By: Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
This Sunday, July 15, 2018, we continue our Via Positiva theme of Yes! In Deed! exploring the various ways that we can embody our “Yes!” our “Oh, Yeah” in the world.
This Sunday we used music from Todd Rundgren to learn how to truly embody love for every person and creature on this earth.
Psalm 82:2-7: you shall die like mortals
Luke 10:29-37: Who is the neighbor? The one who showed mercy.
ACIM, Chapter 12: Only appreciation is an appropriate response to your brother.
Song used in the sermon this week: Love is the Answer – Todd Rundgren
How do we find that innate connection to love that can never be broken, no matter how bleak and divided the world around us may seem? Jesus had the answer: appreciation.
Now, today’s reading from the Jesus story is a familiar one, and one we’ve probably heard so often that we don’t even really hear the story anymore. Traditionally, this has been preached as a morality story, where the Pharisee and the Levite are the bad guys and the Samaritan – who came from a tribe that was hated by the Pharisees and the Levites – turns out to be the good guy.
The moral of the story then is to be the good guy, not the bad guy. Which is a great message, but I think the deeper message that Jesus wants us to recognize is that we’re every single person in this little play: The people who walked by, the wounded man, the Samaritan, the innkeeper and even the robber.
But, even that lesson it leaves out one little detail that I think gives this story the real depth and meaning that we’ve been missing all these years. Just before Jesus makes the Samaritan the hero of this story, he passed through Samaria on his trip. While he was there, he was shunned by the people. He was offered no hospitality at all in Samaria. Like Sarah Sanders or a gay couple seeking to buy a wedding cake, he was denied any welcome in the town.
This unfair treatment made Jesus’ disciples, James and John, so mad that they wanted to “call down fire” on the town. How often have we wanted to call down fire on those who did not welcome us, or those who challenged our views on Facebook?
Jesus denies them the satisfaction, but he does rebuke the townspeople for their inhospitality. But, here, with that rude treatment fresh in his mind, he tells this tale in which the Samaritan is the hero.
It’s been said that Jesus – in those years before he astounded folks in the temple at age 14 and reappeared in his 30s – made a trip to India and learned the philosophies of Eastern religions. I don’t know if that’s true, but I hear echoes of the Hindu text The Bhagavad Gita in this parable. In that text, Lord Krishna is talking with a warrior named Arjuna, who is preparing to go to war. In this dialogue, Krishna counsels Arjuna to show deep appreciation for his opponents – to respect them, even as they do mortal battle.
In Steven Pressfield’s book, “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” which is a revisualization of the Gita, the caddy Bagger Vance, who represents the Hindu God Krishna, tells Junah – the golfer who stands in for the warrior Arjuna – to “love your opponents. […] Never belittle an opponent in your mind, rather build him up, for on the plane of the Self there can be no distinction between your being and his. Be grateful for your opponents’ excellence. Applaud their brilliance. For the greatness of the hero is measured by that of his adversaries.”
Jesus understood the greatness of his adversaries – he honored them because without those adversaries, his message of love, peace, joy and compassion would not have resonated with those who had been hindered by oppressive laws and systems. We can only recognize love when there is a loud, prolonged call for love. The priest and the Levite that hurried by that wounded man were not hateful or uncaring. They were calling for love. They were lost and blind.
Jesus knew that he was just like the inhospitable people he met. If you look at his own ministry, there was that moment, when he called a Canaanite woman a “dog” and was about to deny her call for love before he was able to see past his ego’s insane insistence that he was somehow separate from that woman. In this parable, he shows that he has learned his lesson – he knows that he is everyone in that story – the priest, the Levite, the Samaritan and the wounded man. Indeed, he understands he’s the robber who left the man for dead in the first place.
The one who was the neighbor – the one who showered love in the world – was the one who answered all those calls for love – from the priest, the Levite, the wounded man and the robber. That’s who we’re called to be, Jesus is saying – that Christ consciousness that answers every call for love – not just from the wounded on the side of the road. Even if the call for love comes from those we perceive as enemies in this bodily world – we all have the capacity to answer them and to honor and appreciate them as worthy of love.