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Naked, Bleeding, and Terrified - Sermon, 7/14/19
July 15, 2019, 12:00 AM

It is no secret that we live in a very litigious society – we like suing people for anything and everything under the sun. Perhaps the most joked-about lawsuit that people recall is the woman who sued McDonald’s because she spilled really hot coffee on her lap. Now, partially as a result of that lawsuit, we have warnings on everything: coffee cups, dish soap, laundry detergent packs – you name it.


As a result of other, less-famous, lawsuits, there is something called the “Good Samaritan Law.” Essentially, the Good Samaritan Law protects people who act like, well, Good Samaritans. The law limits the liability of people providing emergency assistance to someone in danger. For example, let’s say that someone is in a non-fatal but still dangerous car crash. Someone sees the accident and rushes in to help. In the process of helping the person injured in the car crash, the helper accidentally breaks the arm of the car crash victim.


The Good Samaritan Law says that the person whose arm was accidentally broken cannot sue the one who accidentally broke it, especially because the arm was broken in the course of providing emergency assistance after a car crash. I remember hearing stories – true or not, I don’t know – but I remember hearing stories of people refusing to help those in need out of fear of being sued.


Those stories may be just urban legends but there must have been some grain of truth in them. The Good Samaritan Law – at least in my non-lawyer way of understanding it – the Good Samaritan Law says that the fear of a lawsuit should not keep a stranger from helping another stranger in the case of an emergency. This law is designed to protect the helper from any legal ramifications of being helpful. To some degree, the law is also designed to protect the helped because it frees up strangers to be helpful.


The Good Samaritan Law is named for the parable in today’s Gospel lesson from Luke. It is probably a very familiar parable to many of us, having heard it numerous times throughout our lives. My guess is that many of us hear this story from the perspective of the ones walking on the road. Maybe some of us hear the story as the priest or the Levite who cross the road to avoid the victim. We hear the sound of conviction in Jesus’ voice as he describes the priest’s and the Levite’s unresponsive behavior.


Some of us may also hear this story from the perspective of the good Samaritan. We might pat ourselves on the back for the ways in which we have rescued people. We may remember times when we have been kind and generous like the good Samaritan. We might even puff up our chests a little bit when remembering those times when we have been like the hero of the story.


Today, however, I would like to suggest that we hear Jesus’ parable from the perspective of the person beaten and left by the side of the road to die. If we put our imagination caps on, like they do on Sesame Street, we might be able to imagine how the victim felt. We left our houses this morning to go from Jerusalem to Jericho. This shouldn’t be a treacherous journey. We have made this walk dozens of times in safety in the past. We walk along the road feeling safe and secure.


All of a sudden, robbers come out of nowhere! The robbers beat us. They strip us of our clothes and our dignity. And, just as quickly as they appeared, the robbers run away, leaving us naked, bleeding, and terrified. Unsure of what to do, our heart skips a funny beat when we see the priest walking down the road from Jerusalem and Jericho. We half-hope, half-expect that this holy person will provide assistance while we lie naked, bleeding, and terrified. But the priest crosses to the other side of the street.


Crestfallen, we fall back into sadness when, all of a sudden, we see a Levite walking down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Surely this person will stop! Instead, the Levite looks at us and passes by on the other side of the street. Once again, we find ourselves lying on the road, naked, bleeding, and terrified.


Off in the distance, we see another person walking down the road. As he comes closer, we see that he is a Samaritan. Even in our terror, we know that this person presents a clear and present danger. Samaritan equals stranger. We would never expect to receive help from this person, our sworn enemy, a believer in a different kind of religion, a non-keeper of purity laws.


But it is the Samaritan who both looks at us and truly sees us. The Samaritan sees that we are naked, bleeding, and terrified – and responds with compassion. He pities us first and then leaps into action. The Samaritan pours wine and oil on our wounds and then binds them. No longer naked, bleeding, and terrified, we allow ourselves to be carried in strange yet loving arms to a local inn. The Samaritan continues to care for us and even provides for our future care by leaving money for the innkeeper.


As we continue to recover from being beaten and robbed, we take some time to look back at our traumatic experience. Instead of feeling anger at the priest or the Levite, we find ourselves surprised by the Samaritan’s behavior and surprisingly grateful for him. Without the good Samaritan’s help, we would still be lying, naked, bleeding, and terrified, by the side of the road, just waiting to die. But also, without the good Samaritan’s help, we would still only expect help from those who look or live like us. We would never have had the opportunity to have our minds expanded and our hearts grown by the Samaritan’s help – a supposedly dangerous person.


I am left to wonder: who are the Samaritans in our lives? In our lives as individuals and in our lives as a church? It is easy to only look to the priests and the Levites – the people who live like us and look like us – it is easy to only look to them for help. It is easy to only expect familiar people to come to our aid. It is easy to think that help will only come from people who fit into our comfortable boxes.


But what would we do if true help came to us in strange or unfamiliar wrappings? Would we even know what to do if God, the truest good Samaritan, walked in here in unwashed clothes? How would we react if God, the best of all good Samaritans, came to our assistance in the form of a strange stranger?


It is my hope and my prayer that we, like the one left beaten on the side of the road, would be able to recognize and accept true help and true love – even from the ones we least expect it. As individuals and as a church community, I believe we are called and compelled by our faith in Christ to recognize God in all people – not just the ones who live like us, love like us, dress like us, or look like us – for we never know who will be the very good Samaritan who helps us, cares for us, looks out for us, and rescues us from all that hurts us. Amen.

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