Seeking to Live & Love like Jesus

On July 22, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Seeking to Live & Love like Jesus Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Luke 10 Let us dwell together in peace, let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. 722 years before the common era, the Assyrian empire conquered Samaria […]

Seeking to Live & Love like Jesus
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Luke 10

Let us dwell together in peace, let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

722 years before the common era, the Assyrian empire conquered Samaria and relocated most of its Jewish inhabitants, but the Assyrians let some of the Jewish farmers stay in Samaria, and those farmers’ families started marrying settlers from Mesopotamia and Syria.

Later, when the Jewish people who had been scattered and exiled by various empires were allowed to return to their homeland, the Samaritans were still there, but in the time of separation, the Samaritans had been regarded by the exiles as renegades. They are not part of us, the returning exiles decided.

In the book Ezra, the Samaritans offer to help rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, but the heads of the Jewish families said, “Thanks but no thanks.”

Tensions between the groups got worse over the years. In the year 108 BCE, Jewish forces destroyed the Samaritan Temple.
A century later, some Samaritans desecrated the Jewish temple by scattering bones throughout the sanctuary.

Samaritans and Jews had separate holy sites.
Both Samaritans and Jewish sects believed themselves to be the faithful inheritors of God’s precepts. “We are God’s people and they are not,” both sides insisted.

Religion, politics, culture, misunderstandings, prejudice…they all conspired to keep these people not only apart, but deeply suspicious of one another.

The hatred of Samaritans by Jewish Palestinians and the hatred of Jews by Samaritans was fierce and ugly. The ethnocentric, xenophobic fear and hatred of the other was toxic. Each side hated the other for their religion, politics, and ethnic heritage. I’m so glad we don’t see anything so ugly today.

Samaritans and Jews were bitter enemies, even though geographically they were neighbors, even though less than a millennium earlier they were the same nation, the same people, the same community…but now, they see one another as monsters and they treat one another monstrously.

So it was jaw dropping when Luke’s Jesus spun a yarn about a GOOD Samaritan. John’s gospel shows Jesus interacting with a Samaritan woman in ways that affirmed the Samaritan woman’s dignity, but Luke has Jesus telling a story about a heroic Samaritan.

When a religious leader asks Jesus in Luke 10 what he needs to do to have a significant life, a life that will reverberate throughout the ages, Jesus says, “What does the Torah say?”
The religious guy quotes Deuteronomy and Leviticus saying love God and love your neighbor. Easy peezy lemon squeezy.
Jesus says, “then do that.”

But the religious guy…Religious people often want to use religion to figure out how they don’t have to be kind or generous or even decent to someone else. This religious dude is no different. He says, “Fine. Love God and love my neighbor; but who exactly is my neighbor?”
What he’s really asking is, “Who is so different from me that I can treat them like dirt?”

And Jesus says: Once upon a time a man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho and he got mugged and left for dead. Religious folk walked right by him. They probably had bible verses at the ready as to why it was okay for them to ignore this man’s suffering. When AIDS first showed up among us, Fundamentalists has verses to prove it was God’s wrath on display, instead of, you know, showing concern for people who were terrified, sick, and dying.

Religious folk walked right by the man on the ground, offering him not so much as a “God bless you.”
But then came a Samaritan, who saw someone in need and tried to respond with compassion to that need. He offered first aid and paid for the man to have a room and some food so he could heal. He didn’t give religious arguments as to why the victim deserved his plight or didn’t deserve kindness…he just saw a man in desperate need and he did what he could.

Jesus then asked, “who was a neighbor to the victim?” And the religious guy answered, “The one who wasn’t a jerk. The one who gave a damn.” And Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”

The Samaritan saw someone he would have been taught to call an enemy, but he was in trouble, and the Samaritan responded to the need rather than to the bigotry he had inherited. He acted like a child of God reaching out to another child of God. He let goodness and compassion rather than religious legalism and cultural differences be his guide. And Jesus says, “Be like the Samaritan.”

How we treat people who need access to medical care, people who have their rights denied or threatened, people whose physical safety is at risk, people who flee hellish situations to seek refuge in hopefully friendlier places…How neighborly we choose to be shows our commitment to the way of Christ more than any creed ever could.

A rabbi was once traveling and saw a monastery. He was out in the boonies and he hadn’t seen any hotels. He thought he’d see if he could secure lodging at the monastery for the night. The monks welcomed him, of course, and gave him dinner and a room. The rabbi asked what life at the monastery was like. The Abbot said, “We’ve seen better days. There’s only six of us left in the order. No one comes to our masses but us, no one comes here for retreat, and we haven’t had anyone join the order in years.“ The rabbi said, “I’m sorry to hear that but I very much appreciate your hospitality. You were certainly a godsend to me.”

The rabbi went to bed and the next morning after a delicious breakfast he took his leave. As he was going, he said non-chalantly, “Oh, by the way, one of you is the messiah. Bye!” And he left.

The monks were abuzz with excitement. Could it be? Could one of them be the messiah for real?
But wait. He forgot to tell us which one of us is the messiah. And now he’s gone. Oh snap!

A year later, the rabbi was in the area again. He stopped at the monastery, not out of desperation this time, but to visit the friends he had made. It was different this time. There were families having picnics on the grounds, individuals praying in the various chapels, and he counted at least 13 monks. The abbot greeted him with a big hug but the rabbi couldn’t wait to ask, “this place seems so different; what’ve you done?”

The abbot said, “we have people on retreat here almost every week. People come daily just to pray. We doing weddings here pretty often now. We offer spiritual direction to people in the community. And people come to mass, not just on Sundays but during the week, too! We’ve picked up new brothers. The place has come alive since you were here.”
“I see, I see” the rabbi said. “But how?”
The abbot said, “You told us that one of us was the messiah, but you didn’t tell us who. So we started treating each other as if it could be any one of us. We became happier, less afraid, and more loving, and then people started showing up to experience some of that.”

Religion’s job isn’t to make us hate ourselves or anyone else. Religion should encourage us to treat everyone as a child of God. When we do that, we can change the world, or at least our part of it.

And this is the good news. Amen.

Divine Love,
Heal our mental wounds,
Our physical wounds,
The wounds of our society,
The wounds of our nation,
The wounds of our world.
Amen.

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