BE THE CHURCH
LOVE TAKES A DETOUR

 

By Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch

August 26, 2018
TEXT:   Luke 10:25-37

 

(Begin with slide presentation by Misty Stecher about “Be the Church Day” August 19.   About 3 minutes long.)

 

            We are the salt of the earth.  We are a city on a hill.   We are never gonna change the world by standing still.   It is time for us to do something!  Last Sunday, August 19, was our day to get out and DO something and BE THE CHURCH!   Indeed, our church took a detour from our regular routine and did service projects after worship; both inside and outside the church building.   Those pictures are just a snapshot of all the great things that happened that Sunday – and I know people are still talking about how fun and meaningful it was. 

 

Marla Wood and her family and Chris Mowrer all worked at King School doing landscaping.  They all shared how great it was to have old and young working together – with great fun and fellowship – and getting to know people from the church.   And they were so pleased with how great the school looked after they finished.

 

Linda Mowrer shared that praying at King School meant so much to her, feeling the Holy Spirit with her as she prayed at each window around the school.

 

Carolyn Spratt and others who visited in the nursing homes, shared how much it meant to be able to visit people – and share a devotion and prayer.  And Brenda Fell even found a long, lost third or fourth cousin while visiting at Rosewood!!

 

And Willa Jewsbury shared what a blessing it was to work together with her cleaning crew to make a beautiful sanctuary for people to worship in.

 

 I think all who were able to participate last week got just a glimpse of what it is like to be a good neighbor…to prepare the church building to welcome our neighbors and to go out into the community to shine the love of Jesus to others.   It was a really great day to BE THE CHURCH!

 

Well, we may not be having “Be the Church Sunday” every time we come to church – but we really need to be about the business of being the church every day of the week.     It has been said that we aren’t going to change the world just by going to church.   We will only change the world by being the church!   We need to go to church for fellowship with other believers, for encouragement for our walk in the faith and to receive our marching orders, if you will, for our tasks in the world.   But we need to be the church, every day of the week, by reaching out to our neighbors and living for Christ.

 

That is our emphasis for the next 4 weeks in our sermon series – how to BE the church and put our faith into action.  We will be looking at how Jesus said we should reach out and do something to make a difference and bring glory to Him.

 

And we begin today with that well-known parable that Jesus told of the Good Samaritan.   Open up your Bibles to the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament.  We’re going to be reading verses 25-37 of chapter 10 in Luke’s Gospel.   Follow along in your Bibles, as I read:

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

 

Who is my neighbor?   According to scholars, back in the time of Jesus, this was a hotly debated question.1   You see the law commanded that you had to love your neighbor as yourself.   But who is the neighbor?   Legalists, like this lawyer, wanted to know just who he had to love and who he didn’t have to love.   It was good to love people that looked like you – had the same nationality and skin color and religion.  For a good Jew, that would be another Jew, right?  But surely you don’t have to love those people that were different than you.  Especially people like those Samaritans.   The Jewish people had hated the Samaritans for about 700 years!  They were considered half-breeds and heretics. It was a racial hatred – and the contempt between them was intense.

 

            So, the lawyer wants to know – just, who is my neighbor that I am supposed to love?   Jesus answers by telling the lawyer and all who were listening, a story.  It begins at verse 30.

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. 31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

 

            Now, why did they do that?   Why did these fine, religious folks walk on by – on the other side of the road – and ignore that poor injured man?   Some have thought it was because they were in a hurry – or perhaps they didn’t want to get defiled by touching someone unclean – bloody and hurt and maybe even dead.   Or maybe they thought, if I go over there, maybe it is a trap and I’ll get injured as well.  

 

            Well, there was a third character in the story of Jesus. Just imagine the shock in this Jewish crowd as Jesus talks about a Samaritan!  Look at verse 33.

 

33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

            Now how is it that the Samaritan had such a different response than those of the religious leaders?   I like the way Martin Luther King, Jr. interpreted it.   He said:    "I imagine that the first question the priest and Levite asked was: 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?' But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?2

 

            Instead of being self-centered – the Samaritan was other-focused. When the Samaritan saw the injured man, he was filled with compassion and did everything he could to care and love this stranger who was hurt.   He reached out to help someone who was hurting – even if that meant it was inconvenient or risky.   He knew that there was a need and that he needed to respond.   Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others.”   For us as a church, if we are to love our neighbors, we need to have compassion for those outside our church and do what we can to care for them.   We need to be concerned for the hurting and broken world outside our walls, both near and far, and not just about us inside the walls of the church.  We need to ask the question, “What will happen to them if we don’t do anything to help?”

 

            Secondly, just like the Samaritan, we need to see the need and fill the need.   You notice that all three of the men in our story of the Good Samaritan saw the injured man.   But the first two, after looking at the man, were unmoved.   They were able to walk away and do nothing.   But the Samaritan had open eyes and an open heart and was moved to act.  He saw the need and filled the need.   And he really got involved.   He didn’t just give the man some money and walk away.   No, he got involved and took time to dress the man’s wounds – take him to an inn – and then offered to pay for whatever needs he might have.  He gave of himself – sacrificially – his time and treasure to help this person in need.

 

            What about us? Every time we meet someone in need, do we live more like the religious leaders or the Good Samaritan?  Do we take the initiative and make the effort to get involved?  I think if we are “being the church”, we can’t just sit in the pew and talk about those we see in need.   We are called to get involved – to go out of our way to show God’s love to the hurting world around us.  It may mean giving of our resources – but it can also mean giving of our time and talent to reach out in some way to show that we care and that we love them.    

