Samaritan


Children’s sermon: I don’t know if you have chores at your home, but I can tell you there are chores to be done at my home. And I understand that some chores are for grown-ups—like paying bills, I wouldn’t expect a child to pay the utility bills—but as kids get bigger, there are chores they can help with, as they are able.


I’ll tell you what I mean: I like for the kitchen table to be clean, and this is a job that I know my kids can help with. It’s where we eat meals, so it’s important for health reasons, but also we need the space for lots of activities: the kitchen table becomes the art area, the reading room, and in the days of high pandemic, it was also the classroom, the Zoom meeting background, the family reunion, etc.


What I’ve learned about the table is that not everyone agrees what it means for the table to be clean. When I say “clean the table,” what I usually mean is: clear away all the things that have gotten put there AND wipe the crumbs, sponge off the dried milk, those sticky spots where the juice spilled, smeared tomato sauce, drips of honey or syrup, and whatever other unidentifiable material is stuck there.


But it’s funny, sometimes what people in my family hear is this: clean only your own toys off the table, but leave behind the cups and crumpled napkins. Sometimes they hear: clear off my stack of newspapers—yes, the newspapers are mine—and throw the newspapers in a pile but leave everything else.


And sometimes the complaint that I hear is this: It isn’t fair to clean up other people’s messes. Right, that’s true. But we live in a house together. It’s important to clean up our own messes, but sometimes we’re cleaning up someone else’s mess too. We do this because we love and respect one another.


This is similar when things get broken, or if someone gets hurt. Maybe I wasn’t the one to break it, but sometimes I can be the one to fix it. I once heard a friend say: Things get broken on purpose or by accident, but things only get fixed on purpose.


Jesus tells us a parable about how to be a neighbor, by noticing when someone is hurt, by noticing when something needs to be done, and then doing the thing that helps someone else.


Maybe the trash on the ground didn’t come from me, but I can still be the one to pick it up. Maybe I didn’t hurt someone else’s feelings, but if I can see that someone else is hurt, then I can be the one to help that person heal and feel better. And you can do this, too.


Kids can’t fix everything, and grown-ups don’t expect you to fix everything. But there’s a lot you can do to be a neighbor and to help others heal—God has important work for you to do in the world. You are a part of God’s great love for the world.


Let us pray: Dear God, thank you for giving us families and neighbors, for loving us so much that you take care of our every need. Help us to love others with that same love, looking out for other people. You are always with us. Amen.



So we think we know how this story of the Good Samaritan goes, right? A man goes down from Jerusalem to Jericho, so away from the holy city, and he gets robbed and beaten up and he’s left for dead. A priest comes along and passes by. And a Levite also passes by. And the hero of the story is supposed to be an Israelite. That’s what everyone hearing this story was expecting.


These are the categories that Jews would expect in this story, since Jews back in the time of Jesus, as well as now, generally fit into one of three categories: priests descended from Aaron the brother of Moses, Levites descended from Levi who was one of Aaron’s ancestors, and Israelites who are descended from children of Jacob other than Levi.[1]


It’s surprising that Jesus chooses the hero as the Samaritan, a religious and ethnic group close enough to Judaism to be similar but distinct enough to be enemies. We know what that’s like, right? When we start grouping ourselves by religious distinctions—Lutherans are kinda like Roman Catholics in worship style, but very different in how our congregations work and who’s allowed to be a leader in the church. And we can’t even say Lutheran without qualifying which type of Lutheran.


So the people hearing Jesus’s parable would have been surprised to hear that the hero is a Samaritan, but if they knew their Scriptures well, they’d recall that Samaritans have shown hospitality too. Let me explain.


In Luke’s Gospel, we have already been introduced to Samaritans—Jesus went into a town of Samaria and was not granted hospitality. The disciples were so mad they wanted to call down fire upon that town. But Jesus decided not to expend his energy in that way and moved on to another place instead.[2]


But when someone—a student of the laws of Judaism—asks Jesus about eternal life, Jesus answers in a way that expands the sense of keeping the laws. There’s an old story, way back in the Hebrew Scriptures, in the book of Second Chronicles. The story goes that Samaritans extended hospitality to Jews when some two hundred thousand of them were captured and brought to Samaria. The Samaritans took care of the captives, clothed them and anointed their wounds, and the on