Midweek Musings 5/13/2020

The Parable of the Good Samaritan as told in Luke 10

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

As we all sit at home with a little more time on our hands than usual, I have sometimes found myself searching the Internet and heading down what I call rabbit holes. One of those rabbit holes led me to a page that showed a lot of TV commercials. Specifically these were videos of TV commercials that have been shown during the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl is known as much for its commercials as it is for football, and Super Bowl XXXIX was no different. Ameriquest Mortgage Company sponsored two ads. One had a man coming home with a bag of groceries and a bouquet of flowers. He begins dinner by starting a pot of spaghetti sauce. As it simmers, he quickly sets the table where he has placed candles and arranges the flowers. He wants to do something really nice for his wife. But as he cuts up vegetables with a large knife, their furry white cat gets on top of the counter and tips over the pan full of red sauce, landing on the floor in the middle of it. The poor guy picks up the cat dripping with bloody-red sauce with one hand while still holding the large knife in the other — just as his wife walks in the door. At that point the commercial flashes the sign: “Don’t judge too quickly. We won’t.”

The second commercial Ameriquest aired had a man talking on a cell phone as he enters a convenience store. He is talking to a friend and says, “Well, that’s a lot of money for a deck.” He picks up a drink and goes to the counter as he says, “I hate to tell you this but you are getting robbed.” The owner of the store is behind the counter with his back turned, and when he hears what the man is saying he looks into the security mirror just as the man puts his hand inside his jacket and tells his friend again, “Did you hear me? You’re getting robbed.” At that point the store owner spins around and sprays him in the eyes with mace. The owner’s wife runs out and shocks the man with a cattle prod as her husband proceeds to whale on him with a baseball bat. As the man lies dazed on the floor, the words appear: “Don’t judge too quickly. We won’t.”

The ads are extremely popular for a couple of reasons. First, because they are so humorous and creative, but secondly, because they strike a chord within everyone who has been judged hastily and unfairly. The interesting thing about the commercials is that the people in the ads who made a false judgment did not hear what happened from others, they knew they saw what they saw, and heard what they heard. The wife saw what happened with her own eyes. The store owner heard the words with his own ears, but both were wrong. They weren’t going by hearsay, but they were still very wrong in their interpretation of the events. It never occurred to them that they could be mistaken.

Jesus often points to things that the world has judged but has done so incorrectly. We like the stories because we to remember times when we have been judged incorrectly by others. The story of the good Samaritan is just that type of story. However, what we don’t like is being reminded that we often judge others. I know I am guilty of doing this. I see others and assume I know them because of the bumper stickers on their car or the clothes they wear or others they associate with. Some of my greatest discoveries, however, have occurred when I have been forced to spend time with some of these folks. In many cases I have made some lifelong friends, even though we may never see eye-to-eye on certain issues.

This is part of the story of the Good Samaritan. Folks listening to the story would certainly not have expected the Samaritan to be the hero. They only saw Samaritans as others who were “less than” they are. Of course, the story could also be called the hypocritical or uncaring Jews. Perhaps it isn’t known as that because too many readers would identify with those who passed by on the other side, and we are all uncomfortable facing our own shortcomings.

I guess my thoughts this day are twofold.

One: we are all better off when we take the advice of our Lord and do not judge others, at least not before we really get to know them.

And two: remember that we often play the roles of those who pass on by. Thus, we are all in need of forgiveness and grace.

The good news is God offers us this forgiveness and grace. Having been given this gift, our call is to go and do likewise.

Amen.

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