The Good Samaritan

For the purpose of this sermon, let us start in humility. We are not the Good Samaritan. We are the one in the ditch.

I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been feeling the weight of the world. A few of you have asked if I’m doing all right, especially this past fall. I did not get the grant I was going for, and logically I knew it was a long shot. But feelings aren’t logical. The heart follows its own internal logic that the brain doesn’t know anything about. So I was down about that. Then we had 6 funerals in 5 weeks. These were doozies. I was in deep grief and mourning for these saints. I still am. My soul was beaten and broken and left in a ditch.

Things are heavy. The state of the nation. The idiots on parade treating ignorance as a virtue. I find myself more and more angry, impatient, and frustrated. Frustrated that I’m an expert in a dying field, and folks just pass on by.

But the last few Sundays have really lifted my spirit out of the ditch. Y’all mended something in me that was torn. One specific instance really did the job for me. I’ll get to that, but first… The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Professor AJ Levine does more with this parable in a six-minute YouTube video than I’m going to do with it in twice the time. I invite you to search that out.[1] AJ states that “Parables provoke and indict us.”

This whole thing starts with a lawyer asking, “Who is my neighbor?” I used to read this guy with snark because… lawyers. Instead, AJ states that this is a good legal question. Neighbors are those who have the same rights and responsibilities as we do. We as citizens of the US have, theoretically, the same rights as everyone else in our country. We can vote in elections and pay taxes to this city, state, and nation. Our friends in Canada are legally not our neighbors. They have a different set of rights and responsibilities legally than we do. They don’t vote in our elections, and they pay taxes to other cities, provinces, and another nation. Provinces… not even states. Weird.

The lawyer can be read as just seeking legal clarity, but Jesus isn’t interested in that. He’s interested in love. And the heart follows its own internal logic that the brain doesn’t know anything about. Jesus hurls this parable at the lawyer who is about to be provoked and indicted. As are we.

Once upon a time, a man was on the Jericho Road. He was attacked, beaten, and left for dead. Then a Priest and a Levite pass by. This is a triplet. We talked about those last Sunday, this is a rabbinic trick and a good public speaking trick. Since we have the two names, we should be able to come up with the third. For example: red, white and… Blue. Larry, Curly… Moe. Father, Son… Holy Ghost.

This triplet should go Priest (top of religious life at the temple in Jerusalem), a Levite (sons of Levi, the head of religious life in Jewish culture) and the third should be an Israelite (general Jewish person). The triplet in the First century Jewish mind should go: Priest, Levite, Israelite. But Jesus does the unthinkable. He swaps out Israelite for Samaritan.

This would be like saying: Red, white, and orange. Larry, Curly, Hitler. And Father, Son, Satan. Samaritans were sorta Jewish but not really. They were the enemy. Like how the Steelers and Ravens are to the Browns, but like… religiously. Deep seeded hatred between these two because they have a similar religion and lifestyle, but two different temples. Enemies. At the end of the parable, Jesus asks, “And who was the neighbor to the man?” And the lawyer is so provoked and indicted that he can’t even say the name Samaritan. He says, “The one who showed him mercy.”

What Jesus is asking us is a two-fold question. Who is it that you think is your enemy? And can you fathom that they might be the one who saves you? Jesus is the only person in the New Testament who says to love our enemies and do good to those who harm you.

I am provoked and indicted here. I have a list of folks I don’t like. The Klansman. The Neo-Nazi. The religious fundamentalist who is hateful and makes my job way harder. People who text and drive. People who don’t use their turn signals. Those who exploit women and children and the elderly… sometimes in the name of God. The person who thinks saying “Jesus” when you stub your toe is taking the Lord’s name in vain but excluding and exploiting people isn’t. I could go on. The question remains: are these really my enemy? And could they save me?

I want to answer “No.” But I know Jesus, and he always turns my “no” into a “yes.” He’s always flipping my tables.

Two Sundays ago, we had someone asleep on the loveseat by the elevator. Dude was just passed out. He looked exhausted and unsheltered. He came to the right place. We are a sanctuary after all. I was initially tempted to treat him as an inconvenience… but this parable came to me. Maybe I’ll be the Samaritan and help this guy out of the ditch.

After services, I asked Ryan Bilikam to ride with me and get this guy to a hotel for the night. I’m so thankful he was there. Not because I was fearful of the guy, who was a big dude; but because I wanted a witness. Plus God put it on my heart to do nothing alone. So here we go as church, two are gathered to help the third as Christ would.

As we make our way down 18, the man starts talking about how he’s a celestial being, the first one spoken into creation, the reincarnation of his great-grandfather, for we all are reincarnations of our great-grandfathers, and he is to bring a message of peace across all the dimensions of existence. It was a wild story. He then talked about the end of the world. How we’ll be called children of the reeds for we will be sleeping in the reeds like Moses, and no one will be in houses.

Oh great… Now I’m annoyed. This is my enemy. One who is a doomsday prophet fundamentalist who is specially chosen by God to put us all right…. But I don’t follow the god who will make us “children of the reeds” and all homeless. Why can’t we get the good doomsday prophets?! Where are the ones who will say, “Hey, I took care of the carbon problem y’all had, should get you another 2,000 years or so.”

AND! Everyone homeless?! NO! We’re part of Operation Homes. We’re part of the Medina Interfaith Coalition for Affordable Housing or MICAH for short. I know Isaiah 65:21, “You shall build houses and live in them.” I follow the God where everyone is housed and has enough! That’s my God! That’s the God I find in the Bible. And since Isaiah’s Jesus’ favorite and most quoted prophet, I have myself thinking I’m the right one. He’s the ignorant one. I want to be like Oprah with houses, you get a home! You get a home! Everybody gets a home!!!

