoken to. I don’t really cross paths with a lot of black Muslim men in my life, but when I was in my greatest moment of need, he was the one who saved my life. He sat with me and cared about me. He even helped me pay for my hospital stay. He truly cared and wasn’t looking for anything from me in return. I am beyond grateful for his generosity but even more for his deep mercy.
Now, we use the term “Good Samaritan” to describe anyone who does something nice for someone else, which is all well and good. But the Good Samaritan in the parable went way above and beyond to care for the traveler. He invested a good deal of his own time and money to care for the injured man. To truly be a Good Samaritan involves an investment of time, resources and self.
In listening to the recent news following the horrific events in Highland Park this past Independence Day, I heard some wonderful stories of real Good Samaritans.
There was the Ring couple. A woman had found 18 month old Aiden McCarthy alone. Both his parents had been killed in the attacks. His father, Kevin McCarthy, had been shielding his son with his own body when he died. The woman asked two strangers, Greg and Dana Ring, who were standing by, to take the child to the police. The Rings went to the police to report the lost child. The police said they could not care for the unidentified little boy with no known relatives. They asked if the Rings could care for him. They answered “Of course” and took him to their own home. They cared for him while sending his picture out on social media and begging for someone to identify him. His grandparents were finally found. The Rings cared for Aiden until they could come for him.
Karen Britten, a 64 year old retired nurse, who lived near the parade route, took 30 adults and kids into her home during the four hour lockdown. She made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for everyone and gave Beanie Babies to frightened people. She also played a movie and gave out Pirate Booty to help calm the kids.
Sharon Narrod and Carol Miller, who also live near the parade route, took 15 people each into their homes. They made popcorn and cut up grapes for the children during the lockdown.
These women had compassion for strangers who were hurting and in shock. They took them into their own homes, fed and comforted them, shared what they had and kept them safe. Sharon Narrod commented “When they came, they were strangers. When they left, we got hugs.”
I remember reading a story awhile ago about a theology professor who was giving his final exam. He warned his students that they needed to be there by 4 pm. At that time he would lock the door and no one would be admitted. The exam would be on the Good Samaritan. The day of the exam, the students rushed over to make sure they were on time. Meanwhile, in the hallway outside the classroom, a man was lying on the floor in obvious pain. Most of the students rushed into the exam room but two of them stopped to help the man in the hall. At 4 pm, the professor locked the door. He then announced to the class that everyone had failed the exam except the two that had stopped to help. The two who stopped to help truly understood the message of the Good Samaritan.
I wonder if I would have passed that exam? Would I have stopped to help the man in the hall when I needed to get to an exam? Would I stop to help someone in need or would I be too afraid? Would I worry about the food pantry meeting at church with the priest that I was running to? Would self-interest keep me from helping? Or maybe would I just be too distracted to even notice the people around me who needed my help?
When the pandemic started, my husband and I began walking everyday in our neighborhood. We enjoyed meeting people along the way. One day my husband commented that we were “meeting neighbors we didn’t know we had”.
Jesus tells us that everyone is our neighbor. We need to look up and notice all of the neighbors we have around us. Sometimes, we need to put aside our own schedules and business to see the people in front of us. We need to step past fear to love and care for those around us. We need to put ourselves out there for people who are in need of caring and comfort to truly live the Gospel.
What would you need to do to pass this professor’s exam? Do you need to make space and time for chance encounters with neighbors and strangers? Do you need to cultivate compassion for people who are different from you, people you might initially fear? Do you need to practice going above and beyond? What do you need to do now so that when you are faced with someone in grave need of your help, you will stop and take the time to care? How can you prepare yourself for what God will put in front of you? How can you prepare yourself to be a Good Samaritan?
Let us pray today’s collect:
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 forever.
Collect: 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
Deuteronomy 30:9-14 Moses said to the people of Israel, “The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. “Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”
1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you; *
let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
2 Let none who look to you be put to shame; * let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.
3 Show me your ways, O Lord, * and teach me your paths.
4 Lead me in your truth and teach me, *
for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.
5 Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love,* for they are from everlasting.
6 Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
remember me according to your love and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.
7 Gracious and upright is the Lord; * therefore he teaches sinners in his way.
8 He guides the humble in doing right * and teaches his way to the lowly.
9 All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness * to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Colossians 1:1-14 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
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.”