Editor’s Note: The following is Hugh’s July 14 sermon. The New Testament lectionary was Luke 10:25 – 37.
I have to be honest here: I am pretty upset today.
Last night, I was sitting at the kitchen table when I heard the news that George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Travon Martin, was found not guilty. Not. Guilty.
I slept for crap last night.
In the text, the lawyer asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”
Now, he really did not want to know. The text says he wanted to ‘justify himself’. In other words, he didn’t want to do what was right, but because he really wanted to do the least he could possibly do.
“What is the least I have to do, Jesus?”
Which, if we are honest, is often what we are asking as well.
I had planned a sermon for today that talked about compassion, that talked about helping our neighbors and that by so doing, we enter into the Kingdom of God.
It was a pretty good sermon if you ask me. But then again, I might be biased.
But then Zimmerman was acquitted, and now it looks like all you have to do to kill a black child and get away with it is be white and say that you were scared.
And suddenly, my sermon seemed hollow. Empty. Sorta like the least I could do.
A thing I like to do when I read a Bible story is to see if I see myself in the story. It makes the story seem more real. Like it really applies to me.
And the temptation when we read this story is to see ourselves as the Samaritan. Because, after all, even if we are not the sort of person who would get down in a ditch and help someone, we want to think we are. Or at least, we wish we were.
I mean, we know we are not the priest and the Levite, who ignored the man in need. Not us…
But today, I feel like I am the lawyer. The one who asked Jesus, “What is the least I have to do?”
I am furious that the justice system failed Travon and his family. And I am furious that young black children are not safe. And I am so, so pissed at the racist statements on my Facebook wall this morning from people who are gloating – gloating! that Zimmerman got off.
And the reason for all of that anger is, when I dig deep enough, because we, all of us, did the least we could.
You see – in the story Jesus told, the man who was a neighbor was the man who took action. The neighbor was the one who did something, not just had good intentions. The neighbor was the one who worked to right the wrong that had clearly happened. The neighbor was the one who got involved.
We look around us, and we see that the world as it is is not the world as it should be. And to fix that, we put our trust in the courts, in the politicians, in the laws.
But the Samaritan in the story did not sign a petition for new legislation. He did not form the Jericho Road Improvement Association. He did not get arrested at Moral Monday.
He crossed racial lines and got down in the ditch and got dirty. He saw a way to make the world better and he took action, despite the cost to himself.
But that is not what we do.
Because it is easier to pass a law that says you cannot mug a man than it is to get in the ditch with a man who was mugged.
The way of Jesus calls us to get down in the ditch, the way of Jesus calls us into action. The way of Jesus calls us not to outsource our desires for a better world to the government but to get in the ditch and roll up our sleeves and do something.
When we love our neighbor, their problems become our problems. And then we get down in the ditch with them. And if we do that, Jesus tells us, we will live.
Related: Who Is My Neighbor? By Associate Pastor Sarah McCoyby