This sermon looks at Luke 10:25-42 from the Narrative Lectionary. It brings the story of the Good Samaritan and the story of Mary and Martha together to explore a key theme in the Gospel of Luke. There are two kinds of people: those who listen to Jesus and those who are distracted. What are the things that distract us in life?
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Do you remember Doug, the talking dog from the movie Up?
“My name is Doug. My mast…
What was Doug’s problem?
Too many distractions.
I think we live in a Doug world.
We are suburbanites. Our lives are full of distractions.
Do we have any soccer parents in the room? You know what I’m talking about.
I’m not even talking about the bad distractions. I’m not talking about the temptations that try to lure us into really bad, destructive behavior. Those exist, of course.
But, I’m talking about all the good things that cry out for our attention.
You know the drill. You pile up the kids in the mini van, get one to soccer practice, the other to dance, and the third one to swimming. You get five minutes to check Facebook on your phone, then you have to pick them up, pull through a drive through, if you’re lucky, and get each of them to their second activity for the evening.
Then you have to try to squeeze in time for extended family, friends, school functions…
And, oh yeah, church…if you don’t have a tournament that weekend.
All of these things are good things to do.
But if we are honest, are they the best things to be doing with our time and energy? I don’t know.
This is one of the reasons that Lent is such an important season. It is designed to slow us down. We fast in order to declutter the distractions and be able to listen better to the still, small voice of God.
I think our text helps us in this.
I invite you to take out your Bibles and turn to Luke chapter 10. This is on page 946 in your pew Bibles.
We follow the Narrative Lectionary. One of the things I like about following a lectionary is that it forces you to preach texts in a way that you might not naturally do it.
The Narrative Lectionary asks us to look at two stories that are usually preached separately, because, at first glance, it seems like they contradict each other. One calls for action, the other calls for a lack of action.
Both stories might be familiar. The first one is the parable of the Good Samaritan. The second is the story of Mary and Martha.
I want to begin by looking at the story of Mary and Martha, because I think it is the final moment in a section that started with our text from last weekend on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Look at verse 38.
What does it say Mary did? She…
…listened to what Jesus was saying.
What was Martha doing?
…distracted by her many tasks.
I think this is the main theme of this whole section. There are those people who listen to Jesus, and there are those who are distracted.
Remember what the voice said from the cloud at? What does it mean to listen to Jesus?
We live in a world full of distractions. Martha was distracted by her duties of hospitality, so much so that she neglected the presence of Jesus. It’s not that hospitality is bad, of course. It is good, and expected. But, Jesus calls for radical action to usher in the Kingdom of God.
Mary, on the other hand was willing to break the rules and listened to him.
What distracts us?
Here is another distracted character. He is an expert in the Law of Moses and well respected in the Jewish community. I wonder what distracts the lawyer?
He asks Jesus, in order to test him,
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“You’re a lawyer. What does the Law say?”
Love God and Love Neighbor.
“Yep. That’s right. Do that.”
The lawyer already knew the right answer. This has ALWAYS been the answer. Jesus isn’t changing the heart of God or the playbook.
The loving God created all things out of love and for love, so that all things can be in loving, interdependent relationships. That has never changed. We’re just not very good at it.
So, he asks…
“…but, who is my neighbor.”
What do you think is going on in his mind? Is he distracted by a need to be right(eous)? Is he distracted by hatred for non-Jews?
So, Jesus, in typical, non-direct fashion, tells a story…
A man (assumed to be Jewish, because we always place ourself in the center of the stories we hear) has been robbed, beaten, and left for dead.
A priest and a Levite see the body and pass by on the other side of the road.
These two characters are also distracted. If the body is dead, it will make them unclean and unable to enter the Temple. Touching blood would also make them unclean. They have to go be holy. They don’t have time for this.
It was common to group the priests, levites, and lawyers together. It was also common to tell stories like this in sets of three, where the third character “gets it right.” It is fairly safe to assume that the lawyer…
…expected his kind to show up next, hopefully as the hero, because the Law always saves the day.
It’s a Samaritan.
The Jews hated the Samaritans. They were descendants of the rebellious Northern Kingdom of Israel who turned away from the Temple and were later destroyed and diluted by the Assyrian Empire. Now, they were nothing more than half-blood, mongrel, heretics.
The hatred flowed both directions.
The phrase “he was moved with pity” is unfortunate, in my opinion. The English word pity denotes condescension, in today’s usage. The phrase translates a single Greek word splangnizoma which is translated elsewhere as compassion. It is the same word Jesus felt toward the widow in Luke 7:13.
It is a gut-level response in which the observer suffers with the suffering person.
And true compassion always moves us to action. The Samaritan gave of himself to insure the best possible care for…his enemy.
Then Jesus asks the tough question. “Who was the neighbor.”
The one who showed mercy.
That must have been hard to admit.
Loving God and Loving Neighbor are not separate enterprises. To love God is to love neighbor, and to love neighbor is to love God, because God is the action of love.
Jesus challenged the lawyer. Go and Do likewise.
The task for us, as followers of Jesus, is to listen and act, because listening without acting isn’t listening, it’s hearing with distractions.
Lent is a wonderful time to slow down and reflect on our own distractions. We can ask God to show us the neighbor to whom we can demonstrate love and from whom we need to accept love.