Proper 10

Pentecost--Focused  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:13
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We are a busy people. We have our family and friends, our social activities and hobbies—all the things that occupy our time. But who are we along the way, when we are going from one place to the next? If you see a stranger stranded along the road do you stop to led assistance? Our response reveals much about our neighborly understanding.
Today we are beginning a new mini-series entitled, FOCUSED.
We tend to think of distraction and focus as opposites.
If someone is focused, they are not easily distracted by random events and encounters.
If someone is focused, every decision about how to spend time and resources is calculated.
Apart from Christ that type of focus spells disaster for our neighbor. We may dismiss the needs of our neighbor, thinking, “If I spend time helping him, that will distract me from other things I should be focused on.”
Today, Jesus teaches us that he has set us free to live a life of such distractions. No matter the neighbor and no matter his need. We are free to act in ways that seem senseless. We are free to actively become a neighbor for those in need. We are free to bear any cost and go any distance to serve them as Christ would serve them.
The Samaritan loved in a practical way, but how practical is it for us? Can we “Go and Do” what he did? Is it not beyond us? Not if we remember the love Jesus showed us by keeping the Law and dying for us. He has put His love — agape — in us that we can “go and do likewise.” For us who are in Christ, “Focused Love is a Practical Matter.”
So this morning we will talk about how (I). Focused Love Becomes the Neighbor; how (II). Focused Love Is Truly Rewarding; and that (III). Christ’s Focused Love Empowers us to Love.
You see, the lawyer in the text has it right. To be a Christian means that we Love God will all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. The story of the Good Samaritan is to focus our attention to actually love our neighbor — regardless of who they are — in word and deed.

Focused Love Becomes the Neighbor

No restrictions based on race or creed.
The lawyer did not like Samaritans and would have excluded them from his list of those to be helped.
Many today exclude people based on their race from their concept of neighbor — Jews and Arabs in the Middle East, minorities in the U.S. How much racial prejudice is there among us?
Even within the Church that bears Christ’s name with diverse denominational names attached. We may be Lutheran by confession, but the Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist are no less our neighbor as the person sitting next to you. All those who believe and are baptized are our brothers and sisters in the faith. Do you see them as such? Or, do their theological differences cause you to keep them at arms length?
You see, Love and compassion never asks, “Are they like us?” but goes all out, regardless of their background.
No restrictions based on whether we know them.
In Jesus’ day people tended to limit their love to friends and acquaintances.
In our day it’s hard to think of people in other counties, states, and countries as neighbors.
People we do not know may have just as great a claim on our love and compassion as our friends and church members do.
The Samaritan serves as a vivid example in that he did not know the injured man personally. Yet, look at what he did for him — he became the neighbor to the man in need.
No restrictions based on character.
The lawyer and others like him are ready to love good people, but not the tax collectors and sinners.
Likewise, we may be ready to love people who are good, have the same values as us, the same theological convictions as us, and, of course, those who will be thankful for what we do for them and will love us in return.
But Jesus ends His story with the command, “You go and do likewise.” That means, we must extend love to the reprobates, societal outcasts, and every person who differs from us theologically. In other words, become the neighbor of those in need.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Love is a practical matter. We cannot narrowly restrict it. We can see how practical love is in Jesus, who loved you and every sinner enough to redeem and renew us—make into a New Creation. Now He calls us to do the same, and we can now become the neighbor of all people in need.

Focused Love Is Rewarding

And It comes without excuses
We don’t know why the Priest and Levite were so callous, but they could certainly offer excuses for why they didn’t attempt to help the man.
The Priest was on his way to assume his post at the Temple, which was a 14-day commitment. Helping could have made him late.
There was a realistic fear of defilement, which would have caused him to remain in Jerusalem for another couple weeks to complete the appropriate tasks to be declared CLEAN before he could stand at his post in the Temple. This would have kept him away from his family in Jericho even longer.
Perhaps they feared being attached by the very same robbers.
We are really good at rationalizing our way out of helping someone in need.
We have no time.
We have no money.
It could be dangerous.
“It won’t do any good anyway!”
The Priest and Levite of the parable are just like so many people in human relationships today.
What makes their neglect so devastatingly applicable to our daily lives is that we — like them — are religious people. They were more concerned about “what’s in it for me” than becoming the neighbor for the man on the side of the road.
What makes their failure so relevant today is that the excuses for our neglect of those in need are every bit as “understandable” — and wrong — as their possible rationalizations.
There was a “Christian” congregation who rented out an unused room to an Alcoholic Anonymous group for their weekly meetings; that room was only used on Sundays. Over a period of a couple years this group grew to serve over 100 people on a weekly. The Pastor came by every now and again to get to know the people. But members of congregation, nor members of the Church Board ever took the time to stop in to do the same.
This AA group faithfully paid their weekly rent without fail. Yet, the church board grew frustrated that the carpets in the meeting room required cleaning more frequently. Yet despite the AA group offering to help pay for their periodic cleaning, the church board evicted from their property. The group had grown so large that it was no easy task to find a space large enough to hold their meetings. But another church down the road opened their doors to these broken people and provided for their need.
Let me ask you: of the two churches which was a neighbor to this group of people in need?
Love comes with specific aid.
The Samaritan gave the help that was needed.
We, too, can offer concrete help.
We can help someone find a job.
We can give food and clothing.
We can give money to bring medicine and the gospel.
We can speak words of comfort and encouragement.
Love comes with generosity.
The Samaritan did not skimp in the help he gave.
Love is extravagant in the giving of time, the sharing of self, and the bestowing of gifts (e.g. the widow’s mite; Mark 12:41-44).

Focused Love of Christ Empowers Us to Love

Jesus, too, the ultimate Good Samaritan, is a model for our deeds of love and compassion. But He is more. He is the means, the power for those deeds.
Jesus likewise befriended enemies — Romans 5:6-8
Romans 5:6–8 EHV
For at the appointed time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for the ungodly. It is rare indeed that someone will die for a righteous person. Perhaps someone might actually go so far as to die for a person who has been good to him. But God shows his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
— and Jesus set no limits to his love, even undergoing death and damnation in our behalf. — 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13.
2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV84
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Galatians 3:13 NIV84
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
Christ’s life and death, damnation and resurrection not only gives us eternal life, but they also empower our deeds of love and compassion to others; they enable us to “go and do likewise.”
Jesus offered no excuses to escape the cross, but generously came through with the specific help we needed to be His own. That is why we can NOW stand ready to become a neighbor to whoever is in need. That is why Focused love can be such a practical matter.
Because Jesus was a Good Samaritan to our plight, rescuing us from our eternal death “in the trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1), we, through the faith in Jesus that the Holy Spirit gives us through the Gospel, are able to become a neighbor in our everyday relationships with others.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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