Caring without Commonality, Old First Sermon 07.10.16

preached by Mr. Ian McCurry while Rev. Caine was away…
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Luke 10:25-37

Church, this has been a heavy week. In these seven days alone our world has witnessed a series of attacks in rapid succession.

On Sunday of last week we woke to the news of a Bombing in Baghdad. A truck bomb was set off killing close to 300 people celebrating the end of Ramadan, the most holy month in the Islamic Calendar. Men, Women, Children, all murdered during a celebratory service in their place of worship.

Before the Thoughts and prayers had even faded from our minds and Facebook feeds we received news of another tragedy.

Tuesday Morning, we woke to news of Atlon Sterling’s death. He was a young Black man, shot dead on the pavement of a Baton Rogue convenient store parking lot.
Fast Forward to Thursday, Philando Castile. A Black man pulled over for a broken tail light. Not a weapons charge, not a domestic assault, not even a speeding ticket, a broken tail light. The officer asked if he had any concealed weapons, he answered yes, he was licensed to carry. As he reached for his license and registration the police officer fired his weapon multiple times into the car where Philando’s wife and child were. Philando Castile died in that car as his wife streamed his death live on Facebook.

On Friday as protestors marched peacefully in Dallas, Texas, shots began to ring out from a parking garage. A Sniper was firing at police officers and police officers only . The attacker hit 11 officers, killing 5.

This week our hearts have not had the chance to stop aching. Each day we awoke to more bad news, to a more broken world.

We hurt for Baghdad, we hurt for Alton Sterling, we hurt for Philando Castile, we hurt for every officer in Dallas. Each day we wake up to more hurt.

In this day and Age the moment we feel a hurt, we turn to Facebook, to Twitter, to email, to texts. We express our pain, we share it with those around us, with those who care about us. With those that we feel close to. We share these hurts and work through them together.

But I want to ask you this, who does your heart hurt the most for? Was it the young men and women who were killed in Orlando last month?
Was it the Black men who died at the hands of police violence?
Was it our Muslim brethren who were killed during their worship service?

Today we heard the parable of the Good Samaritan. A lot of us have heard this tale throughout our lives. We walk away with a similar message each time, be the good person.
Help those who need it. Don’t walk past.
If you push this verse a little bit you may have found some basic messages about overcoming racial and ethnic divides. These are all fantastic and true, but this passage has so much more to offer us.

So let’s start with the Basics, Jesus is speaking with a lawyer, a man who clearly knows what the scriptures have to say about eternal life. When Jesus challenged the Lawyer what the scriptures had to say about eternal life he was quick to answer “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your Soul with all your strength and with all your mind”

When we look at it from afar all of this is relatively clear cut, this doesn’t mean it’s easy or that it’s even possible without Divine help, but there’s no room for discussion in these words.

The next portion that the lawyer quotes is what spurs Jesus on to offer up the Parable of the good Samaritan he states that you have to “love your neighbor as yourself.” But who is a neighbor?

How far are we willing to place the boundaries for what defines a neighbor? Does it end with your pew? At the walls of the church?? What about the boundaries of Philadelphia? Jesus suggests that our neighborhood extends to each and every person in this world.

In his parable Jesus mentions 4 different characters. 3 of whom were likely jewish. 1 who was a Samaritan.
Lets start at the very beginning. The Samaritans and the Jews did NOT get along. To Fully understand this conflict you have to look towards ancient history, It’s summer so we won’t go there. The Jews saw the Samaritans as Half-Bloods, Impure. When traveling from Judea to Galilee they would travel days out of their way to avoid walking through impure Samaritan Territory. The Samaritans felt just as negatively towards the Jews.

The first two characters who pass the bloody man in the ditch are a priest, who crosses the road to avoid the victim, and a Levite who simply passes him by.

But why would these two pass by a man of their own faith desperate for help in a ditch? Did they believe that their religious observances in the temple were enough to pardon them for leaving the man dying in the ditch?

Perhaps they were afraid that helping the bloody man would render them unclean and unfit for temple duties. Perhaps they looked into the ditch saw a bloody man and decided that he was too different from themselves to show compassion. This logic is a dangerously slippery slope, even today.

We walk through this world, numb to the tragedies surrounding us, past the injustice in our judicial systems, we turn a desensitized eye to the inhumanity of mass killings, we remain silent in the face of evil; believing that God will forgive us as long as we fill the pews on Sunday Morning.

While faithfully showing up to church is how some people define their faith in God this is only a starting point. We must push beyond this definition to truly fulfill God’s request for us to love one another as God has loved us.

It is so easy to look around the world. At Baghdad, at Orlando, at Baton Rogue at dallas and name the differences that we have from these people. They were Muslim, I’m Christian. They were Gay, I’m straight. Those were police officers, I’m a civilian. He was Black, I am white.

At times like these putting names and labels on the barriers that separate us is the easy choice. We post a facebook status and move on with out lives, because it wasn’t us.

Instead of placing these barriers of difference BETWEEN us, I urge you to make the hard choice, I urge you to find a connection that will join us closer together. This is easy with some situations, and harder with others of course.

When we look to the victims of these tragedies it is easy to find compassion, to find sorrow, to find prayers. But When we look to the perpetrators where can we begin to find compassion?

What Jesus challenged us to do within this parable is to find the compassion for those who have wronged us, those who have caused us unimaginable hurt.

When the Samaritan happened upon the victim he didn’t see a Jew dying in a ditch, he saw another human in need of help. He worked to heal him with expensive wines and oils and put him up in an inn where he could recover. The Samaritan fully knew the history that existed between his people and the Jews. Think how hard it must have been to let go of all that and provide the compassion he needed.

To find compassion when it’s easy is not what Jesus challenged us to do, anyone can do that. Jesus challenged us to find compassion when it is hard.

He challenged us to reach out and love the person at work whom you can’t stand.

He encouraged us to love those who have wronged us, those who have betrayed us, those who have attacked us. He reminds us they are ALL our neighbors, no matter how deep the rift that divides us.

In these times what we need to do is hunt for the similarities that we can share and to use these to provide compassion and love to all people. For me this all comes back to simple physiology. Even if I can’t find a single shred of similarity with another person or their beliefs, we both are breathing and have blood pumping through our bodies. That’s one thing I share with any single person in the world.

Jesus pushes us to go further, he encourages us to view each and every person as a precious child of God. To look to those who have wronged us, to those who we have a hard time with. And to find love. To find divine love.

Not only are we challenged to find this love, we are called to share it.

When you leave here today you have two choices. You can carry on as usual, within the comfortable walls of your own defined neighborhood. Say hello to the people you normally say hello to, keep your head low, keep your compassion close to your chest.

Your other choice is to leave this place and share the compassion that God has already given to you. You have the opportunity to share it with all people. To simply let an officer know you appreciate their work, to ask how a person wearing a Hajib is doing, to smile and extend community and compassion across the boundaries of race and of class.

In these heavy times, we as a church are called to throw our arms wide, to greet our neighbors in a firm hug. This world has the ability to weigh on us, but it weighs a whole lot less when we are able to share compassion.