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Between Point A and Point B

Jul 14, 2019

Passage: Luke 10:25-37

Preacher: The Reverend Andrew Van Kirk

Detail:

The road from Jerusalem down to Jericho is a lonely, dusty, desolate path. Many of you have seen picture of it, actually. There’s a picture from our pilgrimage to the Holy Land last fall of Deacon Pam and I leading Eucharist. In it I’m looking particularly holy (if I do say so myself :), Pam is preparing the table to celebrate Holy Communion and behind us there are only brown, stark, light brown hills, as far as the eye can see. Behind us, you see, is the ancient road from Jerusalem to Jericho.

If you don’t know what picture I’m talking about, there’s a framed print of it in the gallery between the doors of Michie Hall. Take a look at it; you can see the road from Jerusalem to Jericho after the service. And though it made for a pretty photo backdrop at sunrise, it’s really hot, dusty, and really rather boring.

This barren, boring road through the wilderness is the setting for the parable of the Good Samaritan, the one we just heard read from the gospel of Luke. And though the terrain may be surprisingly stark, the road itself was just an everyday path between Jerusalem, the central city of Jewish religious and national life, and Jericho, the oldest continuously inhabited city on planet Earth. Nobody in this story was having some grand adventure, they were just trying to get from point A — where stood the Temple and Mount Zion — to point B — fertile agricultural land near the Jordan river in the rift valley. And to do that, they had to walk the desolate path in between.

Do you have to travel any desolate paths in your life just to get from point A to point B? Maybe down the highway at rush hour? Anyone? Or maybe you’re just trying to travel from the beginning of a Tuesday to the end of it, and the stuff in between — errands, phone calls, the grocery store, a job you don’t like — maybe that stuff feels desolate? Not every vista in life fills us with awe and wonder. Often enough the view is rather blah.

Jesus knows this. And that’s why — as was the case for the Good Samaritan — some of the greatest adventures to be had serving the Lord present themselves in some barren, boring places and at times when we aren’t expecting to do any great deed for God. Some of the greatest opportunities to serve the Lord happen between point A and point B.

Everyone in Jesus parable is just trying to mind their own business and get from point A to point B. It’s not like the Good Samaritan had set out on some mission trip.

Speaking of mission trips, this past February I got to go on the mission trip to Belize to work with our partner churches and schools down there. Part our work was to do Christian education with the kids at Christ the King Anglican School in Dangriga, and we chose this parable, the parable of the Good Samaritan as our key scripture.

We spent all this time preparing thinking about this parable. We designed crafts; wrote curriculum. We not only had a puppet show, we had a puppet stage! And even our daily devotionals and prayers as a team were based around the Good Samaritan and the themes of this parable.

With all that, it was easy to begin to read this story as a parable about what we were trying to do. We were foreigners, serving those not like us, just as the Good Samaritan was a foreigner. We were spending our own denarii — well, dollars — on the needs, just like the Good Samaritan spent his own denarii to take care of the traveler. Even the road from the capital of Belize down to where we worked and stayed was downhill, just like the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and about the same distance. (It was, however, significantly more green).

We got to Christ the King school the first day; got out the puppet show; made the kids laugh and cheer; and felt pretty good, bringing the Good Samaritan to Belize.

But of course, really, we were the travelers in our story, not in the sense that we got beaten or robbed, but in the sense that (a) we were traveling and (b) it was the Belizians doing the most of the Samaritaning to us. They fed us meals everyday. They took off from their day jobs to help us with construction projects. Their priest, fresh off an appendectomy, welcomed us into her home and from her couch offered the sort of pastoral care that demands hope. A whole church full of our Anglican brothers and sisters looked kindly at me and smiled when I asked them as part of a sermon illustration, “Do you all have frogs? Do you know what frogs are?” Yes. It’s a jungle in the Caribbean. They have frogs. Not my finest homiletical moment.

