Here is the sermon I preached at Zion New Palestine on July 10th entitled set apart for love. The video link is: https://vimeo.com/channels/321216
The sermon is based on the gospel reading Luke 10:25-37 and also draws on the other Readings and Propers for the eighth Sunday after Pentecost. My sermon outline was inspired by the Issues Ect. program “Looking Forward to Sunday Morning” led by Dr. Carl Fickenscher. http://issuesetc.org/
The parable of the good Samaritan is one of the most well known scripture passage to the world outside of the church. Most people have a good idea about the main idea of this parable, most adults outside of the church would say that a man is gravely hurt and in need of help and a good Samaritan figure comes and rescues him. Laws that protect the rights of those who help those in distress should something go wrong, are called Good Samaritan laws.
Society may be familiar with what it means to be a good Samaritan, but what does it mean for us as the church to consider this parable of timeless love and commitment to a man in desperate need? If the unbelieving world sees this as a lesson in helping those in need, where does our faith in Christ fit in? Let’s look at God’s Word for this morning to understand the significance of this parable for our lives.
Jesus is challenged by a lawyer that is, an expert on God’s law, about the most important question anyone could ask, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” As is the case in many other instances in the scripture, Jesus redirects the question to the man’s own understanding of what the scripture teaches. He answers with a summary of the chief confession of faith in the Old Testament from Deuteronomy chapter 6 “Hear O Israel YHWH our God, YHWH is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your might. And he also summarizes the command from Leviticus to love your neighbor as yourself.
The teacher of the law was able to answer this easily. But perhaps due to his own pride or another sin, he feels like the answer needs to be more complicated. He wants to perhaps justify himself by making the way of salvation more complicated. He asks, well who by the way might my neighbor be?” In response to this question we get to hear from Jesus the parable of the Good Samaritan.
We know the details, a man is mugged on a dangerous road and left for dead. A priest passes by and chooses not to help the man. Perhaps he is concerned about if the man should die and then he would be ceremonially unclean for a period of time and unable to perform the duties of a priest. This godly person who you would expect good things out of does not help. Likewise a Levite, another godly person, passes by. Perhaps he fears the danger that befell the man in the first place, or has some other task on his mind that he feels is more important.
Then a Samaritan comes, a people who were distanced from the lineage of Israel by hundreds of years and only partially familiar with God’s law as Israel practiced it. This Samaritan is the one who truly fulfills God’s law by showing unconditional love to the man in need. It’s not just that he was willing to stop when other are not, but he also went out of his way to help the man- even to the point of paying two days wages to the innkeeper.
Jesus concludes the parable by saying: “Go and do likewise.” The implication of the parable in this sense is clear, we are to love our neighbors not like the Priest or the Levite, but in the manner of the Samaritan. We are to show love in a way that is distinctly different than what is expected.
We hear in our Old testament the great command to love the lord our God with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves. The book of Leviticus is more than simply commands about proper conduct in the sacrificial system in the time before Jesus. This book of the scripture provides a basic principle of loving God and living holy lives as a reflection of God’s holiness.
We as God’s people are called to live lives that are conspicuously different than the rest of the world because our God is conspicuously different than all the other ‘gods’ out there in the world. What is it that we do that is so noticeably different in our lives? If all we do different than unbelievers is get dressed up on Saturday or Sunday and sit in church for an hour, then we are not saying too much about our God.
But what we do that is set apart from the rest of the world is to love others. That is how the world sees that the church is different than others in the world. We love others because God is holy. We set apart our lives towards specific values given to us in God’s Word. We follow values of chastity, moderation, fidelity, honor and respect to authorities, good stewardship of our resources, and prayerfullness. We live our life in Christ in this way because we are stet apart to be holy.
And listen to this… because we set apart our lives in this way, we are more able more, more healthy, more emotionally stable to actually be able to practice love towards others! The careful way we live our lives allows us to be used by God to love and serve others. The person who lives selfishly and spends recklessly is far less equipped to love and support others.
