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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Focus: Surprised by Love

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?"  He 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."  And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."  But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 

Jesus 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.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.  He 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.  The 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.'

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?"  He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
- Luke 10:25-37

My mother-in-law is one of my heroes. For thirty years she has been the principle care-giver to my brother-in-law John, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy. That means thirty years of therapy and specialists, thirty years of lifting and shifting, thirty years of wiping butts and blowing noses, thirty years of bathing and shaving, thirty years of struggle and heartbreak … but most of all -- thirty years of love. And that’s not just giving love. As she tells it, Good Samaritans spring up all the time from so many unexpected places. She is constantly surprised by love. 

There was the homeless man who stopped at the supermarket to lovingly engage John and then show her his special technique for feeding bottles into the deposit machine. There was the car-wash worker dressed in rags, who dropped his bucket and ran to help lift John from his chair into her car. There was the wounded warrior who swam with John and helped lift him from the pool. There are the teenage street kids, decked out in hip-hop finery, who interrupt trying to look cool to come over, smile and say hello. There are the scores and scores of African-American and Hispanic aides and assistants, working at minimum wage, who are so generous with their time, their care and their love.

Over the years, my mother-in-law has developed a “Samaritan Theory.” She says that people who are struggling, are rejected, are not respected, have an immediate empathy for someone they see as a kindred spirit. John’s vulnerability is a portal for their goodness. They know that he will not reject them. They have a ready outlet for the tremendous store of love they carry with them. In an instant, there are smiles all around. For a brief moment love is in the air. Then everyone goes their own way, better for touching each other’s lives.

In this week’s gospel, the Jewish traveler would normally have nothing to do with the despised Samaritan. And the Samaritan would never have dared to approach the traveler for fear of stinging rejection. Had they passed walking on the road, both would have averted their eyes and hurried on. The vulnerability of the beaten traveler serves as a portal for the Samaritan to enter his life. For the proud and indifferent passersby there is no portal. They are the movers and shakers. They despise vulnerability. They see only a messy, inconvenient waste of time. Why bother?

In Christ, God gives us the perfect portal for love … both for giving and for receiving. What greater vulnerability than birth in a stable and death on a cross?  In his ministry Jesus constantly sought out the vulnerable, the despised, the rejected. In this gospel he calls on us to get over our pride and place ourselves on that road. At different times in our lives we will be in both roles…the victim and the Samaritan…the vulnerable and the empowered. Don’t avert your eyes. Don’t walk by. Take every opportunity to love. And when in doubt, love some more. Even when you’ve made it a habit, you’ll be constantly surprised by love. 

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