A priest, a Levite, a Samaritan. Three men had an open window of opportunity to be neighbor to the man who fell among thieves on the road to Jericho.
Which one is not like the other two? The priest and Levite are clergy, religious leaders, pillars of their community. The Samaritan is a nobody, an anonymous Joe on the road. A Samaritan, despised by Judaean and Galilean alike who considered Samaritans to be half-breeds and heretics. They wouldn’t greet him on the road or talk to him at the town well. He’s not like the other two. The genius of this parable is that it forces a religious Jew, a synagogue lawyer, an expert in the intricacies of Torah, to identify with this Samaritan. You can almost hear the resigned reluctance in the lawyer’s voice when he has to answer Jesus’ question – Who was neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?
In Nomine Iesu
Today’s Gospel of the sending of the seventy speaks to the church and her mission. It is a preliminary sending, the church’s “vicarage” so to speak, prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection before the big sending with the disciple-making mandate to baptize and teach the nations. This episode is told only in Luke, for whom Jesus’ mission to the Gentiles, the non-Israelites, was a very big deal. Jesus is more than the Messiah of Israel, He’s the Savior of the world, the promised seed of Abraham through whom “all nations” of the world would be blessed. His cross extends in all directions, to the ends of the earth, to all peoples everywhere, to those who have heard and those who have not heard, to everyone you meet and everyone you know.
In our Old Testament reading, we heard about a burned out and dejected prophet Elijah who seems to have lost his way in the face of threats from Queen Jezebel. In the Gospel, we hear about three potential disciples whom Jesus seems to brush off as He sets His face to Jerusalem and His Good Friday cross. We’re not prophets like Elijah. We’re not potential recruits for discipleship. We’re baptized believers in Christ. We have been given to follow Jesus. Our struggle is not with the Jezebel’s of this world, though it may seem to be that way at times. Rather, our struggle is deep within us, a spiritual struggle of Flesh and Spirit.
Jesus arrived by boat in the region of the Gerasenes, opposite Galilee. It was country. The goyim, the uncircumcized. Outsiders to Israel. He came to seek and to save the lost, even the lost outside the house Israel. Waiting on the shore to meet Him was homeless and naked man possessed by a “legion” of demons, living among the dead in the catacombs. The local authorities had seized him and bound him in shackles and chains, but he always managed to escape and flee back to the wilderness.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of Holy Spirit.
Today presents a bit of a challenge for me as a preacher. My challenge is that today is Holy Trinity Sunday, the Sunday that begins with the liturgical verse “Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity,” enough of a paradox to make your head explode. Three divine Persons, one divine Being. As Dorothy Sayers once wrote: The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, the whole thing incomprehensible, echoing somewhat sarcastically the ponderous Athanasian Creed we will attempt after I’m done preaching. Needless to say, Dorothy Sayers didn’t think much of the doctrine of the Trinity. She didn’t deny it, but she thought all this verbage was the invention of theologians with too much time on their hands, something that had little or nothing to do with the practical life of faith.
In Nomine Iesu
Thomas, Thomas, Thomas. Where were you, that Easter evening? Out with your twin brother? Hiding somewhere? We hear nothing from you since the upper room on the night Jesus was betrayed, and then you didn’t know where Jesus was going or the way. Before that, you pessimistically suggested that they all go with Jesus to Jerusalem to die, which was more correct than you imagined? But where were you on the evening of that first day of the week when the news came from the women and Peter and John that Jesus had risen? Why weren’t you in that upper room with your fellow disciples? Why did they have to go out and find you? Why didn’t you believe them when they said, “We have seen the Lord?” Continue reading
What surprises about the Easter gospel is all the surprise over Jesus’ resurrection. The women are surprised to find an open, empty tomb. The disciples are surprised, and don’t initially believe the news. It’s not as if Jesus hadn’t told them. At least three times in advance He said that He would be crucified and on the third day rise again. Three times. And still they didn’t believe it. The women were going to the tomb to finish a hasty burial not look for a risen Jesus. When they heard the news from the angel, “He is not here, He is risen,” they were surprised. When they saw the risen Lord, they were surprised. In John’s gospel, Mary doesn’t even recognize Him. She thinks He’s the gardener. She wants to know where the body of Jesus was. No one believed Him. Continue reading
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
John the Baptist first uttered this sentence pointing to Jesus as He emerged from His Jordan baptism. We sing it at in the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper. Look! There He is! Behold! God’s Lamb. In John’s Gospel, Lamb of God is an image that never gets fully developed. Jesus is the Light of the world, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd, the Door of the sheep, the Way, the Truth, the Resurrection, the Life, the true Vine. But we never hear about Lamb. Not until the end. And then it is hidden beneath the sound of all the Passover lambs in Jerusalem being slaughtered, their cries are the background for Jesus’ “it is finished.” Continue reading
“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. (Exodus 12:14)
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” – 1 Corinthians 11:26
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the Name of Jesus.
Karen and I were doing a morning walk up in Ventura, as we like to do, with cup of warm coffee in hand, looking out at the ocean for the surfers and perhaps a whale or dolphin sighting. We like to walk a foot and bike path that leads behind the fair grounds. There is a nice wetlands area where you can see egrets, cormorants, and herons. The path crosses a railroad track at some point, where we usually turn around. Off to one side of the track, there is a little patch, much like a tiny garden patch, with a cross on it. The day we were there, there were some birthday balloons tied to the cross and some flowers. There was a name of the cross. There were dates. He was a little over eighteen years old when he died. Continue reading
In Nomine Iesu
The raising of Lazarus from the dead is the seventh “sign” that Jesus does in the first half of John’s Gospel. After that, there are no more signs, save one. His own death and resurrection. It has been building up to this. Jesus changed water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. That was the first sign. He healed the official’s son at Capernaum with nothing but a word of promise. He healed a lame man at the Pool called Bethesda. He multiplied bread and fish for five thousand in the wilderness. He walked on the water at night to meet His disciples. He healed the eyes of the man born blind with spit, mud, and washing water.
And in today’s reading, He raises His good friend Lazarus from the dead. The seventh sign. After that, it’s on to Jerusalem and Holy Week for the rest of John’s Gospel. Jesus’ death and resurrection to which all the other signs were pointers. Continue reading