“How to be a Neighbor” A Devotion on Luke 10: 29

“But wanting to justify himself, the lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
—Luke 10:29

The lawyer in The Parable of the Good Samaritan tried to trick Jesus so he asked him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered by the Book: love God and love your neighbor. But the lawyer sought a loophole: “And who is my neighbor?” What he really wanted to know was “who is not my neighbor?”

Jesus did what he so often did; he told a story. A man was robbed and beaten and left for dead on the Jericho Road, when first a priest and later a Levite came upon him and “passed by on the other side.” The lawyer would have recognized these men as men of authority, men like him.

Then a traveling Samaritan came upon the man and was “moved to pity.” He bandaged the man’s wounds and, placing him on his own animal, took him to an inn and took care of him.

The lawyer, listening to Jesus’s story, would have been well aware that the Samaritan was a despised heretic, no neighbor of his.

Jesus asked him, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The lawyer said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The Samaritan was “moved to pity,” showed mercy, and did what needed to be done. That is what makes him “good” and a true neighbor.

Jesus’s story changed the focus. To ask “who is my neighbor?” is to seek the limits of my responsibility to my neighbors. A better question is “Can I be a neighbor to those who need me?”

Prayer: Move us to help those who need us, O God, and to show mercy to them as you have shown mercy to us.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for November 3, 2018. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Picture: “The Good Samaritan” by Rembrandt.)

“God’s Righteousness and Ours” A Devotion on Psalm 111:2-3

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of honor and majesty is God’s work, and God’s righteousness endures forever.”—Psalm 111:2-3

The concept of “righteousness” was important to Ancient Israel’s self-understanding of their covenant with God. The Hebrew word usually translated as righteousness could also mean integrity, justice, prosperity or wholeness. Righteousness was both an attribute belonging to God, and the order of things that God put into place for the well being of Israel. Continue reading

“Everyday Virtue” A Devotion on Hebrews 13:18

“Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.” —Hebrews 13:18

People frequently conflate religion with morality, as if they were the same thing. When we are children we imagine that if we are good, God will reward us. But the Christian faith insists that God loves us as we are. As Paul put it: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Continue reading

“The False God SUCCESS” A Devotion on 1 Corinthians 4:10-13

“God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world. We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.”

—1 Corinthians 4:10-13 Continue reading

“Small Beginnings” A Baptismal Sermon on Mark 4:30-34

Jesus also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” —Mark 4:30-34 Continue reading

“Good Trouble” A Devotion on Mark 2: 27-28

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’”—Mark 2: 27, 28

Jesus was often in trouble with the authorities because he regularly, and quite intentionally, broke the religious rules of the day. Continue reading