Sunday, July 15, 2007

Today's Scripture includes the story of the Good Samaritan. I like the way Barbara Crafton of tells it, so with her permission, I'll use her version of it for today's post:

The Right Answer

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?"

He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." -- Luke 10:25-28

Almost everyone thinks that faith involves believing the right thing. Jesus' questioner was a lawyer, one who made his living by defining his terms. He must have thought that faith was like everything else in his life, a matter of getting it right: the right answer, the right conduct, the right opinion. Tell me what's right. I want to know.

But no. It turns out that faith is not a secret code of rightness that will unlock the treasure of eternal life. It turns out that faith is a relationship with God and with the world, and that the name of this relationship is love.

Again, a lawyer would be frustrated here: Well, what is love? A feeling? An obligation? A decision? He would need some specificity, he felt, in order to understand. No further explanation was forthcoming.

Instead, a story: a man is in serious need of help, and a stranger whose people are at odds with the injured man's people helps him, when his own religious authorities won't. The two are brought together in the story for a moment and then we hear no more -- nothing about eternity, no angels, no voices complimenting the Samaritan on his good behavior. He goes on his way with a promise to come and finish his good work, if need be.

It turns out there's no secret code, no hidden key. There's no need of one: eternal life isn't locked. Anybody can live as a lover of God and neighbor, just by walking out his front door and looking around at what needs to be done. And then doing the first thing that presents itself. And then another. And another. As many as you want -- they're all your neighbors. And the Christ who lives in you also lives in each of them.

+ Pentecost 7, Proper 10, Year C
Amos 7:7-17 or Deuteronomy 30:9-14 * Psalm 82 or 25:1-10 * Colossians 1:1-14 * Luke 10:25-37

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