The thing I want you to see here is that you can’t set off to go be the Good Samaritan; no matter how inspired you leave here, you can’t plan to go out there and spend an afternoon Samaritaning. It’s not something you set aside a block of time to do. You can’t sign up to Samaritan.

The Samaritan’s goodness is only revealed by how he responds in an extraordinary moment of his ordinary life. The goodness, Godliness, the living out of the Lord’s commandments is revealed when the Samaritan comes across that beaten, bloody, half-dead man on the side of the road and he could be interrupted out of his daily life to show love. He could be bothered to give a damn.

The priest and the Levite in Jesus’ parable, they just couldn’t be bothered. They had busy lives, no time to be interrupted by the love of a neighbor. They didn’t hate the beaten traveler, they didn’t mistreat him — they didn’t do anything actively bad.

In fact, I can look back on my life and think about times I’ve been the priest and Levite. Given my own experience, I think it’s reasonable to assume they even felt sorry for they guy. ‘What a shame, I’m really sorry.”

But as my four year old loves to explain, “Sorry doesn’t help.”

That’s the thing — sorry doesn’t help. Sorry leaves the homeless on the street, the bodies floating in the Rio Grande, the hungry with rumbling stomachs, the elderly alone. Sorry leaves our neighbors objects of our guilt, but not objects of our love.

Let us not ever be a church that’s content with “sorry” as we pass by on the other side of the road. Let us look for opportunities in our daily life where we have the chance to interrupt our routine to show love. Between point A and point B, love your neighbor.

Rather than have my final story from Belize be the one about the time I asked them if they had any frogs, I want to end with a story where someone in our group, our fearless leader Cyndi Gore, got this Good Samaritan thing right. Our daily routine on the mission trip involved shuttling to and from our work sites at the beginning and end of the day. One day — after lots, and lots of Good Samaritan lessons — the big white 14 passenger van headed home, full of 12 hot, tired, sweaty Americans looking forward to a warm shower and cold drink. They just had to get from point A to point B.

Cyndi was driving. As as she got to the roundabout to head back towards our lodging, she stopped. Just held her foot on the brake. The team members in the back of the van, not clear what was going on, wondered what the holdup was.

Well there was a very old lady, struggling with what looked to be a heavy bag, very slowly making her way along the sidewalk next to the van; it was hot, the afternoon sun was burning bright, and this poor woman didn’t seem to have immediate destination. After a long pause and a little prayer, Cyndi opened the door of the van and motioned for her to get in. The whole team would take a little detour to give this elderly woman a ride.

She climbed in, the team members helping her with her bag. As they asked her where to drive to, it became clear she didn’t know where she was going. So they drove around in circles for a little while, trying to figure it out with hand signals.

Eventually Cyndi stopped the van and, just like the woman who swallowed the frog to catch the fly, she commandeered another Belizian woman, a younger one, to get in and help figure out where she needed to drive the old woman. So the big white van that had swallowed the old woman now swallowed the young woman. Now there were 2 Belizians, 12 Americans — and, as it turns out, still no clear sense of where to go. The young woman actually knew the older woman, but the young woman and older woman disagreed on where exactly the older woman lived.

Eventually, after about 15 minutes of driving around, the van ended up back at the very same roundabout where they picked the old lady to begin with, and they let the old lady out, a little delayed, no worse for the wear, and they pointed her in a different direction than she had been headed when Cyndi had picked her up, the direction the young woman was convinced was home. And since we saw her the next day, I’m pretty sure she made it.

So, in terms of execution — not a perfect 10. But in terms of the principle, Cyndi and the team get full credit. That afternoon they were just trying to get from point A to point B, from the work site to a shower and cold drink, and along the way an opportunity to love their neighbor, to make a neighbor by loving a person, presented itself. And they let themselves get interrupted to love. Cyndi didn’t stop at the roundabout, look at the old woman, and say, “Aww, that’s really sad. I feel sorry for her.” She said, “Hey, get in, I’ll help you.” And that’s pretty Good Samaritaning.

You’ve got lots of every day journeys to make this week. Between point A and point B, love your neighbor. Amen.