It certainly is inspiring to think of what it can mean to live lives set apart in the world. Yet we need to be honest about what are the limitations of our ability to love. If we are honest with ourselves, all too often we are more like the Priest and the Levite than the Samaritan. Instead of showing love to others, we first think of ourselves. On our own, we never can live up to the perfect example of love found with the Good Samaritan. We can never live up to the ideal found in our Old testament reading in Leviticus to love God with all of our heart and mind and our neighbor as our self.
Only Jesus can love as Israel was commanded to love. Only Jesus is the true Israelite. Only Jesus can provide exactly the care that those in need require. Just like the scenario in the parable Jesus comes to us in our state of brokenness and sin and sacrifices his own needs for our salvation. We may not find ourselves left for dead after a robbery, but with respect to our sin, we were all as good as dead before receiving the gift of new life in Christ.
In Christ we are able to love our neighbor. In Christ we are able to be the good Samaritan to those in need. Loving your neighbor is counter cultural. Society says respect your neighbor. We are expected to understand our neighbor and perhaps respect our neighbor’s values and choices in life. But we are not expected to love our neighbor.
To love our neighbor is essentially too dangerous to our society. To love a neighbor might mean telling them that something they are doing is wrong. To love our neighbor means that we might say that there is one true and right way to live life- abiding in Jesus.
Even in the church we learn to say no and speak the truth in love. This congregation and our denomination the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, is clear that it is the right thing to do to withhold the Lord’s Supper from those who do not yet have an understanding of what the Lord’s Supper is, or are not willing to repent of sins, or are holding a different confession of faith then we share together. Society may say this practice is unloving, but God’s Word is clear that the Lord’s Supper is for those who are the body of Christ, not something that should be used as a missionary tool to bring people to Christ.
Likewise society says it is unloving and prejudiced for our church and our denomination to reserve the pastoral office for men. Society says it is unloving to women to have such a restriction, a supposed leftover remnant of a past time where women were treated as lesser citizens.
Yet God’s Word is clear that women are not lesser citizens in God’s kingdom. Eve was given the privilege to be the mother of all the living and all mothers retain this honor. Mary was given the highly favored honor to be the mother of our Lord. The list could go on and on.
Often in the Lutheran church we believe that we have the right teaching and application of scripture as our official position- yet we are afraid to teach about, have discussions about, and speak to each other and the world about the Biblical foundations of these teachings. We fear offending those who would feel personally effected by the teachings. But certainly failing to speak about what we know in God’s Word to be true is not love.
Perhaps the most loving thing we can offer for women in the church is to respect the order of creation God has established by practicing and believing the truth that God gifted women with abundant gifts with which to serve in the body of Christ as teachers or deaconesses or in any other role of support.
What a shame if young girls in our congregations grow up in our individualistic gender neutral culture without an understanding of how counter cultural it is to be a woman in Christ- to stand up for humility and chastity, to reject entitlement in favor of Christ like servant hood.
What if women in our congregation never get a chance through Sunday morning preaching to be affirmed and encouraged by God’s design for them as women in a way that is distinctly set apart and different than the individualistic philosophies of the feminist movement. Sure the feminist movement has sought to help women; but are we not also loving to women in our congregations when we encourage and affirm the roles God designs for women in which to serve in our families.
What if young men are never taught what it means to be spiritual leaders in their families, for fear that they would resemble the cultural stereotype of the man who says you will submit to me because I said so. Or the man who says, women need to know their place and the world would work so much better. Yet it is certainly not loving to men or women if we don’t teach men to cherish and embrace the responsibility of spiritual leadership in the family- loving their wives as Christ loved the church – be willing to lay down their lives for their family.
In Christ we truly live our lives as those who are set apart. We live out our faith in ways that will amaze people. Thanks be to God for a way of life shaped by Jesus the one true Good Samaritan. Thanks be to God for a way of life that is far above more blessed than anything we could ever design ourselves.