Rev. Christine Hribar preached on the Good Samaritan story that calls us to love even those whose names we can’t bear to say. We took a look at the story and then parsed a hymn from the New Century Hymnal with a dire title, but well worth singing: “From the Crush of Wealth and Power.” Click the link above to listen to Christine’s sermon; the text is below.
Bind All Our Wounds Again
Today we’ll look at the Good Samaritan Story—a beloved story that asks hard, hard questions about our inner work and our outer work. The passage includes a story within a story.
It begins, a lawyer trying to trap Jesus. He stands and asks a question: how do I attain eternal life. Jesus answers with a question, “What does the law say?” A good question for a lawyer. The lawyer states: “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.” But he asks, who is my neighbor? This is the crux of the story, yes? And Jesus answers, not with a statement, but with a story. Let’s take a look.
A man lies badly injured on a road. We know this road from Jerusalem to Jericho was dangerous—a road with rocky outcroppings on the side. I recently head Rob Bell speak about the road also being quite narrow. So there’s a joke built in: when the priest and the Levite passed by, and these were the two bound to uphold the law, expected to do what was right, they couldn’t really pass to the other side of the road. Both Jesus and the lawyer would have known this. The road would have been too narrow. To step by, they probably had to almost step over the man who was injured. Not a savory image of those whom you’d expect to do what was right.
And it’s the Samaritan who helps, The Samaritan, the one least expected to do kindness. The one hated and ostracized does what’s right. The Samaritan’s generosity is overflowing and unexpected. And it’s also so painful for the lawyer to hear. What struck me recently, was that when Jesus then asks the lawyer who was the neighbor (and it’s clear the neighbor is the Samaritan) the lawyer doesn’t say Samaritan. He says the neighbor is “the one who showed mercy.” The lawyer can’t bear to speak the name. “The one who showed mercy,” is as much as he can answer. He can’t even bear the word Samaritan on his lips.
I wonder if there are groups or people whose names you have trouble saying. I wonder if there are events that you have trouble talking about. I pose this question because I do. During and after certain elections there are names I can’t bear to say. And Jesus told this story on purpose, knowing that Samaritans were just the people that the lawyer would dislike the most. And it was the Samaritan that Jesus called a neighbor. A Samaritan whom Jesus proclaimed the lawyer should, following the laws, love. Loving our neighbor isn’t always easy.
I know this church practices loving neighbors. In church we train our hearts to open to the excluded and marginalized. As a church, we commit to being anti-racist, we commit to loving people of all abilities, we open our arms to the poor and disenfranchised. And this is all good. This is the work of the church.
But the story of the Good Samaritan calls us to more. Our neighbors are also the ones who infuriate us. Our neighbors are also the ones who set our teeth on edge, and, at least for me, this is often because we see them as not being neighborly to others. We see actions and rulings that don’t care for the vulnerable, that don’t love the poor that ostracize the marginalized. Anger can be good—it can urge us into much needed action, it can be good, but anger is not the end. Because what Jesus calls us to is love. And only in moving through our anger, our inability to speak a name, can we come to a place of love.
Loving your neighbor isn’t easy. And that’s why we need the church to practice, to remind one another, to stay focused on loving our neighbors, all our neighbors, and to discern how that love calls us into action.
In a moment we’ll sing hymn #552 from the New Century Hymnal. It’s likely unfamiliar and its title is a little dire: “From the Crush of Wealth and Power.” I want to spend the end of this sermon looking at the words, because I find the way it unpacks today’s scripture fascinating. I also hope a little time with the text will prepare us to sing.
In the first verse, the song places us in the position of the injured person. It’s us who ask the spirit to bind our wounds. We are each “pleading with a poignant call, bind all my wounds again.” We’re the ones needing tending and we don’t have it yet. No help is here, yet. We call and we wait.
In the second stanza two, we’re now in the shoes (sandals) of the Samaritan, looking towards someone in pain. Seeing the tending that’s needed, we’re still wary. But, what I love, is that it’s not just the other person who’s in need. We see someone badly hurt and remember our own pain. Listen: “Even now our hearts are wary of the friend we need so much. When I see the pain you carry shall I with a gentle touch, bind all your wounds again?” It ends with a question mark.
Then, we come into where we’re heading, the work we do together as a community, as church: “When our love for one another makes our burdens light to bear, find the sister and the brother, hungry for the feast we share; bind all their wounds again.” This is what we’re call to do—to cross to those who seem so other; and together, we’re made whole.
And finally, a reminder: “Every time our spirits languish, terrified to draw too near, may we know each other’s anguish and, with love that casts out fear, bind all our wounds again.” The fear is on both sides. The need is on both sides.
The stanzas go:
Bind all my wounds again.
Bind all your wounds again.
Bind all their wounds again.
Bind all our wounds again.
Because in tending one another, we’re made whole.
May the love of God that passes all understanding bless you and keep you as you enter a new day striving to love your neighbor as yourself. Let’s sing together this song we’ve considered: #552 from the New Century Hymnal From the Crush of Wealth and Power.