Familiar Stories

Scriptures:

Hebrew Scripture Amos 7:7-17

Epistle Reading Colossians 1:1-14

Gospel Luke 10:25-37

 

Let us Pray: Guide our hearts, our minds, and our strength to apprehend your personal message to us today. Amen.

Commentator Willis Jenkins cuts to the chase regarding our text from Amos today. He writes, “Amos decries systemic exploitation of the powerless and commonplace humiliation of the lowly. He sees the role of public religion in masking the injustice and rages against the way official worship effectively justifies social sin.”[1] So we must ask ourselves, in the absence of a nation ruled by religion gone haywire, are we facing the same need for a prophetic voice to our nation ruled by secular authority gone haywire? Perhaps that is a good appropriation of the text for our modern context. The fallout would be the same as in the Amos text, namely that a land gained by promise may yet be lost in exile. Only our parallel might be a land of freedom may yet be walled in overriding due process of democratic law. Unless, as prophetic words must be heeded, so our country chooses to heed the following.

I submit the parable of the good Samaritan, retold in our context, would tell us no matter if we feel enmity toward our cousin peoples of this continent, we are indeed related by the bonds of humanity as God’s children with a common pursuit for life, liberty, and justice for all; perhaps even a bit of happiness and security for the family unit.

 

Commentator Douglas John Hall observes that the “scholar of the scriptures,”[2] aka what some texts translate as “lawyer,” is actually unable to say what his religious preferences would have him say to make a correct, as in “righteous before the Law,” kind of answer to Jesus’ question “Which of these three is a neighbor?” The expert cuts through the people question and answers with the action, “the one who showed mercy.”

Loving-kindness, then, is what we need. But how do we teach and transform ourselves as well as our descendants to reflect this hesed? That requires some more thought. It’s a bit more complex than what we might attempt to teach young children: “Be nice like the Samaritan.” Because there is a whole world of additional variables to unpack in this. The traditional enmity between Samaritans and Jews, for example – these extended cousins, both descended from Jacob. Surely the Samaritan has been reading deeply of the scriptures to have acted in such a way toward someone who would definitely inconvenience him in his own current life pursuit. Jesus presents his parabolic character to be filled with compassion, alive in the Samaritan’s soul, and this Samaritan acts on it. That is the lesson.

Now, I wonder: where are we in this story? Are we like the priests? Are we the traveler? Are we the Samaritan? The Innkeeper? The robber? The victim? The expert in the law? Jesus the storyteller?

Matthew Flemming, Instructor of Preaching at Columbia Theological Seminary, reminds us that, “To be rescued from the “power of darkness” and moved to the kingdom of the beloved Son is to be transferred from the hopelessness of ignorance toward becoming a community made alive in the truth of [Christ].”[3]

I submit the phrase “becoming a community made alive” is key here, as our faith community is only as strong as we create it to be – one to another and to the community in which we sit. This task continually reforms community into a more holy human shape – if we allow ourselves to be moved by passion, even as Jesus’ hearers were.

“is a task whose claim on our own [lives] requires us to examine both the content of the gospel we preach and the fruit it produces. The theology of Colossians 1:1–14 calls for gratitude for the ways in which our church reflects the beloved community, and offers prophetic motivation for us to move further toward the embodiment of Paul’s vision.”[4]

And just what is farther down the road of Paul’s vision? What would make this community stand out even more than it already does in service to Jesus Christ and God’s heavenly kingdom?

Jill Duffield writes,

“In that family morass of estrangement, dysfunction or strife, what do we do? Forgive. Make amends the best we can. Speak the truth in love. Seek reconciliation. Confess. Repent. Repeat.

In the face of systemic, generational poverty, what do we do? Share. Give over our loaves and fish. Enact policies that close the opportunity gap. Advocate for change that ensures every child has access to good nutrition, excellent education and quality health care. Start right where we are and keep at it until the work is done.

What do we do about racism, white supremacy and xenophobia? Call it out when we see it. Examine and recognize our own complicity and participation in it. Educate ourselves about the past and present. Cultivate relationships with those whose experiences are different than our own. As writer Maurice Carlos Ruffin notes in an interview in Believer Magazine, white supremacy “must be destroyed by the folks who benefit from it.”

 

“Amos, what do you see?” “A plumb line.” And that plumb line is God’s law summed up in the greatest commandment of all: ‘Love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, strength and mind’ and the second like it: ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”[5]

Let us pray: Holy Lover of our souls, you also love other souls than ours. Guide us in our community to serve you in your greater community: loving others; in your name we pray, and in your name let us act. Amen? May it be so.

[1] Willis Jenkins, “Theological Perspective, Amos 7:7-17” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[2] Douglass John Hall, “Theological Perspective, Luke 10:25-37” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[3] Matthew Flemming, “Theological Perspective, Colossians 1:1-14” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[4] Ibid.

[5] Jill Duffield, “Looking into the Lectionary – Fifth Sunday After Pentecost,” accessed July 11, 2019. http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1102135377571&ca=a8e99e60-a099-4799-8efb-45d8d61c701a.

Questions for Reflection:

How can we bear God’s fruit in the world? How can we live out the commandment to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves?

Household Prayer: Morning

Prepare my mind to listen to you today. Prepare my heart to be filled with your love today. Prepare my lips, that they can shout your praise today. Prepare my soul, that I can be attuned to your will today. Prepare me to feel your presence in the world today! Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

We come together, and this we pray: let us love the Lord our God, with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our strength, with all our minds, and let us love our neighbor as ourselves. By doing this, O God, we will truly live, because we will live under the guidance of your words, and the rest that your love provides. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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