Rev. George Miller
July 10, 2016
Jesus irks me. Jesus works my nerve. Let me tell you why: he has this whole shtick.
This shtick of
-“Give to everyone who begs from you.”
-“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
-“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
That’s all well and good, but can we break things down for a moment? Can we keep things 100?
Jesus was a 30 year bachelor.
No real job that we know of.
No mortgage payments
No need for a children’s college fund.
Jesus spent his days hanging out with the guys, and had women who followed him around, cooking his meals.
And he brought his momma as his date to a wedding.
Yet Jesus wants to tell us how to act and how to live our lives?
It was easy for Jesus to tell folk to give to beggars, because he had nothing to give, and in some ways he was a beggar.
Of course he wanted people to do unto others- how else is a homeless, jobless guy gonna get free housing, free meals and a steady supply of free wine?
Of course Jesus could say to love your neighbor as yourself because he was a non-homeowner who had no idea how annoying our neighbors can really be.
Jesus irks me. Jesus works my nerve.
He has no notion of what it’s like when young fools drive by blasting music, throwing beer bottles out their car window, and try to rip your mailbox off its hinges.
He has no idea what it’s like to have a neighbor who waits until you go to work before massacring the big beautiful bush you both share; a neighbor who’s had to be reminded more than once where your property line begins as he goes about tearing out trees.
And if we’re being honest, if we’re keeping things 100, let’s be clear- I’m not the best neighbor either.
I don’t like to have my woods, my trees, my flower bed looking perfectly manicured- I actually prefer my yard to have organized chaos and look a little bit on the wild side.
I like to be left alone. When I come home, from anywhere, I want to be left alone. I don’t want to chat; I don’t want to spend too much time in small-talk. I want to go inside, take off my shoes and rest on the couch.
A few weeks ago I came back from a long day at Ft. Pierce and my neighbor was down the road. I waved just to be nice, but then I quickly turned and tried to haul everything out of my car thinking “Please don’t let them come over, please don’t let them come over.”
And I only know two of my neighbors’ names, and that’s about all I want to know.
Jesus irks me. Jesus works my nerve…
…but thank God, because through him there’s still the chance I can be a better neighbor, and I can love my neighbors just a bit more…
I happen to be of the mindset that Jesus, as a teacher, is an exaggerator.
I believe Jesus uses a teaching style that is all about extremes.
Jesus talks in extremes. He gives exuberant examples. He goes overboard in instructions that are almost impossible to do.
-Love your enemies
-Bless those who curse you
-If anyone strikes you on the cheek offer the other
-Anyone who takes your coat give them also your shirt
It’s too much…
…but that’s the point.
As sinful, as evil, as dangerous as humans can be, I do believe that by nature most of us tend to be good.
When not in survival mode or under threat or consumed by narcissistic greed, we tend to do what’s right and what’s needed to live in community.
What Jesus does is he raises the bar a lot higher. What Jesus does is give exaggerated examples of how to act so we can actually do better.
Jesus, in his teachings, goes to extremes so that by being inspired we may do something as opposed to doing nothing.
That maybe by setting the bar high, we can grow as individuals to meet that bar. And as we meet that bar, its set a little higher so we can continue to grow some more.
Take as an example today’s story, featuring the actions of a Samaritan who sees, who is moved with mercy, and who acts.
Today’s story explores the notion of Kingdom living. Meaning- what would it look like if we were to live as if we have eternal life?
What would it look like if we were to live as though we indeed loved the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind?
What would it look like if we were to live as if we had a rightly ordered life, touched by God?
What would it look like?
Would we be like the ones who saw the half-dead man and passed by on the other side?
Would we be like the one who came near, who saw, who was moved with pity, who went to, who bandaged, who poured oil, who brought to the inn, who took care of, who gave 2 denari, who instructed the innkeeper?
Did you note how many verbs were actually associated with the Samaritan?
Two men saw and passed. But the Samaritan did 12 different actions.
12 actions in just 3 verses, and he promised to the innkeeper that when he came back he’d do 2 more things.
That’s a total of at least 14 different acts of mercy attributed to the Samaritan.
14 verbs that indicated an embracing of eternal life.
Is Jesus saying we have to be exactly like the Samaritan and do them all?
Is Jesus saying we have to do all 14 actions to be a good neighbor or we are no neighbor at all?
Or- is this a story that gives us a glimpse into what are some of the things we can do?
Maybe this story gives us 14 examples in the hopes that we’ll do 7, or 3, or even just 1.
And maybe if this story motivates us to do 1, maybe next time we have an opportunity to be a better neighbor, we’ll do 3, maybe we’ll work our way up to 7.
Yes, Jesus irks me. Jesus works my nerve.
Because although he had no real job, he had no home, he had no mortgage, he expects me, he expects you, he expects us to act as if we have nothing to lose.
Jesus expects us to act as if we have everything to give, as if we have all the time in the world to stop what we’re doing, and to help others.
Jesus expects us to freely show acts of mercy, and to act as if we actually care for others…
…and of course we can. Perhaps not all-out as the Samarian does.
But if we are truly followers of Christ, if we do indeed believe we are justified by faith, if we do celebrate amazing grace-
It means we are free to help, free to show mercy, and free to care for.
Not because we must but because we can.
Because we believe our lives have been touched by God.
Because we do love our neighbors, even if they may break bottles, go over property lines, and exist in chaos.
It is better that we strive for that kind of Kingdom Reality then to stew in a reality in which we are each left to fend for ourselves, beaten and abused on the side of Life’s Highway.
Who is our neighbor, and if we can’t do all 14 things the Samaritan does, can we find a way to do just 1?
Jesus is calling; Jesus is raising the bar.
Amen and amen.