The Merciful Samaritan - Reflections 7-10-19

Texts for Sunday, July 14, 2019

Deuteronomy 30:9-14
Psalm 25:1-10
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

My daughter and her husband have become foster parents. As a mom I am proud; as a citizen of the community, I am grateful. Opening one’s home and heart to strangers is a compassionate act. 

This week’s Gospel text is the story of the Merciful Samaritan (aka Good Samaritan). I like the new title for the story. I think that merciful lifts up the idea of compassion that many translations use for the Samaritan’s response “he was moved with compassion”. 

Compassion is a “gut reaction” to something (no really, that’s what the Greek word implies). It conveys the concept of empathy or feeling with someone. You could say a compassionate person “gets it”. Since Samaritans were officially avoided as outcasts, I can imagine that the Samaritan did actually get what it was to be a victim of violence laying in a ditch.

In this story Jesus answers someone from the establishment who is trying to test (or trick) him. Please note the person does know the “right answer”. Jesus’ answer to the second question uses this parable to point the way for becoming a neighbor. But “neighbor” is not someone who lives in your neighborhood. Luke shows that a neighbor is someone who crosses boundaries to help a stranger.

As I read this oh-so-familiar parable, the whole mess down on our border with Mexico comes to mind. The stories of the conditions in which our country is currently treating children and families are shocking and horrible. The more we hear the worse it sounds. You know it is bad when the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is “appalled” at our country’s treatment of immigrants and refugees. Neighbor, mercy, compassion do not reflect our country's official action.

When I was in the southwest a couple of years ago on a learning immersion trip with youth, I became aware of volunteer groups who comb the deserts for dead bodies of those who have perished from dehydration, hypothermia, heatstroke, or foul play. They do this difficult work out of respect for the dead and to bring closure to families and friends if possible. Many of them have relatives who attempted the journey; these volunteers know in the gut what it is like to not know about a loved one. Neighbor, mercy, and compassion.

One group that finds dead bodies and also tries to prevent dead bodies is a Tucson-based aid group called No More Deaths. Their volunteers leave supplies for migrants crossing the desert lands of southern Arizona. Neighbor, mercy, and compassion, indeed.

Several volunteers from No More Deaths have been arrested over recent years; earlier this year some were fined and briefly imprisoned for leaving food and water for undocumented migrants. In June, volunteer Scott Warren was tried for conspiracy to transport "illegal aliens" and for two charges of "harboring illegal aliens." The judge declared a mistrial because the jury could not come to a verdict. A couple of days later the federal prosecutors announced that they would re-try him on the 2 charges of harboring aliens. 
** deep sigh **

One thing that I have read over and over is that we will never really understand the point of the merciful Samaritan parable if we don’t at least sometimes imagine ourselves as the injured one. We need to feel the vulnerability of being the one beside the road. And who will the Samaritan be in your story?  Who is the neighbor who will step over the boundary to show you compassion? 
What does that imagery add to your reflections about neighbor, mercy and compassion? What does that add to our responses to detention issues?

This situation at our southern border is wearing on the heart and soul of many people I know (and don’t know). If you are one of those, there will be a nationwide candle light vigil on Friday evening July 12 to end human detention camps. The closest one is at the Federal Building in Cedar Rapids (Gather at Lot 44 861 - 2nd St. SE). For more details click: Lights For Liberty: A Nationwide Vigil to End Human Detention Camps Vigil. If you are not in this area, you can search for the one closest to you at that site.

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245