Thursday, July 12, 2007
Sermon for July 15, 2007
Sermon for July 15, 2007
St. James’, Goshen IN
We have just heard the familiar story of the Good Samaritan, about a man going up from Jericho to Jerusalem. Jericho is perhaps the oldest continuously inhabited community in the world, going back in time at least 5,000 years. The Jordan River with fresh water flows through Jericho into the dead sea. So Jericho is about 1200 feet below sea level, surrounded to the north with the fertile and irrigated Jordan valley, to the east is a mountainous desert in what is now Jordan, to the south the uninhabitable salty Dead Sea and beyond the Sunni Desert. But east of Jordan up through the desert mountains is Jerusalem. Jerusalem is 1,300 feet above sea level. Do the math. Jericho is 1,200 feet below sea level, and Jerusalem is 1,300 feet above sea level. So to go up to Jerusalem from Jericho is 2,500 feet up in less than 20 miles. The traveler is going up hill in a hot desert on a twisting turning gravel road. The only way to make a living in desert between Jericho and Jerusalem was to take from travelers. There is one small oasis between Jericho and Jerusalem; an place for travelers to rest, drink from the fresh water spring for a price to the inn keeper.
I traveled the modern paved road up from Jericho to Jerusalem. Along the way I could see the old road and the one oasis. I was there in January, and there had been some very rare rain. The hills had some hint of green; in fact there were tiny wild flowers blooming between the rocks. But mostly just dry rocks.
I had been in Nazareth, Capernaum and along the Sea of Galilee before coming down the Jordan to Jericho, just as Jesus had traveled the same route. Except I traveled in an air conditioned van. Jesus walked. I rode in comfort up the way from Jericho to Jerusalem.
The Samaritans were Israelites that did not suffer the exile in Babylon along with the Jews. The Samaritan were disdained by the Jews. Remember when Jesus spoke to the Samaritan women and the disciples were shocked. Well a good Jewish boy did not speak to a woman that was not a relative, and no good Jewish person, man or women would speak to any Samaritan.
So in the Gospel story Jesus told, a man was going up from Jericho to Jerusalem. Robbers attacked him, stripped and beat him, and left him for dead along side the road. A priest, a judge and a sub deacon walked by the beaten man but did not stop to care for him. One of those despised Samaritans stopped, cleaned the wounds, gave drink and clothed the beaten traveler. And then took him to the oasis inn and paid for his care and recovery.
Now who was the neighbor? The commandment is to Love God and Neighbor. Not the priest, nor the judge and not even the sub deacon, but the despised stranger who cared.
We are called to Love God, and our Neighbor. Even the most despised persons you can think of are our neighbors.
Thanks be to God.
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