Call to Worship The Journey Begins
L: Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life."
C: Come, let us turn to the Lord, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.
L: "I will lead the blind by a road they do not know. I will turn the darkness before them into light."
C: You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
L: "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me."
C: He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
L: "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand."
C: Oh, send out your light and your truth; let them lead me. In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you.
*Hymn of Praise #385 Take My Life
*Invocation (the Lord’s Prayer) O Lord our God, even as your Son, Jesus Christ fasted forty days and forty nights, we ask for grace to discipline ourselves during this Lenten season, so that our bodies, minds and spirits may become fitting vessels of your grace. Lead us into the paths of righteousness for your name’s sake. And be with us as we pray as Jesus taught us saying:
*Song Turn to the Lord: Abide With Me
Turn to the Lord; repentant, seek his face,
For God abounds in steadfast love and grace.
They shall not perish who in Christ believe,
But everlasting life they shall receive.
Responsory Psalm: Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
L: Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
C: His steadfast love endures forever.
L: Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands,
C: from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
L: Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
C: they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.
L: Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.
C: He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.
L: Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.
C: And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.
Song Take Up Your Cross
Take up your cross and walk, believing,
This Lenten road our Savior trod,
His help and steadfast love receiving,
The blessings of the Son of God
Freely and graciously bestowed
On all who walk this Lenten road.
Take up your cross, your burden bearing.
This road you need not walk alone.
Christ is beside, the burden sharing;
His yoke is light, his mercy known.
Your Savior eases ev'ry load
Of those who walk this Lenten road.
Take up your cross and follow Jesus;
This is the way your Savior leads,
Where from our sin and guilt he frees us;
His blood for sinners intercedes,
Opens the way to heav'n's abode
For all who walk this Lenten road.
Our Offering to God Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Prayer of Dedication Receive these offerings and bless their use, that they may find diverse avenues of service in this place and throughout the world.
*Hymn of Prayer # 260 Just As I Am
Pastoral Prayer Who are our neighbors, Lord? Who are those whom you have placed upon this Lenten road that we might be your hands and feet—showing them compassion, and rendering them much-needed help?
Who are our neighbors in our own families, in our congregation, in our schools and places of employment, in our hospitals and nursing homes, in our communities, in our slums and ghettos, in our streets and alleys, in our offices and boardrooms?
And who do we prove to be as we confront them on this Lenten road? What is your will for us … and for them? Show us our opportunities and our obligations, Lord Christ.
And keep us mindful of the welcome with which you have received us into you family of faith, and the welcome that awaits us when at last you take us to the place you have made ready for us through your own expensive sacrifice.
Help us to live and act in such a way that others may identify us as “good.” In your dear and saving name, good Lord, we pray.
*Hymn of Praise # 198 Spirit of God Descend upon My Heart
Scripture Reading Luke 10:25-37 NRSV
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Message THIS LENTEN ROAD The Road To Jericho
Deuteronomy 6:5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. and Leviticus 19:18 Never seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
This expert in religious law was quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. He correctly understood that the law demanded total devotion to God and love for one’s neighbor but he didn’t know how to carry that out.
In the story that Jesus tells in response to his test question The legal expert viewed the wounded man as a topic for discussion; the bandits, as an object to exploit; the priest, as a problem to avoid; and the Temple assistant, as an object of curiosity. Only the Samaritan treated him as a person to love.
Where do you picture yourself in the story of the good Samaritan? With what character (or characters) in that story do you identify?
• The priest and the Levite? That leaves you with an awful lot of guilt, doesn’t it? Because, like them, you know better. “I was hungry and you fed me,” Jesus tells us he will say at the final judgment. Or: “I was hungry and you didn’t feed me.” The difference, of course, is “Forasmuch as you did it (or did not do it) to one of the least of these my brothers or sisters, you did it (or did not do it) to me.”
• If you are going to identify with the priest and the Levite, you might as well go all the way and identify with the robbers, people who didn’t just reject the man by the side of the road, but actually put him there. Is there much difference, really? The victim ends up stripped, beaten, robbed, and left “half dead.”
• Or, might you be the innkeeper? Willing to take responsibility for the care of someone in need? A lot of us have done that sort of thing at one time or another, haven’t we? And maybe without even getting paid for it, as the innkeeper did. At least the innkeeper comes off better than the priest and the Levite and the robbers. He is on the positive side of the equation, willing to help when the opportunity presents itself.
• What about the donkey? The Samaritan’s donkey didn’t have a lot of say in the matter, but it did fill an important role. It was given a job to do, carrying a burden—and the donkey did it. Because that’s what beasts of burden do, I guess; that’s what they were created to do, and this one did it, apparently without argument (if arguing was even an option—although I’m told that donkeys can be stubborn, and this one wasn’t).
