Cerezo Barredo
Cerezo Barredo

Last week I met a retired pastor who told me about the church he attends in Sahuarita, Arizona, The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ. He is proud of the ministry being done there, a commitment to save migrant lives in the desert. The ministry is called Samaritans or Los Samaritanos.

There are many ways people support the work of the Green Valley/Sahuarita Samaritans:

  1. Come to a meeting
  2. Desert searches for migrants needing assistance
  3. Basura clean-ups of the desert
  4. Humanitarian visits to Mexico to aid returned migrants
  5. Preparing food packs for searches
  6. Maintaining search vehicles
  7. Public education
  8. Writing letters and articles
  9. Fundraising
  10. Make a tax deductible donation

Of course, not everyone likes the work the church is doing, my retired friend told me. In fact, the church attracted a picketer, who would walk back and forth in front of their building carrying a sign that said, “Good Samaritan, Bad American.”

Why would we want to help people who don’t look like us, talk like us, worship like us? That seems to be the frame of reference of the picketer, who also sometimes carried a sign reading “Say No to Social Justice.” That particular church understands its faith in one way, and the protester understands the same faith in another way. This is much on my mind as pundits argue over whether the ISIS-encouraged/planned attacks creating horror during Ramadan are a blot on all Muslims, or a sign that ISIS isn’t really Muslim at all. We may want the latter to be true, in order to make the case that our Muslim neighbors are not all the same. Sound bites are too quick for nuance.

In a sermon, we get more than a sound bite, somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes to unpack the things we find important in relationship to a very familiar story told by Jesus to explain what it means to be a neighbor. (Find all the texts for this week here.) Who are the neighbors your church community passes by on the other side?

Here’s the moment in my retired friend’s story that confirmed for me how much Good Shepherd Church is doing right. One day the picketer came to the door of the church and asked to speak to the pastor. “I’ll be away for a few weeks,” he said, “and I don’t want you to worry that something has happened to me.” He figured they would care. He knew they would be a neighbor to him, too.

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Be sure to check out RevGal Denise Anderson‘s approach to the Good Samaritan in this great video from Theocademy, and use the comments below to share your thoughts on this week’s texts.

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Martha Spong is the Executive Director of RevGalBlogPals and a United Church of Christ pastor; she lives in South Central Pennsylvania (US) and blogs at marthaspong.com. She is the editor of There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths, 2015).

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11 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Good Samaritan, Bad…

  1. My congregation is doing a sermon series on Favorite Bible Stories this summer, and it just happens that the Good Samaritan is one of the favorites. So I will be preaching on the Gospel text (and probably not including the reading from Colossians).

    My plan is to start with a little bit of social/cultural background for the story, to help people understand the antipathy toward the people of Samaria, and to help them understand why the priest might have felt that he could not afford to stop and offer assistance.

    Then my hope is to give them a new look at the story by retelling it from the viewpoint of the injured traveler. I can imagine his feeling of hope upon seeing the priest, only to give way to pain when he walked right by. I can imagine him whispering “No. Please, no.” when he saw the Samaritan approaching him, not even wanting to be touched by this man. How hard it must have been to accept help from one whom he had been taught to despise.

    That’s where things are right now. But it’s only Tuesday afternoon, and there could be three entirely different sermons between now and Sunday.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy Jill Levine has terrific commentary on this in her recent book “Short Stories by Jesus.” She shows how most common interpretations of this parable would have confounded the first audience. She describes the strong enmity between the one on the road and the Samaritan who assisted him. Even this enmity is not strong enough to prevent a relationship of neighborliness. Not sure yet how I will build this into a sermon but found her read refreshing! (I’m not big on allegories)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. looking at Amos and Luke. As there are rarely any children at worship on Sunday morning, i do a short talk some weeks as well as the sermon. this week looking at Amos, and taking a plumb bob to church. main sermon will be on Luke,
    giving some background;
    thinking about questions we ask to get out something or to avoid something we don’t want to do;
    holiness compared to compassion;
    do we see people?
    love neighbour as you love yourself – i wonder how many people actually love themselves in a healthy way?
    and then tying it in with Amos – if Jesus is the plumb bob to our life – where is it out of plumb?

    probably too much to cover in one Service, but it is only Wednesday night, so a few days to mull around before writing on Saturday.

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  4. I’m revisiting my thoughts in light of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I hope we can talk about it here, and as soon as I have more of a direction, I will be back to share it.

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    1. Rachael, I grew up in Maplewood, MN and have family there. Thank you for your strong prophetic witness in that place.

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  5. I am preaching in a new-to-me parish as their new deacon; this will be my third Sunday. The weight of this work (this week!) is pressing me to my knees in prayer.

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