 

            Showing love to our neighbor means focusing on others and getting involved – and it will also at times mean taking a risk and making a detour.   I think the Samaritan didn’t start out on that road to Jericho anticipating that he would be stopped to take care of a wounded man.   It was an interruption in his day and he probably had to make a detour from his route, to get the man over to the inn and get him some help.   But his act of mercy showed true love to that wounded man.

 

            The question is – how will you respond when you are given an opportunity to show God’s love?   It may come in very unexpected circumstances – and it may be risky or take you out of your comfort zone.   But “if you are covered by God, you don’t worry about anything else – and you do what is right” and can show love to another human being.

 

            Those are the words of Kaisha Thomas – a young woman who made history back in 1996 by taking a risk to show love instead of hate to someone who really was her enemy.   Maybe you will remember Keshia Thomas’ story.  

 

            Keshia was 18 years old in 1996 and lived in Ann Arbor Michigan.  That year, the Ku Klux Klan was planning a rally in Ann Arbor. When the day arrived, the police set up barriers which would divide the Klan and the protestors gathered there and they were ready with riot gear.   Soon they were forced to use tear gas to disperse the angry, rock-throwing crowd.3

 

            Keshia was standing among the other protestors, standing up against the hatred of the Klan, but had chosen not to throw rocks.  All of the sudden she heard a woman on a megaphone shout out that a Klansman was among the protest group.  Keisha saw a middle-aged white man with a SS tattoo and a confederate flag T-shirt there in the crowd.  He started to run but he was knocked down by the mob. Several protestors gathered around him and started kicking and hitting him…and yelling, “Kill the Nazi!” And that is when Keshia stepped in.

 

            She said she felt like two angels helped her body to move – and she threw her body over the man, risking her life to be a human shield and protect him.     She said, she knew that the violence had to stop – it was not the answer.   She herself had experienced violence and always wished there had been someone there to help her and make it stop.  She said that when she fell on the man’s body, she could feel that the situation was defused.   She said, “It almost felt like, instantaneously, when I put my body down on him. … it felt like love and hope had shot through the crowd. And if you look at the pictures, all of a sudden people are holding their hands up to hold the crowd back.”   Keshia is a committed follower of Jesus Christ – and on that day she was like that Good Samaritan – who walked across the street and took the risk to show that love is stronger than hate.4  

 

            I am so amazed by that story.  Keshia never heard from that man again but she did hear from the man’s son – who thanked her for saving his father’s life.   They eventually became friends and went on to work together on a project for safe water in Flint, Michigan.   Keshia wonders if the man had been killed that day if his son would have just been filled with hate – and may have even become a white supremacist.  But instead, he knows love and has great values now.

 

            Twenty-two years later, Keshia Thomas is an advocate for racial reconciliation and challenges people to show love and not hate, peace and not violence.   And for those of us who think we could never do anything as risky and courageous as Keshia did, she tells everyone:  “You don’t have to do big, big things to show love to people.   The biggest thing you can do is be kind to another human being – it can come down to eye contact or a smile.   It doesn’t have to be a huge, monumental act.   It is just showing love, honor and respect to another human being.”5

 

            Truly loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

 

            Now think back to that story of the Good Samaritan that Jesus told.   By telling that story, did Jesus answer the question the lawyer asked him, “Who is my neighbor?”  Yes – I think he did.   Your neighbor is anyone – the next person you come in contact with – anyone in need, anyone you can help.

 

            But notice in verse 33, Jesus ends that story by asking a different

question: “Who proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The lawyer answered, “The one who showed him mercy.”  And Jesus answered by saying, “Go and do likewise.”

 

            In other words, Jesus changed the focus of the question from “Who is my neighbor?” to “What kind of a neighbor are you?”6

 

            So, as I close, let me ask you.   What kind of a neighbor are you?   Would you want yourself as a neighbor?  What kind of a neighbor is the church?  Do hurting and broken people know the love of God through our love?

 

PRAYER

            Help us dear Lord to BE the church.   Help us to BE the loving neighbor like that Good Samaritan – caring for people around us in need.   Open our eyes Lord to the needs of the world and guide us that we may truly serve you – first and foremost – all to Your glory.   We pray in Jesus’ name.   AMEN

 

INVITATION

 

RESOURCES

 

1Jeff Strite, “Won’t You Be Neighbor?”, sermon as printed on www.sermoncentral.com

2Martin Luther King Jr. quote:

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/937813-on-the-parable-of-the-good-samaritan-i-imagine-that

3Keshia Thomas.  Interview with Oprah, on YouTube.  https://youtu.be/bCiTTn_DzNI


4Jim Schaefer, “A few minutes with ... someone who chose nonviolence”,

Detroit Free Press, July 16, 2016.

https://www.freep.com/story/news/columnists/jim-schaefer/2016/07/09/ann-arbor-rally-keshia-thomas/86878664/

 

5Craig Groeschel, “How to Neighbor, Part 1 – Races Reconciled” sermon posted on YouTube.  https://youtu.be/ooNR-FDBDJE

 

6Faith in Action.   Don’t Go to Church (Be the Church).  Sermon #1, “Detour”.  Outreach Magazine.   Author Unknown.