What it Takes to Run with the Wrong Crowd Luke 10: 25-37

AlpsA man was transfixed by the Alps as he traveled on a train.  He noticed a man reading, and not taking in the sights.  “How can you read with this view?”  The man said, “I’ve seen it many times before.”  Sometimes we feel this way about the Good Samaritan-a familiar story, teaching a good moral lesson on how to be a good neighbor.  There is truth in this common interpretation, but parables go beyond the obvious meaning.

This parable starts with a question from a lawyer, who may have been a professor or Rabbi.  He asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  In classic Jewish discourse, Jesus answered his question with a question.  “What does the law say?”  This religious man knew the answer, “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” quoting Deuteronomy 6: 4 perfectly in his stained glass voice.  The lawyer follow-ups with a question: “Who’s my neighbor?” substituting conversation for action.  It seems he could recite creeds, but may have been slow on deeds; long on liturgy, but perhaps short on charity. Gomer

Parables are full of surprises.  The surprise makes an impression that connects people to the truth.  It starts as a picture about something else, and then surprisingly shows us something about ourselves.  The surprise in this parable is a man from the wrong crowd, a Samaritan, not the priest or Levite, stopped to help a stricken man, also from the wrong crowd.  The surprise shows us what it takes to run with the wrong crowd.

It takes courage to run with the wrong crowd.  Jerusalem is 2,300 feet above sea level, and Jericho is 600 feet below sea level.  This particular stretch of road was known as the “red” or “bloody” way.  It is circuitous and curvy route; making it perfect for the violence Jesus describes.  Thieves hide, ambush, rob, beat a traveler, and disappear back into the desert.

Samaritan RoadTraveling with the right crowd on this road meant joining a caravan of other pilgrims.  One didn’t stop and stoop; putting themselves in position where they can’t defend themselves.  The priest and Levite surely felt compassion for this man, but they couldn’t muster up the courage or overcome their concern for safety to help him.  The Samaritan courageously sets aside his fear; trusting there was more at work than what he or others knew.  He bravely stoops down and offers self; willing to step into the wrong crowd for the sake of what is right.  It takes real courage to run with the wrong crowd.

It takes time to run with the wrong crowd.  The priest and Levite didn’t have time to respond to a natural impulse to help.  Belonging to the right crowd can put a demand on your day when you have services to perform and appointments to keep.  The priest may have been late for meeting to discuss increasing temple attendance.  The Levite may have been a temple choir member that needed to practice his solo for next week.  When they saw this stricken man, they were concerned, but remembered they needed to be at a certain place at a certain time.  The Samaritan’s schedule was obviously different.  The gift of time allowed him to see and meet this man’s need; responding to the unexpected that intersected his day.Courage of one

We can occupy our time by tuning our ears too closely to KLTY and not hear the cry of needy on the side of the road.  We can occupy our time; kneeling at the church altar and not have time to kneel in the ditch of human need.  We can occupy our time with our heads caught in the clouds that our hands don’t have time to touch the hurts of others here on earth.

A Princeton ethics teacher tried to ascertain factors that make for loving actions or militate against it. He recruited fifteen graduate students, offering them an extra grade.  When they met, he divided them into three control groups.  He gave five students direction he named the ‘High Hurry Group’: “You’ve 15 minutes to get to the other side of campus.  You don’t have any time to do anything else.  If you’re late and your grade will be docked.”  He told the next five he named the ‘Medium Hurry Group’: “You’ve 45 minutes to get across the campus, plenty of time, but don’t get diverted.” The last five he named the ‘Low Hurry Group’ and told them: “Anytime before 5:00 p.m. report across the campus and you’ll be told what to do.

