Pentecost 5 C: Shamed by Love

The readings for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost are

Old Testament & Psalm, Option I

Old Testament      Amos 7:7–17

Psalm                    Psalm 82

or

Old Testament & Psalm, Option II

Old Testament      Deuteronomy 30:9–14

Psalm                    Psalm 25:1–10

New Testament     Colossians 1:1–14

Gospel                   Luke 10:25–37

It was all about shaming the lawyer to his senses. He was an expert in Torah, and most likely suspected Jesus of cutting corners and wanted to out him, asking him the core question of his religion, “What must I do to inherit life?”

Being an expert, undoubtedly he already knew.

And, indeed he did. Love God with your all, and your neighbor as yourself. But he already knew that. He already knew that there is a key to Torah and to God’s will. There is a way of summing it up.

He didn’t know it, but Jesus was setting a trap for him. Jesus set about shaming and shocking him to his senses and better angels.  When he asked what all wise fools, or sophomores, ask, “Who is my neighbor,” expecting and craving a list that he could pare down to the minimum requirement for life, Jesus told the parable to end all parables—the trap to cause all shame.

Here, by the way, is a beautiful musical setting of this parable to end all parables, by Iris DeMent:

Can  we see the shame? Can we sense the necessity of shame?

I am a Lutheran pastor. So I’m tempted to think people get eternal life when they trust God. But what if a person comes along and has nothing but disdain for the concept of God, yet steps out of the passive crowd to rescue a stranger being beaten for being gay? Am I not shamed into admitting that God wants works of love, and that courageous love is a redeeming thing?

I’m a Democrat and I am convinced that the Republican party has sold its soul for the sake of power by marching to the tune of Donald Trump despite the undisputed fact that he tried to overturn the most free and fair election in our nation’s history. But can I not see that, for me, the hated Samaritan is the hated Republican? Can I not accept that many whose politics I cannot accept have true compassion in their hearts and every day serve the needs of others? Can I not confess that God rejoices in acts of love–even those done by people I have stereotyped into oblivion?

If you are one of those who believe and say Christianity is being cancelled by Democrats and gays and climate activists, and antifa, and socialists, etc., etc., can you now feel the shame when Jesus demands that you see how these very people you despise can show compassion? Can you not admit that there is something greater than your imagination at work here?

Jesus, and the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5, boil down the entire Torah, Bible, and will of God to love  of neighbor. The category of neighbor cannot be shrunk by our longing to know know the minimum we have to do to pass the final eternal-life exam. But neighbor is everyone in need and everyone we need.

Iris DeMent says Christ reaches down and touches our pain, and we are to do the same. Who do you suspect has no prospects for eternal life? Who do you suspect will not love or reach down to touch the pain? Who do I suspect and write off?

Don’t we need to be shamed and shocked to our senses? Voting the right way, confessing the right belief, being the right sort of person, are not the things that God requires. It’s imitating God, reaching down, and touching the pain. It all, ultimately, comes down to that.

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About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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