July 14, 2019 – “In-between, Do Mercy”
Psychologists performed an experiment on the power of peer pressure. They had groups of ten teens in a room with a chart on the wall that had three lines of different lengths. They were asked to raise their hand when the instructor pointed to the longest line. In each group, one person didn’t know the other nine had been coached to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the second-longest line. The one single teen usually looked confused at first as the others raised their hand, but then went ahead and cast a wrong vote because they didn’t want to stand out. More than 75% allowed peer pressure to override their own better judgment. It’s hard to be stuck in-between what you know to be true and the wrong opinion of others that want to draw us away from the truth, isn’t it?
God, in the Old Testament lesson, says that the Israelites are to live in the ‘in-between’. They’re not to be like the people in Egypt that they’d left behind and they’re not to be like the people in Canaan, where they were crossing into. They’re told by God not to act like the people in their past and they’re not to do as the people in their present/future do.
So the Israelites, like that one lone teenager, are a people who stand out. Beyond the Jordan, they’re going to be different from the rest of the world and so they’re marked. God tells them, to live ‘in-between’ and not like those either in their past or present.
In verse 4 God says to them: “You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God.” The Israelites are to do what God has said they are to do. And not to do things like those they’ve left behind or like those where they’re going. Sound simple enough?
Well yes, it is a simple idea, but it’s not easy to do, that’s for sure. How the Israelite people act, what it is they do, is what God is telling them is important. They’re to do according to God’s word. They are to act according to His word. Now, that sounds like what we, as Christians are to do. What we do is supposed to be in accord with God’s word.
Why? Because like He did with the Israelites, bringing them out of bondage and slavery in Egypt, so He has done with us, in the cross of Christ. God has taken us out of our bondage in sin like He took the Israelites out of Egypt and made us His own. Like St. Paul tells us in the epistle lesson, For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. We’re the people that God has, by the blood of Jesus, brought out from slavery to sin.
That’s what happens when we’re baptized in the name of the triune God, when we enter a life of faith. We’re marked with the sign of the cross that’s freed us from our sin. And we’ve been given new spiritual life in Christ through baptism by faith. We’ve been freed from the tyranny of sin by being forgiven, as St Paul told us. And that’s like what God did for the Israelites when He set them free from their bondage in Egypt.
And we, like these now freed Israelites, also live in the ‘in-between’. Remember they weren’t to live like those in their past and they weren’t to live like those around them do. They were to live in the in-between; in between their lives of slavery to the past and to the temptations of the present. That is us also. We are different than those around us because of what God has done for us. By the death of Jesus of on the cross and His triumphant resurrection from the dead, we have been set free.
Again, in the epistle it says, live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work. So, we do things and live life differently because God has made us different by freeing us from sin. And in the gospel lesson, Jesus tells us about what the ‘doing of life’ is like for us. Now this illustrative story that Jesus tells of the Good Samaritan is a favorite one.
We have an underdog who turns out to be the hero. He comes along and upstages the ‘bad guys’, the guys, who in fact, are supposed to be good guys. And in so doing the underdog saves the day for the ordinary guy who’s been beat up. Samaritans were not trusted by Jewish society just because of who they are. That’s what makes this Samaritan the hero-underdog.
At any rate he gives aid, comfort, and care to our injured ordinary guy. The Samaritan takes care of him, as a hero should… by the effort of his own hands and with the money from his own pocket.
Then after telling this story Jesus turns to the expert in the law and asks him in verse 36 this question. Read it with me, please, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” And the expert in the law correctly answers, “The one who had mercy on him”. The one who had mercy; that is the neighbor. Notice that ‘the neighbor’ in this story is defined by his actions – by what he does. The neighbor’s not the one in need; the neighbor’s the hero who does the acts of mercy.
The neighbor does what’s needed for the other person. Now I’m not saying the priest and the Levite – the ‘bad guys’ – didn’t have good hearts or that they didn’t have sympathy for the man. But they simply did not do what was needed. They proved, by their lack of action, to not be the neighbor to the ordinary man in trouble.
Jesus makes the point that the neighbor is not the man who was beat up, but it’s the man who did what the fellow in trouble needed done for him. Then to really drive home the point, after the expert says that the neighbor was the man ‘who had mercy’, Jesus says what? Right, “Go and do likewise.”