Busy ScheduleThe seminarians (would be pastors) didn’t know he arranged for drama students to be along the path simulating needfulness.  One sat on a bench crying; another was unconscious; and another convulsing.  None of the ‘High Hurry Group’ stopped.  Two of the ‘Medium Hurry Group’ stopped.  All five of the ‘Low Hurry Group’ stopped.  He concluded that time pressure is a moral category that can crowd out compassion if you feel overloaded with responsibility.  It takes time to run with the wrong crowd.

It takes healed wounds to run with the wrong crowd.  The reason this man helped was because perhaps he was a Samaritan, who too had been a victim.  He may not be a victim of a crime, but all Samaritans were objects of bigotry.  They were called racial half-breeds by their Jewish kin.  Persons born of mixed marriages know the discrimination of not being accepted by either group.  He had done the work to heal his wounds so he could be available to heal the wounds of others who were hurting. Clock

Samaritans usually responded in one of three ways to the injustice.  Most gave up; thinking they could not do anything about the way they were born.  Others went to an became revolutionaries who struck out against their oppressors, but usually ended up being wounded by the sword they lifted.  The third way was to acknowledge how despicable they had been treated, so they could begin to reconcile their deep pain, and then to go to work to insure that others would never know their experience.  Wounds that were healed fueled efforts to help others who suffered in similar ways.

The victim in the ditch and the Samaritan who stopped are more alike than different; both experienced unwarranted hardship.  The Samaritan stopped; because he knew what it was like to be in that condition.  He took his injustice and converted it into compassion.  His suffering made him act; turning his story into something that could be a used to help others.

Pain is a TeacherWe may not have suffered like the ancient Samaritans, African-Americans or Native Americans, but all of us have been knocked to the ground by circumstances beyond our control. There are enough stories of unexpected loss in this room to fill books.  Our wounds can become the vehicles that carry our concern to the others who suffer on the side of the road.

We heal our wounds not by wallowing in the pity of our pain.  At some point, we must embrace the reality we were formed by a loving God, birthed by a miracle, and each moment we live is an incredible, generous gift beyond our deserving.  If life is seen as a gift; the wonder of being alive is so overwhelmingly marvelous, the particular hand we’re circumstantially dealt on this day becomes secondary to the marvel of being in the game.  Birth is a miracle

A family was excited when the fourth child was born.  She was perfect in every way except she had no arms and legs.  The family is people who are more interested in what they could do to be constructive rather than wondering why.  So, they provided opportunity during her 21 years to grow into a magnificent aesthetically sensitive person with a brilliant mind.  Though never in her 21 years, did she ever move, bathe, or feed herself.

Her brother’s roommate watched as she lived with her disability.  He asked her, “Why don’t you explode against the injustice?”  She answered, “I realize when compared to most people, what I have may not seem like much, but thanks to my family I’ve looked on incredible beauty and I’ve partaken in great conversation and in hearing glorious music.  When compared to not getting to be at all, I wouldn’t have missed being born for anything.”  Her astonishment for the life she’s given made her well.  So, the restrictions she knew were not as significant as the gift of being born. The more she relished in life, the less disabled she grew to be in all her days.

Life is a gif tPersons who are willing to run in the wrong crowd to make right what is wrong are not saints.  They are persons who are honest about their own wounds.  They open themselves up to the grace of God often dispensed by others who walked in their shoes.  The healing of their hearts lets them see more clearly those lying in ditches who were waylaid by events beyond their control.  They go to them and offer to them the promise of a new life that is full of a wonder; which can cause the particularities of their wounds to pale in light of the gift of being made alive by the help of our neighbor.

Being good makes us intimate with God; which compels us to be intimate with neighbors in need.  We know nothing of lowly Samaritan except Jesus called him good, and for 2000 plus years we have too.  He wasn’t as smart as lawyer, or as sophisticated as the priest or Levite; but he demonstrated the courage and took the time to be compassionate, thus he was good.  Church let’s help each other run with the wrong crowd, it seems God always shows up there and calls it good.  What say you?It is good

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Published in: on July 1, 2013 at 9:38 am  Leave a Comment  

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