What Way Will You Go?

I guess I could start here, like King Duncan. “A Sunday school teacher told of the Good Samaritan. This man: beaten, robbed, left for dead. She described the scene vividly. Her students could see it! Finally she asked, ‘If you saw a person lying on the roadside all wounded and bleeding, what would you do?’ A thoughtful little girl broke the silence. ‘I think I’d throw up!’” Well, she was honest. She’d have company. But I won’t start here. Not me. I could lift for you all the let-down Jesus must’ve felt over the priest and Levite who “made their way” on the other side of the road. But likely, you’ve already heard that sermon… repeatedly. As we dedicate our Camp Hopers today, you’d expect me to go on… and on… about serving others. But I’m not good at what’s expected. So… as the Apostle Paul asks, “What then shall we say to all of this?” Let’s say this, what this story asks is… what way? What way will you go? And it offers a new way, we just don’t seem to know.

Forget Dr.s Phil and Oz, your gym coach or the PTA. Life doesn’t really offer infinite options. Especially in our relationships with others, even God. Jesus’ Samaritan story makes this point and essentially challenges: choose one! And we do. We all do. Take the lawyer who asks the question that prompts Jesus’ tale. He has his own way. It’s constantly to say, “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?” Life and faith alike can be ordered this way. Note what he asks Jesus. “What must I do to inherit… eternal life?” The question wasn’t how to please God, or live a righteous life, just, “What’s on the entrance exam to get through the pearly gates?” Now, consider:  A New York mailman, shot, was ordered to leave a building lobby. …Because he was dripping (blood) on the floor. In Oklahoma City a woman startlingly gave birth on a sidewalk. Bystanders ignored her. A taxi driver looked, then sped off. A nearby hotel refused to give her a blanket. We hardly see ourselves as so callous. But then, neither did the priest in Jesus’ story. He just went his way on the other side because his way was to say… ‘NOT MY PROBLEM. The Levite went the same way. …The Samaritan shows the most famous, faithful way. His way was to say, “WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?” So, where do you find yourself in the story? What way will you go?

Will you go along and get along with those who ask, “What’s in it for me?” You’ll have a lot of company! We are less interested in the work of living a holy life and more interested in the happy ending of life with the Holy One. ‘More interested in having a better outcome than being a better person. We’d rather be pleased with our mansion-in-the-sky than please God/know God nearby! Now I pray that you and I will want heaven. ‘And cling to the Savior who holds open the gate. But it’ll help us experience and welcome heaven-here-on-earth to understand that by themselves, heavenly hopes can be empty, selfish dreams. Journalist Charles Krauthammer writes of the grave consequences to society of human cloning. He notes: in our narcissistic society, immortality is the highest aim. We can’t picture life going on without us, therefore we must find some way to live forever. It’s perfectly human, but still selfish-at-heart. And… it’s a long way from the abundant life Christ desires for each of us now! Few of us would say it openly. But lots of us believe because we are assessing quietly, “What’s in it for me,” clutching to heaven as the prize. How natural. But this can be the sad beginning of obsession with our selves. We do wanna get stuff. Lots of it. We don’t wanna get sick. If we do, we want SOME ONE out/up there we can turn to. Literally, God help us, we worry for our family. So if being religious gets us God on the look-out for them, it’s a small price to pay. Beware, this week, this lifetime, choosing the way of Philadelphia-Lawyers-of-the-soul! Hear Jesus open heaven this way, “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind” and “your neighbor as yourself.” No excuses or weaselly questions. Yes, the street beggar is your neighbor, and your neighbor-who’s-a-pain. And the slow driver in the fast lane and the slower clerk at the store. Even the turbaned guy with the gun, and the kid in the bush with the empty belly! So Jesus wants to know. Is What’s In It For Me the way you wanna go?

You could go this way: IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM. That’s the priest and the Levite’s way. It’s why for 14 yrs., most major news services have maintained a special Apathy file! ‘Not my problem. This is not the sole refuge of uncaring people. Or bad or mean, or selfish ones. We are not immune. We are at risk! The priest & Levite offend us, not with badness, but with unemployed kindness and misplaced priorities. The urgent: their meeting, their schedule; their next duty or clean clothes crowd out the important: to love kindness, do justice, walk humbly (meaning, to put others 1st). This lesson’s so familiar. I’m not going far with it. But I do observe 2 things. #1. What bugs us in the priest/Levite is that they know better! We expect better of them. So does God! And #2, the point is they are us [sic.]; we are them [sic.]. I know! Repeatedly sermons prepped on this theme are interrupted. Somebody @ our door needs help. THIS IS A TEST. HAD THIS BEEN AN ACTUAL ALERT…! Do I go or stay, write or turn away. Sure enough, 7 AM writing day for this, doorbell! Ahhh! I’ve both passed & flunked over the years. You? Jesus asks, what way will you go?

What way, indeed? Surely we trust the Camp Hopers will take the Samaritan way…. go to them (the wounded), bind them, pour on the oil and wine; lift and care for them. Well, that’s 24 of us! What about the rest of us?  What way will you go?  The Samaritan question is always and ever, “WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP, NOW?” Heroism is not required, just a right heart! Spectacular is not required, just specific. (I had a grieving friend once who constantly received his friends’ remarks, “If you need any help; if there’s anything I can do, just call.” He termed this, “Slow death by good intention.” He urged, “If you wanna help, just do. Quickly, quietly. specifically. Need is an alarm clock, not a watch. When it goes off, don’t wait. Push the button! Act!)

Three ways: What’s in it for me; it’s not my problem; how can I help, NOW? … You’ve heard of these as often as you’ve heard of the Samaritan. GET THIS. THERE’S A FOURTH WAY. “WON’T YOU HELP, NOW, TOO?” Don’t miss the rest/best of Jesus’ story.  The next day he invited the innkeeper into the Holy Circle of Help, saying, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay.”  We can choose this way, too. ‘Always looking to expand the circle. It is not to burden others but to bless them. Maybe the best way to offer Christ is to invite someone to act like him. “Won’t you help, now, too?” Let this be our way. And everyone we invite will hear the promise we hear. It’s Jesus saying, “Take care of him/them/all of them; and whatever more you spend (body and soul), I will repay you when I come back.” He will. I know he will. In the meantime, Jesus wants to know, what way will you go?

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