July 12, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills
Proper 10/C [Pent. 5] (July 10, 2022): Lev. (18:1-5), 19:9-18; Ps. 41; Col. 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37.
[W]e have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding … (v. 9).
God reveals himself in Christ that we might be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding”, walking before the Lord in a worthy manner. This was God’s intent at the Beginning, that man conduct himself as sons and daughters in the Father’s household.
Some “understand” the Good Samaritan parable as morality lesson; rather than gospel “wisdom”; how sad! The next time you come upon a homeless “squidgy-guy”, passed-out on the roadside, soiled in vomit, you of course will do the “moral”, thing; pull your car to the curb and check his condition — or am I wrong?
By this modern-day application, you as baptized priests would seem confronted with options: 1st you might drive the guy to the nearest ER; 2nd to a Holiday Inn, provide your credit card, arrange for a week’s room and board; and 3rd on a return visit invite to mass and Bible Study. Christian charity may suggest, doing all, or more likely none of these and drive-on by!
Where does Jesus’ commendation to mercy (v. 37) leave us toward God? You see the problem; if we “understand” Scripture principally as rule book or upgraded “holiness code”, God’s perfect character always accuses of love’s lack in our lives.
We must not lose sight that we are a people being perfected in daily repentance (Mt. 5:48) and that in doing love or not, “Wisdom” commends that we are to know God’s gracious character as loving Father (cf. Jn. 17:3).
Again, if we fixate on the comparison to God by our failures of love and mercy, then we will construe Jesus as essentially a new “law-giver”; we will skew gospel “understanding” to works righteousness; rather than to the One who fulfilled the entire law.
When we lose gospel perspective, then our response to this or that benighted “squidgy-guy” becomes the measure of mercy and wisdom, rather than Christ crucified.
The lawyer of today’s Gospel attempted to justify himself before Jesus, asking the identity of his “neighbor?”, Jesus does not directly respond. Let’s be clear, like the parable’s priest and Levite, most, perhaps all of us, would not stop to check after the welfare of the man in the road; and as with the passing priest there may be several more or less good reasons to drive-on-by.
In asking, “WWJD?”, we assume a faux identity, that we are other than still sinners toward God and man. Asking “WWJD?” attempts our moral equivalency with the Good Samaritan’s compassion. Apart from Baptism into Jesus’ passion and Wisdom granted by the HS, we are incapable of the Good Samaritan’s mercy, sourced in the flesh of Christ, crucified for unbelief and forgiveness of lovelessness.
Yes, of course, we are saved unto good works; but again, neither the “squidgy-guy’s” peculiar distress nor our response is the measure of God’s mercy nor Christian “wisdom”; rather those measures reside exclusively in the love of Christ guiding us by his Spirit, neither in discriminating legality nor undiscerning of circumstances.
What then does God will? For Israel’s holiness today’s OT specifies: You will not take 100% profits on stock trades, but leave some for the losers. You will not steal, except when appropriating the ideas of others without attributing credit. You will not deal falsely, unless warning of an “as is” sale. You will not lie, unless the truth hurts feelings. You will not swear by the name of God, except when massaging the facts to advance a legal case. You will not oppress, threaten, or use force, unless running for political office. You will not condone violence except but in contests that include gratuitous violence in the price of a coliseum ticket. You will not extend unfair advantage except to blood relatives and personal friends.
If this iteration is irreverent, perhaps so, emphasizing we are not of ourselves holy. So, what do we conclude about the lawyer’s question, “who is my neighbor?” We repeat, Scripture is not a collection of “morality messages”.
On the other hand, most importantly You will not slander, because that is murder by other means; nor will you take vengeance or bear a grudge — in all such cases you will love your neighbor as yourselves; and still the question remains, “who is my neighbor?” (v. 29).
Christians are not ambivalent passers-by; instead, we “understand” our identity by Jesus’ parable; we are the man half-dead on the roadside, road-kill in sin and unbelief. Robbers, Satan, and his agents have left us for dead in the world. Our mugging began at conception, resulting in our spiritual death; whatever residual life was retained on birth we were dead to God. All that remains in this world, as with the man in the road, is our carcass awaiting the grave’s consummation.
Jesus intended the lawyer, and you, to identify with the hapless victim in the road. If the lawyer’s question, “who is my neighbor?” sounds abstract, Jesus crystalizes it, making it all-important to Wisdom’s “understanding”.
If the “half-dead man” (v. 30) had been conscious of his pitiful circumstance, would he have objected to the hated Samaritan’s mercy; would he rather not have praised God for grace? As it is, the man was in no position to do either of the above; certainly not criticize God for sending salvation.
Jesus adroitly rephrased the lawyer’s question, “Which of [the three travelers] proved to be [a neighbor] to the man?” (v. 36). Jesus was hated by the religious establishment; yet the lawyer confessed, it was the Samaritan” who mercifully acted true “Neighbor”.
Christ came as Life and the Truth in our midst. On our Way to his cross, Satan will demand that we “stand and deliver”, but in Christ we are on the King’s Highway. Satan and his demonic thugs have stripped and battered us leaving bloody messes unable to help ourselves; and no one but God can or will come to our aid; no one loves us as he does in his Son.
No one is saved by rules that reveal God’s perfect character (the Ten Commandments) except Christ’s salvation out of heaven. By grace he lifts and transports to his cleansing and healing place, the place of on-going wisdom and understanding in the knowledge of God’s will, into his church for forgiveness and holiness.
If Jesus commends mercy, “go, and do likewise” (v. 37) our “understanding” then becomes the measure of what we have received in “thanksgiving”, Christ’s healing and life-giving flesh.
So, what to do about our “squidgy-guy”? — I haven’t the vaguest clue, nor is my advice among you within a pastor’s prerogative; rather, the HS’s province in you. What I do know is that God’s Wisdom, his law and love is proclaimed and sacramentally delivered for faith and repentant hearts when we fail. Amen.