“Good Samaritan – Bad Company?”
Rev. David Pruitt
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
July 22, 2018
The Good Samaritan—along with the Prodigal Son are the most popular and well known of Christ’s teachings. You’ve no doubt, already heard a number of sermons celebrating the Samaritan’s dramatic deliverance of the Jew from the ditch. So this morning, we will travel into the tale from a different direction.
Suffice it to say that in N.T. times Jews and Samaritans existed as adjacent enemies–skunks at the proverbial lawn party, alien, something less than fully human. Think of Jews and Palestinians today or Negros and whites in the old South.
There are 5 players participating in this drama: The Jewish victim, mugged, robbed and left for dead in the ditch; his attackers; the two religious leaders who came along who took a look and then passed by on the other side of the road; and then the Samaritan who saved his life.
Each of the 5 are present within my life and your life. All of these players in Christ’s parable have their representatives within your heart and mine. You and I both, within ourselves play host to victim, attacker, those who passed by and the sympathetic, compassionate rescuer.
The victim–to some degree each of us have our days in the ditch. We can be ambushed by an anger that leaves us anxious; we can be grabbed by a guilt that ensures enough shame so that if not crippled and cast into an emotional ditch, we nevertheless are left limping along our journey. We are left with a life that is not as tall what we had hoped for when we were younger. We have been and are preyed upon, singled out for assault–you and me.
who is behind the mask of our mugger? Attending the police line-up of suspects, who do we look to identify as our attacker? (Some popular wisdom is not in the Bible, but should be. The truism for this tale is already on the table. “We are our own worst enemies”.) There was that wonderful installment of the comic strip “Pogo” which paraphrased a military phrase: “We have met the enemy and he is us!”.
I’ll never forget a film of some years ago where a teen-age girl spent a terrifying evening being assaulted by threatening, menacing phone calls as she was babysitting two young children at a large house in a lonely area. Each call was more sinister and threatening than the last, promising the caller’s imminent, violent attack. In between, the terrified girl was on the ‘phone with the State Police some miles distant as they tried to comfort her while on their way. The most chilling moment of the film came when the police informed the girl, “We have been able to trace the calls–they are coming from inside the house! You’ve got to take the children and get out now!”
The predator was hiding in an upstairs office. Most of our threatening, menacing voices come from within. Most of us would never tolerate the disrespect from anyone else that we accept and suffer from ourselves. But we frequently do what the two faith figures in Christ’s story did. e arrive at some assessment of our situation; we determine the depth of our ditch and the, “pass by on the other side.” We keep going, we continue on with business as usual, thinking perhaps, “we’ll, if we’re still in the ditch later on when we come back by, then maybe we’ll do something–but we don’t have time now.
Each of us, you and me need a powerful, compassionate, Good Samaritan within us. One who is part of us a real player in the working of our own heart. What good does the love of God do any of us if we won’t sign-on for ourselves?
The splendid, saving Samaritan of Christ’s eternal epic must have his real representative, his secure stand-in within you and me. The problem may be verse 33 “When he (the Smaritan) saw him, his heart was filled with pity.”
Joan Crawford, the legendary but quite difficult actress had a devoted housekeeper in her last years. One day when Ms. Crawford lay deathly ill her housekeeper knelt at her bedside and prayed aloud for her. Struggling to raise herself up on one elbow, Joan Crawford glared at her housekeeper and hissed, “Don’t you dare ask God to help me!
It is when people know enough to feel sorry for themselves and give themselves the sympathy and support they need, that they are less apt to ask others to feel sorry for them. Most of us are much more willing to offer sympathy to others than we are to extend compassion to ourselves. We somehow hope the love of God can be effective for us without our cooperation. It can’t! Psalm 103 “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth those who fear him.” Do you
need God’s pity? No? You’re above that? Really? Repeatedly in the gospels we read of Jesus, that his heart was filled with pity for people because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Can you allow the pity of Christ for yourself or are you better than that, stronger than that, above that? Be careful.
We must be able to mobalise a wise and compassionate good Samaritan within ourselves who can see to our wounds, our brokenness. But we are warned in this text that deliverance can come from what we might regard as alien, other and foreign. No Jew would ever want to depend on a hated Samaritan for his rescue. Our inner Samaritan will likely be a part of ourselves we are not too comfortable with. We may, in fact, resent and fear that part of ourselves we most need to listen to. If conscious, the Jew in the ditch may have moaned, “get away from me, keep your filthy Samaritan hands off of me!
Sometimes we do have an instinct that our help needs to come from an uncomfortable source. During the decades I taught high school there were usually some young men who were always in trouble, who lacked self discipline and seemed to have authority of any kind. But when I would ask them about their plans for after high school, it wasn’t unusual for some of them to answer, “I’m going to join the Marines.” Down deep they knew what they needed. Do you? Do I?
Let’s not lose sight here–the Jewish victim was on a journey, a necessary but dangerous one. So are you and I. I’ve lately more and more realized that the object of the destination of our journey is to become truly human–to achieve authenticity to become real for ourselves. Amen