Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Our Unlikely Neighbor

July 10, 2016 — Proper 10
Sermon Text — Luke 10:25-37
Sermon Audio —

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Our Unlikely Neighbor

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 10th chapter.

Beloved in the Lord,

Taking and Offering or Receiving and Giving?

SermonGraphic_300x220We’re all like this lawyer. This lawyer isn’t just any civil lawyer. He’s not a partner for Sam Bernstein. He doesn’t have his own Television studio promoting himself to local sports fans as part of the first family of law. This lawyer is a church lawyer, a disciple of the law of Moses, one who knows the Old Testament inside and out. He knows what to do and what not to do and what happens if the law is transgressed. But even all of that doesn’t make him like us. What makes this man like all men is that he’s trying to justify himself.

You see, since Adam’s fall into sin all men, women and children get it wrong, fail, trespass, and transgress the way things work with God. We think . . . wrongly . . . . that the way things work with God is that we can take from our neighbor and offer things to God, that our neighbor’s plight is merely an opportunity for us to show God how much we love Him and thereby inherit eternal life. We think we can do what Jesus gives this man to do. We are by reason of our fallen nature sinful and unclean. And unless we daily confess our fallenness we’ll fall into the same trap as this lawyer. We’ll try to justify ourselves.

And trying to justify ourselves before God we’ll try to do not only what this lawyer tries to do but what sinners always do, namely we’ll try to redefine terms. We’ll change the definition of words, make them say what we want them say. “Who is my neighbor?” the lawyer asks, implying that there are some who are not his neighbor? “When does life begin?” implying there is a time when a pregnant woman isn’t really pregnant. “When is a fetus a baby and when is that baby actually a person?” “What makes a marriage?” Two people who love each other? Which two? Only two? What is a family? What is a boy? What is a girl? Can we define these ourselves? Changing definitions doesn’t change reality. And all of our attempts to do so only work against us, preventing us from actually showing mercy to our neighbor and dealing with reality as it is. Instead of justifying ourselves, we only muck it up much more.

For Men and Good Man

To break through our hard hearted, self-centered attempts of making things right with God by our own strength and efforts Jesus tells a parable. A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers who beat him, stripped him and left him half dead along the side of the road. This man is any man, woman or child, hurt by sin or sinners. He is you and me who have been left for dead by the devil, the world and our own sinful nature. His falling to robbers is a picture of our fall into sin. His brokenness is our brokenness. His plight is our plight. His inability to rise up and continue the journey is our failure to make it home on our own. Who will rescue Him? Surely a hero comes along with the strength to carry on??? But who?

By coincidence a certain priest was coming down on that same road. Surely this good and pious man will stop and rescue his fallen brother? Surely the one who ministers in the temple of God will stretch out his hand to help in time of need? But no, seeing him this priest passes by on the other side. He doesn’t even draw near. He walks away. He already does enough for God working in the temple. He loves God too much to devote his time, treasure and talents to such a cause. The fallen man would only sully his piety and get in his way. But maybe another will come? Surely someone will help.

Likewise also a Levite came to the place. Here’s the good guy of the story. He’s the church goer, the one who knows right and wrong, what to do and what not to do and what happens when God’s law is transgressed. He wants to inherit eternal life. And to do that one must love God and love your neighbor. He happens upon the man and seeing him he also passes by. “The wages of sin is death.” And “the soul that sins shall die.” Surely, he fell upon robbers because he sinned against God. That man got what he deserved. His plight is his punishment. To go and help would be to work against God’s judgment. This man, in his fallenness is not his neighbor. Once he gets his life together, if he gets his life together then the Levite will love him. So even the Levite keeps on keeping on.

Will no one help? Is there no hope for humanity in humanity? What kind of parable is Jesus telling us? What is the point of all of this? Is the man destined to die? Is this God’s will for sinners – death and judgment?

The parable continues. A certain Samaritan was travelling along the road. You can almost hear the lawyer echoing Luke Skywalker, “Noooo! It can’t be” This guy cannot be the good guy. He’s a Samaritan. He’s evil. He’s on the dark side. Jews hate Samaritans like the rebellion hates the empire. There is no love between them. But its true. The Samaritan is not just the good guy in the parable but he is good. He is the picture of goodness in motion. Seeing the man he is filled with compassion. His heart is warmed within him. The man’s plight is His plight. The man’s brokenness becomes his brokenness. The man’s care becomes his only concern. He binds up his wounds. Anoints him with oil and wine. Carries him to the inn and covers the cost of His care promising to return.