We put the man up for two nights at a hotel and make our way back to town. Ryan mentions how proud he is that he’s part of a church that doesn’t just preach it, we live it. We shared our hope that the man finds his way. Patrick Acurio also ran a pizza out to the man on Super Bowl Sunday, so that’s just epic. Y’all are the best, we have the best people.

That interaction really lifted me out of the ditch. This man I thought was my enemy. Who I was… am.. a little annoyed by… He needed help. And we helped him. Yet I was also in my own ditch. The ditch of worry that I’m not enough. The ditch of anxiety about the future of our church and of Christianity in general. I was in the ditch of the state of our nation and world with all its ills. Beaten, broken, and bleeding. And that man came and lifted me out of the ditch. Mended my soul.

Until we can see that our enemies might be the ones who save us, we miss the meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan. We are not the one stopping by, we’re the one in the ditch. And the one coming at us, who we think will kill us… is the very one who saves us and provides for our recovery.

Author David Brooks states that we’re facing isolation and meaninglessness in our society. Many combat this by joining a partisan tribe. It seems like a relationship but it’s not. It’s counterfeit community. Tribalist mentalities are based on mutual distrust, not mutual connection. It is always us versus them, friend or enemy, destroy or be destroyed. Anger is the prime emotion of these groups.[2] Can we see God in the person we think is our enemy? That’s the challenge and indictment of the Good Samaritan Parable. “Well pastor, I just don’t have enemies.” Well, that’s great for you, but I bet you do. And even if you truly mean it, our society has some enemies.

We’re in an election year, a time when political violence increases.[3] A few friends recently sent me some AI generated images of Trump and Biden fishing, having tea by the fire, or laughing while preparing a meal. That’s the world I would like to live in. It’s a damn shame we don’t. I wish we did. Don’t you? Can you see God in your neighbor who votes differently than you?

I was recently reminded that it was in 1974 when a woman still needed her husband’s signature on a credit card. Our society has not treated women well historically. A protracted suffrage movement that did not allow women to vote until 1920. The church has been complicit in this as well. The first people the Resurrected Christ appears to are women. Mary gives her testimony to the disciples, making her the first preacher of the resurrection ever. Yet many denominations won’t allow women in leadership. And given how many denominations seek to control women’s bodies and push legislation doing so, it would seem women are an enemy. Can we see God in women?

There’s going to be a new round of anti-trans bills in our state legislature. This was already tried back in 2016[4] and it didn’t work then, so it shouldn’t work now. Homophobia is in our society as we’re constantly reminding LGBTQ+ folk that they are less than. Here is the Gay Agenda: equal rights under the law until a natural death happens. Just like straight folk. All the rights I share with Kate: the right to marry, pay taxes jointly, give all my worldly treasures to Kate and the kids should something happen to me or to Sam and Eve if we both go at the same time… I want for my LGBTQ+ family and friends and children of this church. Yet there’s so much hate out there. Can we see God in LGBTQ+ folk?

The man that pulled me out of the ditch… the man who was sleeping on our love seat. He’s going through something. Some sort of mental health crisis that is beyond my ability and training to diagnosis. Yet he found sanctuary here. Shouldn’t everyone with mental health find that here? Yet our society stigmatizes those who admit they have a mental health diagnosis or struggle with their mental health. Can we see God in those with mental health issues?

We are all temporarily abled people. Yet we have stonewalled those with disabilities, building a society with So. Many. Stairs. Watching the Netflix documentary Crip Camp revealed to me how we’ve made an enemy of that entire community in how we design curbs, buildings, and bathrooms. This is a community that we will one day join. Can we see God in the disabled? If we answered yes to any of the above, then you see the importance of our church preaching politics, how we live together, than partisanship, one party over the other. How Open and Affirming, WISE, and Accessible to All sends the signal that when we say all, we mean all. Present company included.

Have we no compassion? We make enemies of these folk and more. We tear ourselves apart. We constantly ask ourselves, “What will happen to me when those people are included?” Jesus always seems to be asking, “What will happen to them if they’re not included?” And we know what happened to Jesus for asking that because there were bandits on the road. We are constantly building on sand. We think we’re the powerful one who will pull people out of the ditch. How many are we passing by? And to be honest… we’re not that character. We’re the one in the ditch. Can we see God in the approaching enemy?

Kierkegaard once wrote, “I am convinced that God is love; this thought has for me a primordial lyrical validity. When it is present to me I am unspeakably happy; when it is absent I long for it more intensely than the lover for the object of his love. But I do not believe; this courage I lack.”[5]

I preach love from this pulpit. It is a love in action. It is a love that has political and worldly consequences. It is a love that I myself lack. I return to you each and every week to try to work it out. To not just believe, but to do it. To commit my ways to God in Christ. Over and over again, I choose you, church. You’ve ruined me and broken me of my selfishness even though I return to it all too often. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for considering this parable with me. May we all choose to listen and be provoked and challenged by Jesus today. May we choose the love that Christ lived, taught, and died for; a love that is still well beyond us. A love that includes our enemies. For when we realize that decisions that benefit us as well as our enemies… well that doesn’t make us enemies… but neighbors that enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as one another.

May we say to Jesus… “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” Amen.

Works Cited

[1] And lucky you… it can be found here:

[2] David Brooks, The Second Mountain, The quest for a moral life. Page 299.

[3] Statistics for this can be found in this blog:

[4] The original blog I wrote during this time:

[5] David Brooks, The Second Mountain, The quest for a moral life. Page 243.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *