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The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost                                      July 10, 2016

This Weekend's Readings (click each reading to view the passage)

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

Pr. Steve's Sermon: Jesus is Messing with Us
Pr. Steve's Sermon: Jesus is Messing with Us

Children's Sermon: First Aid
Children's Sermon: First Aid

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Sermon Notes from Pastor Steve...
Over the years, as I've compared vacation stories with other people, I've come to realize that there are two ways of traveling when you're on vacation. One way is to go somewhere and then just go with the flow. You don't have any schedule to keep, you don't have to be any place or do anything. So if you feel like doing something you do it, and if not, you just lie on the beach!
And then there's the other kind of person - the kind of person who schedules out all their activities, sometimes down to the hour. You want to go everywhere and see everything, and if you get behind, you'll miss something. So there is no "go with the flow" in this. You have a schedule and you stick to it!
I am one of those annoying people! I want to make sure I get the most out of wherever I am. So I have a schedule and a plan. And while the folks who like to "go with the flow" often listen to me and think that my plan is really stressful, the only thing that really stresses me on vacation is if something or someone messes with my schedule!
And so maybe that's why, when I was contemplating the story of the Good Samaritan towards the end of my vacation, I was struck by the feeling that when Jesus calls me to be a neighbor to others, basically what he's doing is messing with my schedule!
I put myself in the place of this unnamed Samaritan, and I realized that if I were him, I'd have a schedule and a plan to get off that road and be in Jericho by a particular time. That would have been important because the road was dangerous, and if you were on it after dark, it was even worse. So if you were going to slow yourself down by stopping and helping this guy, it really messed with your schedule and your own personal safety.
But as I thought some more about this story, it occurred to me that that's not the only thing Jesus is messing with in this story. Jesus is also messing with our understanding of who our neighbor actually is. We're so used to hearing this story called the story of the "Good Samaritan" that we think Samaritans were all good guys. But that's not how Jesus' first hearers would have heard this parable. To them, a Samaritan was the last person they'd think of as a "neighbor" - that is, somebody who might be a good guy who would help them out.
Samaritans and Jews really, really, really disliked and distrusted each other, so much so that most Jews wouldn't even set foot in Samaria when they traveled between places in the north like Galilee and places in the south, like Jerusalem. A Samaritan was one of those "other" people that you avoided and distrusted. It was inconceivable that a Samaritan could be the person who had your back and would care for you.
Over the past couple of weeks, we've seen over and over how much our society is polarized and how fearful so many people have become of the "other."
About a week ago, a woman at a Trump rally in New Hampshire asked why we don't get rid of all those TSA people who "wear hebee-jabis", referring to Muslim women who as part of their religious practice wear a head scarf known as a hijab. It was inconceivable to this woman that a Muslim woman could actually be a neighbor - a fellow citizen who actually was working to protect her - because she was one of those "Samaritans"...
And over the past several days, we've sadly learned about more shooting deaths of unarmed black men and the killing of police officers in Dallas. At its root, one of the causes of racism is the inability to see the person you consider "the other" as your neighbor. The fear and mistrust that's evident in all these shootings is that for some people, if your color is black - or your color is blue - you're the Samaritan - a person who couldn't possibly be someone who would have your back or seek to do you good ...
So Jesus messes with my idea of who my neighbor is. And Jesus messes with my schedule. But maybe most of all, Jesus messes with my understanding of my relationship with God.
Remember, this story begins with the lawyer asking Jesus, "what must I DO to inherit eternal life." But by the end of the story, it's evident that not only is the neighbor a Samaritan - in fact, the Samaritan "neighbor" is the character who represents God.
God is the one who finds us beaten and half dead by the side of the road. God is the one who allows his schedule to be messed with to pick us up and carry us to safety. God is the one who cares for us, in spite of the fact that WE are the "other" - people who in no way, shape or form measure up to God.
The neighbor - God - shows us mercy. We can't do anything to earn it, or even repay God. And that's NOT usually the way we see ourselves as neighbors.   When I'm a neighbor, I help my neighbors out. When my neighbors help me, I repay them for their help by giving them a hand. And when I've done my civic duty, I can rest assured that I've earned my "good neighbor" award.
But it doesn't work that way with God.
And so Jesus told this parable to mess with us. And Jesus is messing with us to make us more into the people God intends us to become.
Jesus is messing with our schedules, so that we can stop and focus on what really matters. Jesus is messing with our ideas of who a neighbor is, so that we can see others as people, instead of just as "others." And Jesus is messing with our ideas about our relationship with God, so that we can truly have a relationship with God, and not just a "good neighbor" award.