The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Preached at Lutheran Summer Music/Bach Cantata Sunday in Decorah, IA
on July 14, 2013

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Ida Blasser was not going to let us out of our third grade Sunday School class until we got the point.  You have to learn to be like this Good Samaritan.  When people are in need you help them.  It wasn’t that I didn’t think this was a good idea; it’s just that I found it really hard to put into practice.  And it kept getting harder.  It’s still hard.

 

One of the things that makes it so hard is that most often feel more like the guy beat up and lying in the ditch.  That certainly was the case for me in the years immediately following my departure from Mrs. Blasser’s Sunday School class at the end of the third grade.  By then I had a year of piano lessons under my belt, and the teasing and taunting was beginning.  In my school, it wasn’t cool to play the piano, especially if you were a boy.  As I grew older, came to love singing, moved from the piano to the organ, loved being in church, my cool factor went from bad to worse.  Maybe some of you know something of what this is like.  In schools and communities where football or soccer is often king…  In places where it’s more acceptable to hang out or play video games than it is to practice or work hard to produce something of beauty, musicians often find themselves teased, taunted, bullied.  It’s not uncommon to be left in the ditch by the side of life’s road feeling beaten and bloodied.

To tell the truth, life itself – with all its complexities and challenges can make most everybody feel like that from time to time.  We live – all of us – in times that are confusing and frightening; times that tempt us to live in the moment, because — well, because who knows what the future might hold?  Could that future possibly be good?
With a head full of thoughts like these, I headed into adulthood with my Sunday School teacher’s encouragement to “be good, like the Good Samaritan,” continuing to ring in my ears.  Like I said, a great plan; just hard to execute.

 

And then I met Martin Luther.  He turns the diamond of this story just enough for us to see it in a new light.  He cracks open the words of Jesus to bring us hope and healing.

It’s all about our baptism, Luther teaches us.  Every story of Jesus is a resurrection story.  So we’re not the Good Samaritan in this story, Jesus is.  And we are – we really are – the ones that for all sorts of reasons are beaten and bloodied, left for dead.  But into our sad and sinful lives Jesus comes.  He meets us on the road of our sorrows and pains and in our baptism pours on us the soothing oil of his healing grace.  He wraps us in the new clothing of a hopeful life in which, by God’s grace, all things are made new.  Jesus takes us to the inn of the church, puts us into the care of others until he returns, and pays the price of our healing.

 

Children of God, live in this hope.  The world may wound you, it wounds all of us, but you are never alone.  Christ and his church, the very community of faith that surrounds you this day, has taken you into its care.  And by your baptism into the death and the resurrection of Jesus, there is nothing that can separate you from the most magnificent force for good in the Universe – the love of God.  It is exactly the Gospel Shannon preached to us at the talent show last night: he didn’t see me for what I was.  He only saw me for what I could be.

 

Any sin, any sorrow, any sadness that may leave us ditched and given up for death will one day be healed by Christ.  And that day is today.  In water.  In word.  In bread and cup.   In these our sisters and brothers in the community of Christ.  In song.  In hope.  We are loved and we are lifted.

 

Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands; for our offenses given.  For our offenses.  For us.  A world full of people gone bad, beaten and bloodied.  Even priests and Levites who pass us by.  Even the bullies and the badgerers.  In that strange and dreadful strife, Christ defeated sin and death for all of us.

 

Therefore let us joyful be, and sing to God right thankfully, loud songs of Alleluia!

 

In the name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.