July 10, 2016
Luke 10: 25-37
It’s hard to know what we don’t see.
I’m showing my age here,
but I grew up in the era of the black and white TV…
and of the rabbit ears on top that you moved around to get a picture…
and of the network signing off at night…
because there was no such thing as 24 hour news…or 24 hour TV.
My grandmother was the first person I knew who had a color TV.
I remember the first time we visited when she had her new TV.
She turned it on (of course there still was no such thing as a remote control,
so she turned the knob on at the set.)
And there it was in living color – Family Feud with Richard Dawson!
It was simply astounding to me.
Orange and blue set
and Richard with a plaid suit and a yellow flower in his lapel!
It was like a whole new world.
Everything seemed different somehow.
I didn’t know what I’d been missing.
(And once I did, I never wanted to go back to plain old black and white TV.)
We waited impatiently for our clunky old set to die
so we could replace it with a color TV with one
which showed the NBC peacock with its feathers in red and orange and yellow and purple and blue and green.
It had never occurred to me that the peacock’s feathers were colorful!
It’s hard for us to know what we don’t see.
It’s hard for us to know what we’re missing.
The story of the Good Samaritan…
a lesson we can take from the horrific events of this week…
is that each of us can learn to see better…
we need to see each other better…
…and seeing will move us to action.
The Good Samaritan is one of those parables in the Bible
that many people know even if they have never read the Bible.
Three people come upon a man beaten and bloodied in a ditch.
Jesus says that all three see the man.
They may not admit it afterwards, but they see him.
A priest and the Levite see the man,
and they walk away.
And here’s the astonishing part of the parable…
the one who really sees the man…
who sees not just a body in a ditch or somebody else’s problem,
but who sees a man who is hurting,
and who sees him as one of his own… is a Samaritan.
You’ve probably heard the background.
Jews and Samaritans are enemies.
When traveling through Palestine,
Jews would walk completely around the areas where Samaritans lived,
rather than through it.
Their hatred of each other was deep and bitter.
Each accused the other of desecrating their holy places.
The Samaritans had profaned the Jewish temple in Jerusalem by throwing bones into it,
and Jews had done something similar to the Samaritan temple at Mt Gerazim.
In this story, Jesus tells a Jewish lawyer who thinks he’s rather progressive;
who thinks he has it all figured out;
that the only one who sees that a man is hurting
and then is moved to act is a Samaritan.
As our Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said at a prayer service on Friday,
people of color are hurting.
Our brothers and sisters are hurting….
Racism is a continued evil in our world,
and it’s not somebody else’s problem.
It’s our own.
And most of us have walked away from it…
we’ve pretended not to see it.
It’s hard for us to know what we don’t see.
It’s hard for us to realize because none of us has a TV with colorvision yet.
We’re looking at the world with a picture with black and white squiggly lines across the front;
we move the rabbit ears a bit, but it’s still barely in focus,
and yet still we think that’s this is it – this is the best there is.
I declare to all of us today:
a better picture is possible!
There’s such a thing as a color TV!
Martin Luther King talked about the beloved community;
Such a community is not color-blind
but color-seeing, and appreciating, and learning, and loving.
The story of the Good Samaritan comes in the context
of a question the lawyer asks Jesus.
He asks, “Who is my neighbor?”
It turns out the neighbor is the stranger, the one different from us,
the one who stops and sees and acts.
Probably most of us have experienced at some point in our lives,
the kindness of a stranger.
Recently people on Reddit were asked,
“What’s the nicest thing that a total stranger has done for you?”[i]
When you get discouraged about the capacity of human beings
to care about someone different from them,
read some of these stories.
“A guy named Jason sat with me after I got hit by a car. He waited when no one else did, made sure I didn’t die by the side of the road, and got help. I owe that guy my life.”
“I had a leg cast and was trying to get to school on crutches (my usual ride was unavailable). When I was halfway there, a policeman saw me and offered me a ride to school.
The kicker ? I am black and lived in a mostly white city.”
“I had severe anorexia in hs. I used to run every day. Every day I ran the same route. There was an elderly man who always sat on his porch…One day I was running in a down pour …and (I) started crying. I slowed down to a walk and as I walked past that man’s house, he yelled out to me “It gets better every day”. I went home and admitted myself to the hospital. “
The guy named Jason,
the police officer,
the elderly man on the porch…
they could imagine a different picture – a different world…
and they saw and acted in such a way that could bring that picture into better focus.
Who is tour neighbor?
This week it’s clear…
“A man selling CDs outside a convenience store in Lousiana…
“A man driving in a car with his girlfriend, her daughter, and a broken taillight in Minneapolis…
“A man standing guard at a peaceful protest in Dallas…
These are our neighbors.