The Unlikely Neighbor is Jesus

Promising to return? Wait. What? For us on the other side of Easter, hearing these words in the parable causes our ears to perk up. There’s more going on here than just a story about being nice to someone in trouble. Why does the good guy in the parable promise to return? Because the good guy, the good Samaritan isn’t just the hero of the story, he’s the man’s savior, He’s our savior. The unlikely neighbor is Jesus. This parable is all about you and Jesus. What this good Samaritan did for the fallen man is what Jesus has done for you.

There is hope for humanity, for there is one mediator between God and men, the Man Jesus Christ. He has travelled along our way, found us beaten, stripped and left for dead by sin, death and the devil. You were dead in your sins and trespasses. You were born this way for the judgment on Adam has fallen to us all. But this judgment was never meant to be the final judgment. For this reason Christ has come and for this reason He is preached to you this morning. For who among us has not suffered sin’s fate? Who among us is not afflicted with the brokenness of our world? Who is not hurt or hasn’t hurt others? Yet Christ comes to us. He is faithful to His Father in heaven and He is faithful to you. He loves you because the Father loves you. Loving you means He desires your salvation and not only that but He sets out to win your salvation. He seeks after you. He calls to you. He Sees your plight and takes no offense. He is moved with compassion towards you. And finding you He doesn’t stand at a distance wagging His finger in condemnation at you. He doesn’t tell you that you got what you deserved. And He doesn’t tell you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. He doesn’t encourage you to do it yourself. Jesus deals with the reality of the situation. And the reality of the situation is that you can’t do it. You aren’t Nike, the greek god of victory, nor his disciple. Paying homage to false gods doesn’t deal with reality, it doesn’t deal with consequences of sin.

Jesus alone deals with sin, death, devil and hell. He approaches in gentleness. He loves in Word and in deed. He binds up your wounds with His grace. Carries you to the font where He washes away your stains. And He gives you bread and wine to eat and drink, His body and His blood, for life, not your life, but His life shared with you for eternity. He brings you to the inn, His holy church, where His Holy Spirit serves as the innkeeper who daily and richly forgives your sins and the sins of all believers. None of this is free. All has a cost and such a cost was paid in full, not with gold or silver, but with the holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death of Jesus Himself.

Jesus makes dead men Good men (by conforming sinners to Himself)

As you rest in the Savior’s church the Holy Spirit, over time, brings health and healing to your heart and soul. He conforms you to Christ with His Word and Sacrament. Reception of God’s gifts is not a “one and done” sort of life Christ wills for you. No! You need continual care, constant nourishment, the medicine of immortality until the savior returns to take you home. Through these as through means the Holy Spirit works the forgiveness of sins in your heart and in your life. You were once dead in your sins and trespasses but now you are alive in Christ so long as you believe in and abide with Christ. One cannot abide with Christ if one is never where Christ is present. Nor can a Christian remain a Christian if he or she fails to be receiving God’s Word and Sacrament.

Here, in this house, we unlearn through repentance what the world has taught us and the Spirit teaches us the way that leads to eternal life. God, through His Word defines reality. He tells us the way it is and corrects our misunderstandings. Love, life, marriage, family, forgiveness, repentance, eternity and divinity are held before us that we may be holy as the Lord our God is holy. Eternal life begins here, in this place, in Christ’s Church, with us as His Christians receiving from God His Word, learning from God His love, having that Word implanted within us to work within us. Thus we learn to love our neighbor – all the others around us – starting with husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and coworkers, even enemies and adversaries, whomever the Lord places along our roads.

Receiving and Giving (Go and do likewise)

You see beloved, one cannot love God and love one’s neighbor unless he or she first receives that Love from God. The dead cannot live unless God Himself first breathes life into us. Changing definitions does not change reality. It’s not the definition of words that needs to be changed its us. We don’t need to rescue the world, we need to be rescued from the world, its curse, its brokenness. This rescue happens by grace through faith and such a faith transforms us from sinner to saint, death to life, from being of the world to merely being in the world, from using our neighbor or ignoring or neighbor to serving and loving our neighbor. No longer are we to take from our neighbor and offer to God but now we receive from God and give to our neighbor. Thus we gather food for the hungry. We collect and distribute needed items for single moms who choose life and refuse to walk the way that leads to destruction. We pool our resources to help the needy, clothe the naked and cover their shame, not with a judgmental – “you got yourself into this mess now get yourself out” – but through Word and deed anointing them with the oil of gladness and the new wine of salvation. We carry Christ to them in the world and lead them to Christ’s good gifts in His Church. We see them as we once were and we are moved with compassion as Christ is moved toward us. In other words, we “go and do likewise.” AMEN!

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!

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