Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Sermon (June 29) by Kristi Bope - "A Life of Service"
Dear heavenly father, open our hearts to the message
that we are about to hear. Be with us and guide us to become
like the good Samaritan, in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The human brain is an incredible creation. It is the most
complex network of cells that exists in the universe. Even with
this award winning distinction, our brains can't do everything.
To accomplish all it has to do in a day, the brain takes
shortcuts. It simpliﬁes the innumerable sensory inputs in a
variety of ways. One established method of simpliﬁcation is to
label the world. We do it all the time. It is not bad; it is
essential to be able to handle everything bombarding the ears,
skin, eyes, mouth, nose, the need for threat assessment, and
handling emotions attached to the sights and sounds. It is
exhausting just to think about what the brain has to do.
So there is a need for labels. For example, if something is
labeled safe or dangerous, then there is no need to think about
what to do. One embraces the ﬁrst and avoids the second. One doesn't have to deal with why it is dangerous or how
dangerous or even if it is really dangerous at all or just a false
alarm. It is dangerous, and that is that.
This is all good, but you can see how labels can be a
problem. They have a tendency to stick even though times or
thoughts have changed. Labels are attached to all sorts of
things, including people and ideas.
I have had many labels bestowed upon me. Labels like
Daughter, Sister, Mentor, College Student, and of course
However, there was a time in my life when I was hesitant
to be labeled a Christian. Back then, I felt isolated and
alienated by friends who looked down upon the label of
“Christian.” They gave it a negative connotation. So I
suppressed my enthusiasm. I was trapped.
Fast-forward to 2012, and that label took on a diferent
meaning. During our church’s Bicentennial Celebration, I stood
up there on that balcony looking down upon all of our past and
current pastors. That is when I realized that being a Christian was something that I should be proud about. I decided that I
want to be as inﬂuential to others as those pastors have been
to my family and our congregation and community.
However, even in my studies at Ohio Dominican
University, I still sometimes feel boxed in by this label. Ohio
Dominican is a Catholic University. During an academic
advising session, I informed my advisor that I planned to
attend seminary after graduation. My advisor stood there in
shock, as if I had said that I was going to turn water into wine.
Seeing Pastor Cheryl standing before our congregation
with all the other male pastors during that Bicentennial
celebration inspired me. I felt that she was a beacon of light
for me, illuminating a path that I wasn’t sure existed for me.
The thing is, embracing a label and making it your own
doesn’t change the fact that it’s still just a label. Our labels
alone fall short of describing who we really are. We don’t
actually believe that one, two, or even three words, can
adequately describe the entirety of a person.
The labels, no matter how empowering they may seem, will always be the walls of a box. Labels make you less of a
person, not more.
We cannot just search for our labels; we need to ﬁnd our
Identities. Our identities cannot be found in adjectives or
nouns, but in the intangible things ─ things that are universal
and timeless. Things like love, and faith, and relationships,
Even though we may identify with a label, that label
proclamation doesn’t mean we always live up to it or
incorporate it into our identity. In the gospel reading today,
Jordan read the parable of the Good Samaritan. In Jesus’
response to the lawyer’s question of “Who is my neighbor,” he
painted a picture of three individuals who had labels bestowed
upon them. The Priest, The Levite, and the Samaritan.
The ﬁrst passer-by is introduced as a Priest. He came
down the road, but when he saw the man he crossed to the
other side and continued his journey. The priest has been
excused by some down through the years, by saying that he
didn’t want to touch the man because he might have been dead, and this would have made the priest ceremonially
unclean and he would have been unable to carry out his duties.
But I want you to notice it says that both he and the Levite who
came along next are coming “down the road” thus they were
leaving Jerusalem and had already performed their duties.
This was one of the most shocking aspects of this parable
when Jesus told it.
The priest was considered the holiest person among the Jews. He was taught the Scriptures. He was entrusted with ofering sacriﬁces for the sin of the people. He was allowed to go further into the Temple than “regular” people were. If anyone was going to reﬂect the character of God, it would be the priest.
The second passer-by is introduced as the Levite. The Levite at
least looked at the man, but perhaps it was no more than the
current practice of “rubber necking” at the scene of an accident
to see what had happened. He too did not feel a need to do
any thing to help. Both of these men, saw the man but ignored
the need. These two religious professionals were caught up in
a life-less religion. They played their role at church,but that did not afect the way they lived outside the walls of the
In verse thirty-three we read, “ But a Samaritan while
traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved
with pity.” It would have been shocking for Jesus to have told the
people that this man was helped by just an ordinary man. But it
is not even a Jew helping a Jew, but rather a Samaritan helping
a Jew who had been ignored by his fellow Jews.
Given the mutual hatred between Jews and Samaritans, it would have been more likely to have expected the Samaritan to ﬁnish the
guy off. Today we call this story “The Parable of The Good
Samaritan.” In fact the very phrase, “good Samaritan” has
become part of our common language. But this was deﬁnitely
not a phrase in use by Jews of Jesus’ day. In fact, they probably
couldn’t have even considered saying the words “good” and
“Samaritan” in the same sentence.
When that Samaritan looked at that sufering man lying
half-dead by the side of the road, something happened in his gut; something that made it impossible for him to walk away.
He didn’t decide to help this guy on the basis of how worthy he
was. He helped him because of how needy he was.
There is no a logical reason for the Samaritan to
rearrange his plans or to spend his money to help an “enemy”
in need. Of all the people who passed this injured man, the
Samaritan had the least reason to help, he was a no body in
society before this incident and his good deed would not
change his label in the community at large.
We struggle in our daily lives to be like the Good
Samaritan. How many of us here are like the priest that just go
through the motions of the Christian label but do not actually
identify when faced with an opportunity of service. Too many
times in our lives, we are caught up with the hustle and bustle
of society that we forget to take the time to look at our
surroundings. There are moments in our lives that may seem
insigniﬁcant with no opportunities for service, however, if we
just slow down, these opportunities easily present themselves.
For example, this past Christmas, I was shopping with my sister, Ashleigh, at Elder Berman when we noticed a frail
woman struggling with a mattress pad that she had just
purchased. She was about the same size of the mattress pad. I
immediately looked and my sister and it was almost as if we
knew what each other was thinking.
We decided to assist her with carrying the mattress pad out to her car. We learned that when she had purchased the item, she had asked for a cart to take it to her car. The check out clerk unfortunately informed her that there wasn’t one available for her to use and went on to the next customer.
That clerk saw the need but ignored it just like the Priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. I’m not saying that the clerk was a bad person, but it is an example of how we get so caught up in our busy lives that we ignore the people in need around us.
The story of the Good Samaritan also gives us another life
lesson. Don’t shine so others can see you; shine so that,
through you, others can see Him. Again, there was no a logical
reason for the Samaritan to help the man in need. He was a
man of no status in the world that he lived in. He didn’t help the man to gain favor in anyone’s eyes. He was simply letting
God’s love shine through.
For my closing thoughts, I leave you with these questions.
Are you like the Priest in the Parable, or are you like the
Samaritan? Are you living a life of service? What changes in
your life do you need to make in order to let God’s love shine
through? I leave you with the same words that Jesus left the
crowd and the lawyer…. Go and do likewise.