I Kings 19:2-18
St. Luke 10:29-37
St. Luke 10:37b
Jesus said to him, ďGo and do likewise.Ē
A question to beging with: Whoís the hero of that parable of the Good Samaritan?
Think about that question for a few minutes, while I address the five of you up here.
Well, you made it!
You survived spending time with me, you made it through the interrogation of the Elders, youíve finished all of your stress inducing participation in the worship, so congratulations, youíve made it!
Thatís the good news!
Now hereís the bad news: Youíve made it to the starting line! The whole race is now out there before you! Itís not over, it is just beginning!
And thatís the good news as well: Youíve made it to the starting line! The whole race is now out there before you! Itís not over, it is just beginning!
And the question to you today is how are you are going to run your race?
Because there are people, many people, who donít run their race well, if they run it at all, people who fail to live their lives the way that they know they should.
Why? Well, I certainly canít give you all the reasons, we donít have enough time for that, but here are three to think about as you get to the starting line:
The first reason is that they donít believe in God, or at least not enough. Thatís what is going on in that OT story of Elijah.
Elijah was, quite literally, running when we find him in the story.
He was running for his life, he had just humiliated the prophets of the false God Baal, the chosen religion of the government, and the queen had promised to kill him.
So he ran because he was absolutely convinced that he was all alone.
And he was absolutely wrong.
And so are we whenever we believe that we are all alone.
But there are times when we do believe it, donít we?
Times when everyone else in the world seems happy and connected and sure of themselves and their faith, while we feel miserable and isolated and so afraid of doing something wrong that we fail to do what is right and we just donít know what we believe.
And when we are in that dark, gray valley we canít imagine that anyone else has ever gone through anything like, it and we canít see Godís presence with us.
And so we are tempted to run from God and life as Elijah did, arenít we?
And itís not a bad thing to do once in a while, to get off by ourselves, because the same thing happens to us as happened to Elijah. He encountered God, not in the big dramatic moment of wind and earthquake, but in the still small voice, the sound of sheer silence, that God provides. And he realizes that he is not alone, that God is with him, and that there are at least 7000 other people who will stand with him. And so Elijah will drag himself out of his fear and sadness and return to the joys of his life, the meaning of his life, the race of his life.
And that is my first prayer for the five of you today: that you will not allow the inevitable moments of loneliness and sorrow keep you from seeing God on your size. And with God on your side, you get more people than you can imagine on your side, that whole Communion of the Saints that we talk about in the creed. Listen for that still, small voice, that sound of sheer silence.
ďGo and do likewise.Ē
Will there be moments when you will feel alone in life? Of course there will be, but just because you feel it doesnít make it true. We all live with this dichotomy of faith that was identified by that modern day prophet, Lilly Tomlin, who said ďWe are all in this together, by ourselvesĒ
When we think that we are all alone we need to remember that God and so many others are with us.
And, speaking of dichotomies, if the first reason that people fail to run the race of their lives is that they donít believe in God enough, the second is that they believe in themselves too much, they are too impressed with how busy or smart or holy or beautiful they are.
That was the problem with the Priest and the Teacher in the parable that Rob read. They believed that what they were doing, and where they were going, was infinitely more important than what some poor victim on the side of the road needed.
It is important to have a purpose and a mission to your life and to your days and hours, but it is far more important to be willing to toss those things aside when you encounter someone who needs what you have.
One of the stories that I have told, in Confirmation and in conversations, for decades is the one about the blind men who were taken to visit an elephant and each came away describing a different creature, for one held the trunk and said the elephant was like a thick snake; another held an ear described the elephant as a big floppy thing; another, who held a leg, said ďNo, this is a great treeĒ; while a wall was the version provide by the man who had his hands upon the elephants side. It was only by talking and listening to each other that they could discover the fullness of the Elephant.
So it is with what anyone of us can know about God and the plans that God has for our lives.
But when we sit together and we hear the pieces of Godís nature that others have experienced, our vision grows.
So my second prayer for you today is that you will always seek other perspectives and never limit yourselves to what you can see or touch or know, for there is so much more to life, and to God, than any of us can ever know and it is only when we place our lives alongside of each others that we can run our race. We are all in this together, by ourselves.
And the third reason that people fail to run the race of their lives is that they are too busy figuring out who to blame.
Now, letís get back to who the hero of the Parable is.
Do you think it was the priest or the teacher? No. Do you think it was the victim or the Samaritan? No.
No, the hero of the parable was the narrator: Jesus himself, the teller of the tale!
But donít think, ďOh, well, of course Jesus is the hero because Jesus is perfect in every way!Ē
No I want to focus in on just one heroic quality of Jesus the storyteller, something as singular as which part of the elephant we are describing.
When Jesus told the story he wasted absolutely no time whatsoever on criticizing anyone, he tells the story clearly enough that the obvious conclusion is ďThe Samaritan is the good guy!Ē
Nothing more is said about the other two! No blame is cast! No priest to blame, no teacher to blame, no woman to blame, no one to blame.
That is so rare in our culture, no wonder Christianity doesnít fit in! We all want to find who to blame, rather than who to bless! We all want to point out the flaws in others, rather than celebrate their strengths. But Jesus, not only here, but throughout the Gospels, thrived on finding the good guy and the good actions in the world and the lives of others!
This is what it means to be a Christian: to have that same vision and mind of Christ, so that when you tell your stories, the good is made clear, and the sinful or foolish or evil just falls out of the picture.
We are surrounded, everyday, by heroes, unknown and unheralded, so my third and final prayer for you today is that you will always seek out and celebrate the heroic people and actions in your family, at your work place, in your Church, in your community. Because, if you do, you will encourage and multiply their heroism, and you will become a hero to others.
And finally, let me leave you with this encouragement from a President of the United States who was a part of our Reformed Church, Theodore Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Run your race like that, believe more in God and a little less in yourself and, as with the Samaritan, when you have a chance to help someone do it. Itís not that complicated.
ďGo and do likewise.Ē
To God alone be the Glory, today and forever. Amen
Clover Hill Reformed Church
Sunday May 5, 2013