Have you ever felt completely isolated- alone- like there is no one there you can lean on? Have you ever been in pain in the middle of the night, and known it was just you in that bed? We’ve all heard stories of the Good Samaritan, and how we’re supposed to reach out to those in need. But what if we’re the ones in need? What if we’re the ones that people are just walking by?
The Parable of the Good Samaritan has all the makings of a good story: conflict, bandits, plot twists, unlikely protagonists, and a call to action. But it also has something else. It has someone lying there bleeding.
What are we feeling as we’re lying there? They see us, that priest, that Levite- the people we expect to help us. They’re members of our own church. But they just look and hurry past. What is it that we’re feeling as we feel our life blood flow out of us? Fear? Anger? Exhaustion? Frustration? Don’t just glance at me and walk on! Stop! Stop and help me!
What are we feeling? Despair? Desperation? Just giving up? When no one will enter into our pain with us, what do we do? We try prayer, and that gives comfort, some sense that we’re not alone. But prayer doesn’t stop the bleeding. It doesn’t bind our wounds, or get us off the side of the road. It doesn’t protect us from the animals licking around our open wounds, when we’re too weak to get them off. We start to lose consciousness, to go into that dark place…
…And then we feel a hand touching us. We try to open our eyes, but can see only shadows. If our mind wasn’t going in and out, we might be afraid, for we will later learn that it was the hand of our enemy.
But the hand is gentle, probing tenderly into our wounds. A sudden sharp pain as the hand pours something- wine?- into our wounds. And more sharp pains as the hands gently start to bandages our wounds to staunch the bleeding. But we trust the hands, the gentle, probing hands who have not passed by, but have stopped.
The hands lift us up onto an animal- a donkey- and then we pass out. But we know we are in good hands. When we awake, we are in a bed in an inn. The innkeeper lifts some broth to our mouths, and our thirsty lips eagerly sip what is offered. We lay back on the bed, and pass into oblivion.
When we awake again, it is morning. We don’t know how long we have slept. The innkeeper comes into the room with more broth, and we ask, “Where are we? How long have we been here?” And the innkeeper replies, “You were brought here two days ago by a Samaritan man, who promised to pay me if I cared for you.” We reply, “We don’t know any Samaritans.” “Well,” the innkeeper replied, “if it weren’t for him, you’d be dead.”
What do we feel? What are we feeling right then, as our wounds ache? What are we feeling when we realize that, but for the kindness of this stranger, we would be dead on the side of the road, a carcass for coyotes?
Is there shock? Fear? Not knowing what to do next? Is there relief? Perhaps the first inklings of what will later be gratefulness?
“I felt completely alone in this world with no one to lean on”- but that is no longer true. There was someone- a stranger- an enemy- who came to us, and held us, and bandaged our wounds, and paid for our care. We wonder if he will return, if we will meet this one who was our savior. Not our savior like God is our savior, but our savior for the day, our savior in our hour of need. God’s grace in human form.
I understand that in Restorative Justice, when a convict is brought into the presence of her victim…if the victim chooses to reach out to them… to look into their eyes… over the course of time, to perhaps forgive them… that victim begins to look more like a savior. Someone who has bound a wound that they didn’t have to bind, but for grace. God’s grace in human form.
I wonder what it is like for the refugees, as they see their children taken from them. As they are crowded twelve to fifteen in a cell without water or the most basic sanitation. I wonder as blood flows from their wounds, as thirst and hunger weaken them, what they feel about the American guards passing them by with no hand of compassion… I wonder what they are feeling? Would it be the same thing we would feel? Fear? Anger? Exhaustion? Frustration? Don’t just look at me and walk by! Stop! Stop and help me! Stop what is happening to me!
And I wonder who will be God’s grace in human form to them, who will reach out with gentle hands, and binds their wounds, and bring them to a safe place they can be healed.
Who will be their savior for the day, their savior in their hour of need? For our prayers are frail things, if there is not God’s grace in human form to bind their wounds.
Jesu, Jesu, fill us with Your love, show us how to serve, the neighbors we have from You.
In the Name of the One who binds our wounds, and will never let us go- any of us. Even Jesus the Christ. Amen.
SCRIPTURE FOR JULY 14, 2019 LUKE 10:25-37
A lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” The lawyer answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, the lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now, by chance, a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. A Levite did the same thing: when he came to the place and saw him, he passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’
Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The lawyer said, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Friends, listen to what the Spirit would say to us today.