What a Coffee and Life We’ve been Given!
Get a life, right side up
Get a life. That’s what people had told the farmer-woman, when she discovered her ex-husband had molested their children. Get a life. She’d already left him behind after the cops only took him for coffee when they came and found him playing Russian Roulette with her life. Get a life?
She told her story when a new acquaintance, an older man, mentioned to her how the cops tried to arrest him after is ex, with whom he can have no contact, chased him down country roads trying to force contact. He was afraid for his life and called 911 when other vehicles were caught as she blocked the roads in front of him. As the cops left, threatening to arrest him if this ever happened again, they told him to get a life.
Get a Life! What is Life? Who are we to get it? We think we know and then the Good News of Jesus Christ (also in today’s lessons) turns our understanding of life right-side-up.
OT: we expect God to demand; not.
As we read the OT Lesson we may expect Moses to demand that the people obey God’s commandments, which are hard to understand, require research to discover, and great effort to obey. But maybe if the people persevere and obey the commandments then they will get to enter into the Promised Land. Not at all so.
Twain: Do Good, gratify, astound
Mark Twain once wrote “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”
Twain’s humour catches us because we too often think that always doing the right thing is an option too far from reality to be considered.
Gospel: Parable of surprises
Today’s Gospel is delightful, full of corrections that keep surprising us, even though we are so familiar with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus Answers Different Questions
The lawyer’s questions are often our own. They seem right and most important for life. Yet they are all wrong. In fact, Jesus answers as if the lawyer had asked different questions.
The lawyer asks: what must I do to inherit eternal life.
Jesus answers: how can we have life now.
The lawyer asks: who is my neighbour whom I shall love.
Jesus answers: who is a real neighbour, to those in need regardless of who they are.
It would be so much easier if Jesus just answered the question of who our neighbour is. We could limit who we must love to just those people! That would be a little more possible to do, and we could always fudge who was our neighbour so that we did not need to help the billions who are in great need.
Good Samaritans Loose teeth
When we see people in need, it’s too easy to come up with all sorts of reasons to walk by on the other side of the road. The robbers could be lying in wait for anyone who comes to the aide of the half dead man.
An old Winthrop cartoon (1982) shows two small boys staring off into the distance. One of the boys, Winthrop, starts to recognize what he is seeing. “What’s going on over there? Looks like a fight! … It’s Nasty McNarf … He’s beating up on some kid! … Come on… Let’s go and make Nasty leave that kid alone!”
The second boy speaks up, “Wait a minute…I don’t think we’d better do that.”
“What do you mean?” asks Winthrop, “Don’t you want to be a Good Samaritan?”
“Frankly, no.” replies the second boy. “Good Samaritans always wind up with loose baby teeth.”
But remember: we are going to lose baby teeth and our lives eventually. Adult teeth and life eternal will replace them.
We try to get eternal life on our own terms
Exactly, so we are right there with the lawyer asking what can we do to inherit eternal life. Instead of answering that question, Jesus asks back what the lawyer knows well: what does the law say he should do. The lawyer answers: 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.
Jesus replies: You know it! Now do it!
What does love look like? (in the Gospel)
What does it look like to love God, our neighbour, and ourselves, with all our heart, soul, strength and mind?
It looks like crossing the road in order that we can help, aide, assist, and care for those who are left half dead by the roadways through the world, and thereby allow ourselves to be marked as foolish, unclean, not-blessed by God, and not welcome at work or in worship.
It looks like giving a full day of our life to an unexpected need of another person, again and again.
It looks like giving a great portion of our purse or wealth so that another less fortunate person’s wounds will be bound up and given a chance to heal, so that person will regain life.
It looks like promising carte blanche that we will cover the costs of providing life to another person in need.
All this to our enemy
It looks like doing all this for our mortal, religious, economic, and/or personal enemy who is left half dead on the side of life’s road, left there by all those things and people and circumstances that can so easily beat us up, rob us of everything we have, and leave us half dead. It is knowing always that but for the Grace of God, we would never survive even a day of the Devil’s guile and destruction.
The Homeless Guy who gives
Tony Campolo, a minister and sociologist from Philadelphia tells this story:
“… walking down the street in Philadelphia … a [dirty looking homeless man] came towards me. I mean a … filthy guy .. from head to toe. …He had this huge beard
rotted food stuck in [it]. As he approached me, he held out a cup of McDonald’s coffee and said, ‘Hey mister, want some of my coffee?’
“[I thought to myself, not on your life, but] I said, ‘Thanks, but that’s okay,’ and I walked by him. The minute I passed him, I knew I was doing the wrong thing, so I turned around and said, ‘Excuse me. I would like some of your coffee.’
“I … sipped … and gave it back to him. … ‘You’re being generous. How come…?’
“… this [guy] looked at me and replied, ‘… the coffee was especially delicious today and I think that when God gives you something good, you ought to share it with people.’
“I didn’t know how to handle that, so I said, ‘Can I give you anything?’ I thought that he would hit me [up] for five dollars.
…‘No.’ [he turned to go, and then turned back], ‘Yeah, yeah. … there is something you can give me. You can give me a hug’
“[I held my breath, wishing he’d asked for] five dollars! He put his arms around me and I put my arms around him…. as I, in my establishment dress, and he, in his filthy garb, hugged each other on the street, I had the strange awareness that I wasn’t hugging a bum, [no. Jesus was hugging me.]”
In Baptism: Enter the Promised Land, then Obey for Goodlife’s Sake
Returning to the OT lesson: God does not reward obedience with entrance to the Promised Land. All get to enter. The commandments are not far away, difficult to find or to understand: God has put them in our mouths and in our hearts! The commandments are not burdensome; they are life-giving. They are God’s guide for abundant life. Obedience brings us to live well, so that God delights in our renewed prosperity as we move out of slavery into the Promised Land!
In our baptisms we have already receive eternal life. Now what are we going to do with this life in the Promised Land?
Farmer’s Parting Words
As the farmer-woman drove away, she shouted out her truck window to the man harassed by his ex and the cops: They are jealous. Don’t let them tell you to get a life; you have one. They’re just trying to take it from you.
Do not be afraid, Do not be shamed.
Jesus says do not be afraid, we cannot be shamed for we already have a life, a good life.
So what are we going to do with God’s gift of our good, abundant lives in the Promised Land?
Giving what God Has Given Us
Jesus’ Parable compels us to ask: What kind of life do we live if we do not stand ready to risk losing everything that God has given us, in order that others may live, and live abundantly?
After all, without Jesus’ redemption we would remain strangers to God, and no matter what we would do, we would be lost, our lives worthless and meaningless. But with Jesus’ redemption we inherit the Kingdom of God.
Answers not far, nor impossible, for God is with us
The answers to life’s questions and mysteries are not too far away in the chaos of pre-creation between the galaxies that we must send someone to bring the answers to us. The answers are on our lips, and in our hearts: We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul, and our neighbours as our selves.
This love is all very possible for us:
for our strength is from God’s all-mighty power,
for our freedom and faith are given to us as free gifts by Jesus,
for our days are guided, inspired, and completed by the spectacular truth and light of the Holy Spirit.
We’ve got a life, given to us … and there’s really good coffee coming down the street toward us. …
Are we ready for Jesus to give each of us a huge, warm hug?
What a thing of beauty this life is!