July 10, 2016

Sermon on 8th Sunday of Pentecost

Today, I preached what is likely my last sermon in the Diocese of Washington, before we move to Texas. Thanks to the wonderful people at Grace for the hugs, the tears, the encouragement and the welcome they've extended to my family and I over the last year. You made us Episcopalians!

The text is below. I don't (typically) read from a manuscript–I'd rather be real than perfect, so there are some differences between the two.

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37

What a week. What a month.

In some ways, I think I may be the least necessary person to be speaking on a Sunday after a week like this last. I don't know that you need to hear from a cisgender white guy. Nonetheless, I'm convinced the Gospel has something to say to us today and for any missteps I make, I ask for your forgiveness ahead of time.

As many Christian writers have said before, the gospel afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted and I pray that is exactly what happens with the text we just read.

A lawyer asks Jesus, “What do I have to do to have eternal life?” Jesus answers–as he often does–with a question, “What is written in the Scriptures?” The lawyer answers, “Love the Lord with every fabric of your being. And care for your neighbor as you would yourself.” Jesus answers, “Good! That is the right answer. Live like that and you will live.”

Still hoping to trick Jesus, the lawyer responds with another question, “But who is my neighbor?”

Jesus, as he frequently does, responds with a story.

Jesus tells the story of a man that is traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. Along the way he attacked. Beaten. Robbed and left bleeding on the side of the road. A religious elite walks by and passes by on the other side.

A legal experts walks by but also passes by on the other side of the road.

It is likely that the primarily Jewish audience would have let these two leaders off the hook. They would have been respected in first century Palestine. "It's okay. They're good people. They're just too busy right now. But will certainly go on to give good speeches and pass good laws that will reduce such crimes.”

Two people with at least some resource and influence and privilege simply walk by.

And then, A Samaritan walks by. Notice that he doesn't refer to status or vacation of this person. Simply, "the Samaritan." Just a Samaritan. And as this story gets passed down through the centuries, it becomes known as we know it: the parablae of the good Samaritan–as if to imply that Samaritans were not inherently good. Just bad.

Samaritans were despised by Jews. Jews considered Samaritans half breeds. The way the worshiped was considered unorthodox, heretical. The were considered unclean, unintelligent, uncultured.

Jesus continues. This outsider sees the man. Bleeding. Naked. Near death. The Gospel tells us that he draws near him and he has pity on him. He cleans and bandages his wounds. He puts him on his donkey and takes him a inn and cares for him over night. The next day, he gives the innkeeper two denarii, which we think was approximately one to two days wages. He tells the innkeeper to take care the wounded man until he comes back. He assures the innkeeper that he will cover any additional expenses. Great personal cost to ensure this other man may be healed.

As Jesus finishes the story he turns to the lawyer and he asks him, “Who was a neighbor to this man that was robbed?” The lawyer can’t even bring himself to say, “the Samaritan.” He simply responds, “The one who showed him mercy.” His biases run so deep, he cannot even utter, "the Samaritan." And Jesus responds, “Go and do the same.”

Here we are. Reading this Gospel passage on this day, on this week, in this month. Our forefathers and mothers who designed the lectionary so many generation ago had no idea how important it was that we hear these words on this day, on this week, in this month.

Do you want to experience the most fulfilled, everlasting life? Do you want to know what is to love God with every fiber of your being?

Then love those our culture has taught you to hate.

Then love those our culture taught hate you.

Not in the abstract. Not in the way that you like Facebook posts, write checks, sign petitions, send letters, pen op-ed's and put signs on your lawns. Those may be important. But the gospel calls you to love in the manner that requires you to get close enough to understand the pain, to see the bleeding and dying and do whatever it costs you to bring healing.

This is the gospel message for us today. We are not to wait on the State or the market but to be the Church now. Getting up close. Getting in the way. Willing to offer what sacrifice it demands of us so that others might heal. So that others might live.

This is not easy. This is hard. But this is the gospel.

I want to say a word to my white brother and sisters here. You don’t understand what its like to be black or brown in America. You can not relate. Don't try to. Our culture defaults to our norms, our worldview. We call it privilege. I may love the black and brown boys that my son plays with every weekend. But I never wince the way their mothers do when their sons walk out the door headed to the park or corner store. I do not worry about my boys the way they do. I do not have to. I never will. This is privilege.

To my brothers and sisters of color, I don't know what it is like to be you right now. I know it hurts for me, so I can only image what it feels like for you right now. But I also want to remind that this story was not told of, or to people of privilege in Palestine. None of these characters were Roman citizens. They were all second class citizens in their own land, an occupied territory, oppressed by a privileged people called Romans. I want to remind you that we will not find healing–things will not change–without you. We need you to lead us and I recognize that this is a terrible burden. I hope I speak for the other white brothers and sisters here when I say we will listen, we will love and commit to sacrifice as the gospel calls us to.

This is the gospel. This is the message for us today.

After we come to this table where none of us are better or worse than the other, may we leave here today committed to live like this in our neighborhoods and workplaces. May we set aside love in the abstract. Our bodies, our love in the flesh is what is needed. In a world where people push further into their ideological corners, may we be the people that embody another way to be human. Another way to love. The way of Christ.