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Word and Sacrament: A Conversation Starter

17 Jul

8th Pentecost C
Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Children’s message…

When I was 12, a friend and I wanted some extra spending money. So we came up with a get-rich-quick plan. We got a couple of brooms and planned to go to area businesses and offer to sweep their parking lots. If they said “no,” we would let them know how badly their parking lot needed sweeping. If they still said “no,” we would then inform them that we could do just as good a job as anyone else, but we could do it cheaper. Foolproof!

So we set out with all confidence that we had this in the bag. We’d be swimming in money by the end of the day. We had thought of everything. The first business we came to was a fast food restaurant. We asked for the manager and confidently laid out our sales pitch. Surprisingly, he said “no,” so we went on with stage 2 of our foolproof plan, pointing out how debris-ridden his parking lot was and how bad that was for business. He still said “no,” so we played out ace-in-the-hole, how cost-effective we were.

We had all the information we needed, and were merely seeking an answer. We just needed the business owners to give it.

That’s how the lawyer in this text is approaching Jesus. He has all the information he really needs; he just wants an answer to his one question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

In the same way, that’s also how many people understand the purpose of the Bible. OK, God, we know most of the stuff; we just need an answer, we’ll open the Bible and get it from you.

All of us–my friend and me with our brooms, the lawyer with eternal life, and those who want God’s answers from the Bible–don’t quite get what we want.

So after my friend and I finished our line about being the most cost-effective parking lot cleaning service in town, the business owner sat us down and began to patiently talk with us about child labor laws, liability insurance, and federal and state taxes. We just wanted an answer, but what we got was a conversation.

The lawyer knows his stuff when he comes to Jesus. He’s studied his Torah, he’s got his information. He just wants an answer to this one question. “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” He just wants an answer, but what he gets is a conversation.

When we are seeking an answer to what God’s will is for our life, or whether abortion is right or wrong, or how the church should deal with homosexuality, we often go to the Bible for answers. But what we get is a conversation.

That’s the Bible at its intended best, a conversation with God. The Bible functions much like the conversation the lawyer has with Jesus. He comes with one question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus asks him two questions in response, “Let’s start with what you know about it?” And, “how do you interpret that?” The conversation goes on, including the Good Samaritan story, with questions going back and forth and the conversation deepening, until Jesus asks, “Which person was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The lawyer gives the answer that he really needed all along–but just didn’t know it–“The one who showed mercy.” He came wanting to know how to inherit eternal life; he left with a realization that the way if God is showing mercy to the least likely. Not the answer he came looking to get, but through the conversation with Jesus, it was the answer he needed.

We gather as a community around the word of God (anything that proclaims Jesus–including Jesus himself) and the sacraments (promises of God’s grace connected to tangible elements–in our case baptism and Holy Communion). We do this in order to have an ongoing conversation with Jesus. Sometimes we come here with specific questions. “Why do so many bad things keep happening to me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” “What do you want me to do with my life?” “Should I break up with my girlfriend?” “How do I deal with my nephew who just told me he’s gay?” And sometimes we just want quick answers to these questions. But word and sacraments don’t often work that way. Instead, God uses them to open up a conversation–which happens through story, and together with the gathered community. The Bible becomes for us not a textbook where we look up answers for life’s tests, but a means for God to engage us in a dialogue that shapes our lives.

I’m wondering what question for God you have as you came here today? And I want to offer one small way to enter into a conversation with God about it. Bear in mind that we are best when we do this in community, listening to one another and sharing with one another, but for now let’s enter the conversation on our own. I’m going to read the scripture passage again, and I want you to listen for something in there that rubs you the wrong way or that is confusing or pricks at you a little. Ready?  . . .

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

You’ll want to share your sticking point with someone else, and I encourage you to do that at some point very soon. But for now, think about why this particular phrase or word or thought is catching you up. What is troubling you about it? What is going on in your life that makes this particular point difficult?

Now, from what you know about Jesus, what would he say to you to help you? Anyone want to share? . . .

The conversation has only just begun. God’s story has just become part of your story. Your life’s story is informed now by God’s story. Don’t let that conversation end. Share it with your friends, listen to their conversations too. Let’s gather together next week in this community that supports our conversations with God. God will be engaging us together–in the Word and in the sacraments. Amen

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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Sermon

 

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