God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Wrestling With the Word: The Good Samaritan

I have a confession to make.
I have been singing, American Idiot a lot.

I feel guilty about singing this, but every time I watch the news and the presidential race and laws passed to discriminate, I start singing. I know I shouldn't because these are all beloved children of God. But frankly they are not acting like it. They have taken prejudice, militarism, sexism, nationalism, and fear of the other to new extremes that leave me wanting to singing American Idiot.

Don't wanna be an American idiot.
Don't want a nation under the new mania
And can you hear the sound of hysteria?
The subliminal *&%*$#@* America.
Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alienation.
Where everything isn't meant to be okay.
Television dreams of tomorrow.
We're not the ones who're meant to follow.
For that's enough to argue.
Well maybe I'm the faggot America.
I'm not a part of a redneck agenda.
Now everybody do the propaganda.
And sing along to the age of paranoia.

As I continue to watch the unfolding racism - and I sing.  As bathrooms become an issue - I sing. As a man with a gun shoots - I sing.

Then I started studying the scripture I was preaching on and bam right upside the head was Jesus and his parable.
25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He 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.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus 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. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He 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. 35The 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.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37.
So there is Jesus being asked how do I inherit eternal life? Being very Socratic he asks a question instead of answering directly what does the word say. And the man recites the Shema: "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 love your neighbor as yourself." There I am being unkind. Singing a song that looks around at the world and sings I don't want to be that. And then here are the words of faith my preacher father tells me are the words, the ones we are to guide and direct our lives by. These are the words my dad when asked about faith spoke to us again and again and again. He told us this it what we are to be and do. And yet there I am singing, I don't want to be an American Idiot.

But does Jesus stop there in making the scripture come to life in my world. No. The man in the story didn't like that answer either, so he asked another question to get him out of the impact of those words on his life. "Who is my neighbor?' Jesus this time answer with a story. He tells a parable. There was a Syrian refuge, a Mexican immigrant, a Black Lives Matter protestor at a a presidential rally.  Because of their skin color, their country of origin, their religion. Some of the crowd turned on them and beat them, hit them, stomped on them and left them for dead. Then a pastor walked by because there is just so much pain and I don't have any cash in my wallet to help this time. Then a Bernie Bro walked by and was in such a hurry to get to the protest he didn't even look down at his feet to see the one who needed him. Then a Orange man supporter was running late to meet his friend who were all going to the rally to here the truth, to make America Great Again. This supporter saw the one who was hurt and dialed 911. He said where he was. He touched the one who was hurt waiting there for the police and the ambulance to show. He spoke to the injured and talked about his life and kept asking the injured to hang on. He started to pray for them. He stayed with them until they were placed on the ambulance. He gave them his card and said if you need anything, really I will be there to help. In his American Flag t'shirt and his make America great again hat he rejoined his friends.

Who was the neighbor? Jesus likes to tell us stories. He does this because if we don't have the time or ability to go deep, we can get a message. So the standard message of this story is be kind. When you see someone in need of medical assistance provide it. When you see someone hurt contribute to their healing. Provide money for their care and bandage their wounds. But Jesus also tells us that we won't always get the full meaning of the parable. We won't always be able to hear and understand. Sometime it will take a while, a long while for the meaning to become clear. That there is a deeper message that we can't always experience or understand.

As I was singing my song, I realized that Jesus was inviting us to learn from our enemies. The Samaritan was the despised one for the crowd listening to Jesus. They were the enemies to be made fun of, to be derided and jeered. Yet Jesus says learn from them, be them. There is something they can teach you. Now I wish I could say to you I know what I am supposed to learn from the people I have been singing to. I wish I could say this is what I have gotten from them. But what I was reminded of is that whoever I have cast in the role of outsider, enemy, idiot - God looks at that person and sees a beloved, a child of God, someone on this same mixed up journey of life. And when God looks with love how can I do any less.

Variations on the sermon given on May 22, 2016.

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