Go… and… do. After all that is what this ‘expert in the law’ had asked Jesus about in the first place. To ‘love your neighbor’ is to show mercy to those in need. And that is exactly what Jesus has done for you and me.
He’s come and He’s done what we needed. He is our neighbor. He is our hero. He has shown us mercy. We’ve been beaten up and robbed by sin and Jesus takes us in and cares for us. God in Jesus has, as the epistle lesson says, he has ‘rescued’ us. Jesus is that Outsider who comes and has pity on us and acts on the need that we have. He does, from His heart of love, what needed to be done for all sinners. He took action on behalf of those who needed it.
We are that guy left for dead on the side of the road. In fact, we’ve beat ourselves up by our sinful ways. We aren’t just victims, we’re also the perpetrators of our problem. We’re the ones who chose to sin and in so doing we beat ourselves up.
But Jesus has ‘bound up’ our self-inflicted wounds by His wounds. And He’s paid for our healing from His own treasury. He provided us a place of rest and healing, in Himself, when He carried our sins to the cross. And on that cross, He’s taken away the guilt of our sin. He did that. And because He did that, we are now different, and we act differently.
Jesus didn’t say to the lawyer, ‘go and feel like that Samaritan’. What Jesus told the lawyer is what He tells us – ‘go and do likewise.’ Mercy is not something felt, it’s something done. That’s what Jesus is driving at today. The Samaritan acted, the Samaritan did mercy. It was the priest and the Levite, the so-called ‘good guys’ of the day that went out of their way to avoid helping. They literally crossed the street so as to not have to do mercy.
And what does doing mercy look like? Look again in the Old Testament lesson. Mercy is shown there by how you harvest your crops. It’s shown by acting differently than those around us who seek only their own comforts and conveniences. Listen again to what God said, ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.
God makes it very plain with these words that the practices of selfishness, greed, and idolatry are not to be the practices, the doings of God’s people. He’s saying; don’t do what you see around you. Don’t fall into the ways that seems easy, just to ‘get along’ in this world.
That’s what that experiment about peer pressure drawing us away from what we know to be true shows us. The way of the world is not the way of mercy. It is the way of self and selfishness. It’s the way of greed. It’s difficult to go against the pressure of this world and instead do what God asks us to do as He did with the Israelites. To be different and to live in the in-between is to be marked for death in this world.
But that’s what Jesus tells the expert in the law today – to be different… by showing mercy. We’re to be a good neighbor and do what those who are hurting and beat up by life need. Rather than pass by, through indifference or neglect those who need our help, let us act with one heart on the call to be different and live ‘in-between’.
We as God’s people act differently. Christ tells us when He speaks to the law expert today, ‘to go and do likewise’. Find someone in your life who the rest of the crowd ignores, someone who’s being neglected and beaten up by life and shoved aside.
Be aware of those in your world who’re avoided by others, maybe for a good reason or not. But that’s the person that needs a neighbor. That’s the person who needs mercy shown to them. That’s the one who needs a hero to tell them what Christ, the worlds true hero and neighbor has done for us all. And subsequently what He’s called us and redeemed us to do. Remember St Paul’s words, bearing fruit in every good work. We are to do for others what needs done for them, as that Samaritan did. We are to ‘go and do likewise’. Go and Do mercy.
And here’s just one way to do mercy, invite them to church to hear the same good news you hear. You are the neighbor who’s received mercy from Jesus and so you can pass that mercy on to those who are wounded, hurting, and overlooked. Invite them to live with you in the ‘in-between’ so they too can know, that God has done mercy for them, as He’s done for you – by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross.
In His name amen.
Sermon #1035 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Leviticus (18:1-5) 19:9-18
1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord. …
9 ” ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.
11 ” ‘Do not steal. ” ‘Do not lie. ” ‘Do not deceive one another. 12 ” ‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. 13 ” ‘Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him. ” ‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight. 14 ” ‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord. 15 ” ‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
16 ” ‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people. ” ‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord. 17 ” ‘Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. 18 ” ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
Second Reading Colossians 1:1-14
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Holy Gospel Luke 10:25-37
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”