“Would You Be My Neighbor?”
Sermon: “Would You Be My Neighbor?”
Rev. Glenn G. Grant
Kirkridge Presbyterian Church
Transcription from July 10, 2022
Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors.
Well, first of all, I appreciate everyone's prayers for Debbie and her family. Uh, this is a very unexpected, thing for me to be doing. I was not planning on doing a video sermon this week, but life somehow happens even when you're making other plans. But today's passage from Luke is talking about neighbors.
More importantly is talking about what we have to do to inherit eternal life. And it's really easy to say that if you just trust in Jesus as your Lord and savior, you shall have eternal life or any of the number of other phrases that we've probably all heard over and over again throughout our lifetime.
But the reality is, is what comes down to the story that Jesus uses here, the parable. And he talks about a man who's traveling along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho a known dangerous road because it's through the wilderness, and there are not very many places along the way that are protected from such things as bandits and thieve. And so, it would've been a very common and understandable story for the hearers of that.
But in this case, we have a lawyer, a Pharisee who is coming to Jesus and asking him a very pointed question about what he must do to inherit eternal life. And Jesus of course, asked him what the rules are and what the commandments say, and he replies correctly. And then of wanting to justify himself. It says, so there, there is a key point. He wanted to justify himself. Now we frequently do things in our lives where we want to justify our actions. And, you know, we want to feel good about what we've been doing. And so that's, what's happening here.
The Pharisee He wants to feel good about what he has been doing. He wants to feel that he is doing everything right. And so, then Jesus tells this story. And of course, the first and main characters in the story of the man that gets robbed. But then you have the priest, the person representing the highest ecclesiastical body and leadership in the Jewish community, the priest.
And he sees the man who has been beaten and robbed and walks by on the other side of the road as not to come close to him? And then of course we have the Levite who would be like the lay leader of the congregation. You know, he would be the second to the priest as a layperson. And he also walks along on the other side of the road after seeing the man beaten and bloody and passes on by. Then, of course we have the Samaritan, that person who wouldn't even talk to a Jew, and a Jew wouldn't talk to the Samaritan because heaven forbid, they worshiped in the wrong place. They didn't worship in the temple in Jerusalem. They had another location that was their sin. And that was the dividing line between the Samaritans and the Jews.
So here we have this Samaritan who is coming along, and instead of looking at the person that would have been beaten and robbed and seeing him as a Jew, saw him as a person, and took care of his wounds and took him and put him on his own animal, got him to an inn, paid to have him kept until he was healed up.
So of course, the question here is who my neighbor and the Pharisee of course says, well, the one who showed compassion or mercy, well, how does that translate for us today? Who are our neighbors? You know, Fred Rogers famously had this song that he would sing every show about won't you be my neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won't you be my neighbor.
Well, who is the neighbor? It's not just the people that live on our street anymore. Think about what it means to be a neighbor in this day and age. When you see somebody on Facebook or something that is showing up online on the internet. You know, we have pictures that show up daily in our news reports from around the world of people that are in trouble. we have people that are advertising on TV shows that for just 19.95, you can provide this person with meals for a month. And by the way, if you pledge right now, we'll give you this nice, comfortable blanket as a thank you gift for your support. You know, um, they're pulling at your heartstrings when they do that. But, are they really showing compassion for neighbors?
When you see something on Facebook about caring, about the people that have been hurt in Highland park or in Uvalde, or in New York city, or in Detroit or in Flint, are you really thinking of those people as your neighbors or are you letting your heartstrings be pulled by people that really aren't doing it out of compassion? Because doing it or taking care of them out of compassion for them is really the key here. That is the true sign of loving your neighbor as yourself is that you would take everything you would want somebody to do for you and do it for them.
So. It's one thing if you're going down the road and you see somebody that's having maybe a flat tire issue and you can stop and help them, do you? If you see somebody that's standing in an intersection asking for financial help, do you contribute? Or are we like the priest and Levite, you know, the normal interpretation here is that the priest and Levite wouldn't help the man, because if they touched him and his blood, they would become ritually, unclean, and therefore would not be allowed to go back into the temple until a time of cleansing and going through all kinds of ritual purification including special offerings.
Or maybe we need to reexamine why they didn't cross over. I already said that that road was known for being dangerous and maybe they were thinking, well, you know, if I go over to help this person, is that really just a decoy and, while I'm worrying about him, they're going to attack me from behind?
See that makes it a little bit more like what we think today. If I stop to help this person, am I endangering myself? Am I making myself vulnerable? And yet we have to remember that Jesus was telling the Pharisees that you need to love your neighbor as yourself. And more importantly than that is that you shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, with all your being. And to love God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul is to love all of his children as well.
And we have to do it with compassion, or out of compassion. We have to do it because we have a true desire to help them. Not because it makes us feel good, but because we see someone that needs help. So how do we respond to that in this day and age? When we see things on the news of people digging through rubble of after an earthquake with their bare hands?
Do we respond with thoughts and prayers? Do we respond by sending money to whoever asked for it? It's tricky because we know that there are people out there that would try and take advantage of us, and we would become victims ourselves. So, we have to think about things and pray about them carefully, but that doesn't excuse us from doing something.
God doesn't want us to become a victim. But God also wants us to act out of compassion and love one another. Love our neighbor as ourselves. And that is a balancing act for us in our modern day and age.
How do we react to what happened in Highland park, thoughts and prayers? That seems to be the common theme. Or what about contributing to the GoFundMe account for the two-year-old whose parents were both killed? What about all the other people that were shot and injured, or all of those folks that now have a little bit of PTSD for every future 4th of July celebration? How do we care for them?
Maybe the answer is that we care, by caring for those closest to us. We cannot reach out to every single person in this world that is in need of caring, but we can certainly care for those closest to us. We can care for our families. We can care for our neighbors. We can care for our friends. We can care for our Community. We can reach out to all of those people locally that we know are hurting or in need. Whether they've been injured physically, whether they have been injured mentally, whether they have been injured economically. We can reach out with compassion. And so, I would invite each and every one of us that in the week ahead, we think carefully about who our neighbors really are, that God is calling us to reach out to. And find ways, find ways of showing the compassion that we have as Christians, living out the love, the grace and the mercy of Jesus Christ, who also remember said that we need to love one another as he loved us.