Show me your ways, O Lord

(Sermon given July 14, 2019 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Waldorf, MD)

Please join me in prayer.

Show me your ways, O Lord,
and teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
in you have I trusted all the day long.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love,
for they are from everlasting.
Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;
remember me according to your love
and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.
Gracious and upright is the Lord;
therefore he teaches sinners in his way.
He guides the humble in doing right
and teaches his way to the lowly.
All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness
to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Amen.

_ _ _ _ _

If the words of this prayer sound familiar, it is because they are from our reading from Psalm 25. They speak directly to the words we hear today from the reading from Luke.

You see, the story from Luke speaks directly to something that Jesus wants to teach us about love. Specifically, Psalm 25:3 can become for you, a “go-to” prayer in practically anything you face.

Show me your ways, O Lord,
Teach me your paths.

_ _ _ _ _

The story of the Good Samaritan is what we hear in the gospel reading this morning. It is a familiar story. It is the story of the lawyer’s question and the parable that Jesus tells.

As the story goes, the lawyer stood up to test Jesus and ask the question about inheriting eternal life.

Interesting that the lawyer refers to Jesus as “Teacher” because Jesus replies just like any teacher would, “What is written in the law?”

How many teachers have uttered the same words in some fashion:

“What does it say in the text book?”
“Did you read the assignment?”
“How much time did you spend studying what you read to understand?”

To the lawyer’s credit, he has the right answer. It would seem even that he knew the answer all along.

“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 love your neighbor as yourself.”

And what did Jesus say? “You have given the right answer…”

But the lawyer was not done. He then asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” And then Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan; a story that is one of the best illustrations of human kindness and unconditional love in all of literature.

If you think about it, there are some similarities to the story we heard 3 weeks ago about Legion, the man possessed by demons.

Remember how we theorized how the townspeople must have felt about this man; chained in the tombs, without clothing. Until Jesus came along, Legion was destined to a life of misery and torment.

And then this week, we have the man who fell into the hands of the robbers who stripped him and beat him and left him for dead along the side of the road. Through no fault of his own, now an outcast, to the Levite and even to the priest. They both crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.

But the Samaritan… he would not ignore the man; this victim of society.

I pray this prayer of seeking…

Show me (us) your ways, O Lord,
Teach me (us) your paths.

_ _ _ _ _

Have you ever thought about this story from the viewpoint of the victim? Have you ever imagined, what if that was me lying at the side of the road stripped and injured?

Can you imagine the fear?

Put yourself in that situation right now.

You have been beaten by robbers.
They have stripped you of your clothing.
You are lying along the side of a remote, dirt road.
What about bugs, or snakes or rodents?

You might be asking yourself, “Am I going to die right here?” or you might be wondering with incredible fear, what if the robbers come back?

Then a priest is coming and surely that means everything is going to be okay.

But, no. The priest crosses the road and tries his best to ignore you and your plight. I suspect your level of fear might be even greater now.

Then another man comes along and he too, leaves you there only for your fear of what is to happen becoming perhaps unbearable.

It had to be, what I imagine as a paralyzing fear.

_ _ _ _ _

Today, across this nation, there are thousands waiting somewhere with that level of fear or worse. There are thousands in homes with the doors locked, the lights off, and the blinds shut. Televisions are turned off, pets have been taken to shelters or given to others to take care of so that there will be no noise when the pounding at the door comes and Immigration Officers are on the other side of the door.

These folks have their children around them and talk in nothing but whispers if they talk at all. And, when there are children… what is going through their minds?

These families cannot go to church. They cannot go to work tomorrow which means they will probably lose their job. There will be no Sunday family supper tonight.

There is only fear. And, I suspect this fear is present among those who are here in this country with their documentation in perfect order as well.

I cannot shake the injustice of this fear, especially for the children involved.

_ _ _ _ _

And, we cannot ignore the plight of the thousands that are being held at our Southern Border. They too, are filled with fear. Most have fled from deplorable conditions in their homeland looking for a better life. They risked their lives to come to find freedom and safety.

Finally friends, there are those in our own community that need someone to be their Good Samaritan. There are homeless and hungry. There are the lonely. There are too many that are metaphorically lying at the side of the road needing someone to help them and yet, we cross the street and walk on the other side.

My comments are not motivated by politics. I point out these things that are happening all around us because they are in direct conflict with what we learn today in the reading from Luke. They are in direct conflict with our Baptismal Covenant. And, most directly to the point, they are examples in real life terms that do not reflect the teachings of Jesus’ love.

In 2013, looking at the situation in Europe from those fleeing Syria, Pope Francis noted the injustice and cruelty and said, “We have forgotten how to take care of each other.”

Indeed it seems that this is true. We have forgotten how to take care of each other. We are divided by rhetoric and fear and the constant tossing of verbal assaults from one side to the other. One need only to look at a newspaper, the evening news or even the coffee machine in the break room in the workplace.

I pray this prayer of reconciliation…

Show me (us) your ways, O Lord,
Teach me (us) your paths.

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, says this, “…we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so you may lead lives worthy of the Lord…”

Today my friends, more than ever, our world needs good samaritans. Today, we need people who love God and live their lives as such. We need people filled with the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. We need the spirit of the Samaritan.

The lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?”

Our answer should be easy.

I pray this prayer of love…

Show me (us) your ways, O Lord,
Teach me (us) your paths.

Amen.

(Audio recording here)

©️Steven Seely 2019

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