St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-14-2019


St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-14-2019

The One Who Showed Him Mercy

Deuteronomy 30:9-14, Psalm 82, Colossians 1:1-14, Luke 10:25-37

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I think most of you know that I lived in the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona years ago. Hot and dry doesn’t even begin to describe the conditions there. As I was writing this message I checked and the temperature was 102 at noon, heading for a high of 105, and the humidity was 15%. (Google; July 12, 1:00 pm Arizona time).

On the lighter side we had a couple of humorous anecdotes dealing with the harshness of the desert:

One was the contest of predicting when the ice would melt on the Santa Cruz River. What’s funny about that? Well, the Santa Cruz was dry except in the rainy season and the implied melting point was when the air temperature reached 100 degrees.

Another was the addition to the Ten Commandments; the eleventh commandment of the desert which addresses living in a place with rattle snakes, scorpions and cacti with thorns. That commandment states emphatically “Thou shalt not put thy hands nor thy feet where thou hast not first placed thine eyes”.

Yes, we could make light of such a harsh place, but we did so seriously. Most people kept a gallon or two of water in their car in case of a breakdown; most stayed inside as much as possible during the heat of the day; outdoor work such as construction was done on the night shift; and it was illegal to refuse a person a drink of water.

The Sonora Desert is unforgiving (period). With summer temperatures commonly exceeding 100 degrees a person can die of heat stroke rather quickly. Having those temperatures combined with such low humidity a person can die of thirst in a matter of hours. Shade is scarce and natural sources of water are nonexistent outside of the month-or-so long monsoon seasons.

With that background in mind, I tell you that there are people who realize that the Sonora Desert is an unforgiving place where heat stroke is not uncommon and dying of thirst can occur within hours that search the arid grounds near the Mexican border for wandering immigrants and offer them aid when needed; some food and water mostly. Sadly, and all too often, they find the lifeless bodies of those whom they didn’t reach in time, reporting their location to local officials for removal. In 2018, on the Arizona border alone 127 bodies were recovered.[1]

Among these groups is one that calls its project “No More Deaths”. It’s a faith-based group who seek to reduce the losses of life by patrolling the area, leaving water along the common routes, and offering aid when the imperiled are discovered.

For this work 4 members of the group have been arrested and convicted on unconnected charges of “abandonment of property and of entering the refuge without a permit”. [2]

Following public outcry, 4 others had their charges dropped and a 9th man, Scott Warren, was charged with “harboring and conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants”; his trial ending with a hung jury yet prosecutors are trying to get a retrial.[3]

 

Add to this part of the story the fact of inhuman treatment of those who manage to cross the border with their lives. People being held in overcrowded conditions; children separated from their parents, sometimes lost in the system and left behind as their parents are deported, some never to be reunited. Many of these children are also being held in inhumane conditions with lack of needed care. My friend, a chaplain charged with giving spiritual support to some of these children who are relocated to a facility not too far from us, writes; and I quote

“This is a tragedy. Many if not all of the youth we have received from the southern border arrived at my work with illness; Influenza, chicken pox, upper respiratory infections. It’s apparent that they have been ill for weeks without adequate medical attention. This is a tragedy”.

 

Now, I ask you to think about all this; think about the migrants coming into our nation across our southern border, consider how desperate they must be to leave their home, face uncertainty in their future, enter such conditions as the Sonora desert, and take so much risk to cross such a desolate, forbidding place.

Then think about those trying to save lives as this occurs.

And then… ask “why is showing mercy a crime?” and “Why is providing basic provisions and care too expensive”?

 

Today’s Gospel reading addresses this situation precisely.

 A lawyer asks what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus doesn’t give him an answer, rather confronts him with a question; what does the law say? Love God and love neighbor he replies. Your right, do this and you will live!

But the lawyer, in his legalistic thinking, has one more question just to be clear “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus responds with the wonderful parable of “The Good Samaritan”. In that story the priest, who is Law abiding like the lawyer, passes by the wounded man. Likewise the Levite, also dedicated to worship services and an adherent to the Law, passes by. It is only the Samaritan who, being moved with pity, stops and offers aid.

And he not only shows compassion in binding the man’s wounds, he walks as the stranger rides his mount, he pays for the man to stay in the inn as he continues to care for him, pulls money out of his own pocket to assure his continued care, and promises to shell out more if that isn’t enough!

Jesus finishes with another question “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man…”

Through the parable and that question Jesus turns things around; not defining “…who is my neighbor?” but defining the verb “love” in the Commandment to Love your neighbor. To Jesus the question we should be asking is not legalistic, not “Who is my neighbor” but compassionate “How do I show love”.

In the end of the story the lawyer is turned around, not through Jesus’ answers but by Jesus’ questions. Through self reflection as Jesus speaks the lawyer gets-it, he understands. And when asked who was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers; he knows that it is “the one who showed him mercy”.

 

In a couple of weeks our youth group and leaders will sacrifice time and money and travel a considerable distance to show mercy to those in need. I, for one, am proud and honor them for that!

My Chaplain friend will continue her merciful work of offering spiritual support to the displaced children living in her community. I am equally proud to know her and to support her work!

And, even though I do not know any of them personally, I am proud of those who continue to defy unjust laws in favor of showing mercy to those in need in the Sonora Desert!

It is in acts such as these that we show our love for God and fulfill God’s Law of loving our neighbor.

Go, and do likewise.

Amen

 

Deuteronomy 30:9-14
30:9 and the LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors,
30:10 when you obey the LORD your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
30:11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away.
30:12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”
30:13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”
30:14 No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

Psalm 82
82:1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
82:2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
82:3 Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
82:4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
82:5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
82:6 I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you;
82:7 nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince.”
82:8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!

Colossians 1:1-14
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
1:2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
1:3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
1:4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,
1:5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel
1:6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.
1:7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf,
1:8 and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
1:10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.
1:11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully
1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
1:13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,
1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Luke 10:25-37
10:25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
10:26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”
10:27 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.”
10:28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
10:29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
10:30 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.
10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
10:32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
10:33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.
10:34 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.
10:35 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.’
10:36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
10:37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus
said to him, “Go and do likewise.”