• Maybe you could identify with the victim. Theologically we might even be able to make a case for that. The condition he found himself in by the side of the road is sort of like the condition we sinners find ourselves in when we seek to deal with our God. We are stripped of any supposed goodness, beaten down by our guilt, and left in a condition in which we sing, “Nothing in my hands I bring.” “Half dead” isn’t the half of it. Scripture tells us that we are “dead (all dead) in trespasses and sins.”
In that case, does Jesus become the good Samaritan? He may just fit the role.
From our human point of view, Jesus is a foreigner, one who comes from heaven, and therefore quite unlike us. He is, the Bible says, “despised and rejected” by the likes of us. He is one from whom we hide our faces, and seek to avoid, the way the Jews felt about the Samaritans. That’s the way their descendants, the Israelis and the Palestinians, still feel about one another after all these centuries. Of all the people who passed by on the road, Jesus’ hearers knew, the Samaritan was the one least likely to be singled out to have the word “good” applied to him by anyone Jewish. There was deep hatred between Jews and Samaritans. The Jews saw themselves as pure descendants of Abraham, while the Samaritans were a mixed race produced when Jews from the northern kingdom intermarried with other peoples after Israel’s exile. To this legal expert, the person least likely to act correctly would be the Samaritan. It’s interesting that at the end of the story, when Jesus asks, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” the Jewish man who was answering Jesus’ question still couldn’t bring himself to say the word “Samaritan,” but instead walked around the subject: “The, uh, one who, um, showed him mercy.”
This expert’s attitude betrayed his lack of the very thing that he had earlier said the law commanded—love. From the illustration we learn three principles about loving our neighbor: (1) Lack of love is often easy to justify, even though it is never right; (2) our neighbor is anyone of any race, creed, or social background who is in need; and (3) love means acting to meet the person’s need. Wherever you live, there are needy people close by. There is no good reason for refusing to help. /////////
“The, uh, one who, um, shows us mercy” is the one whom we have so often and so consciously avoided, the one whose name we are sometimes embarrassed to say out loud: Jesus Christ! He is the one who confronts us on this Lenten road with help and healing, providing for us richly out of his own resources, and promising to do even more as (and if) the need arises.
It appears that where we belong in the parable, along this Lenten road, at least, is as the victim—helpless to help ourselves, but helped by one who takes the time to stop and care. “Follow me,” he says, as he leads us down the Jericho road. It may be that at times all we can do is accept the transportation he provides on this Lenten road. Then again, maybe we should learn from him—by his example, to become the sort of neighbor he proved to be for us.
*Hymn of Response # 365 Just a Closer Walk with Thee
(Proverbs 4:11-12; 1 Peter 2:21; Matthew 16:24)
L: "I have taught you the way of wisdom," says the Lord. "I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered; and if you run, you will not stumble."
C: Christ himself suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow in his steps.
L: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."
*Closing Stanza: Abide With Me
Christ is the source of faith, and Christ the goal,
Who suffered death that we might be made whole.
To Christ's example and command give heed:
Stop, and behold your neighbors in their need.
Compassion is the open heart meeting suffering, the deep wish for the removal of suffering. Compassion literally means “with passion”; it is the healing agent that makes it bearable to see the truth of suffering within us, around us. The Dalai Lama says, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion”.
—Dale Borglum, “Cultivating compassion,”
Judith Brain of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Lexington, Massachusetts, tells the following story about a surprising neighbor (Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, July 9, 2001). She says:
My son is a jazz musician. My husband and I went to hear his band one night, at a club in Roxbury. It was a warm, interracial, friendly spot.
At the table next to ours a big friendly African-American man attended to a tiny, twisted human being on a wheeled cart. A paralyzed man with a puppet’s body and large misshapen head lay on the cart, sipping his beer through a straw and watching the musicians attentively. He seemed alert, but only his eyes moved so it was hard to tell how much he really took in.
His friend captured our attention. He seemed alive to every nuance of this poor, deformed man. He leaned close to hear him speak in that noisy club and his manner proclaimed love.
I thought about how wonderful this scene was. The club that embraced this broken person. I felt part of that embrace. I, too, was reaching out in some way with a friendly smile. “I accept you,” I was saying.
The room was smoky and my contact lenses gave me trouble. I popped them out, sloshed them in my water glass, and put them back. In a few minutes, the tall man came over to our table and gave me a bottle of eye drops. “Here, you need this.”
“Oh, thanks,” I gushed. “You noticed.”
“No, my friend did,” he said, pointing to the man on the cart. On that crooked face was a big grin.
He took pity on me. I came out of my arrogant pharisaical fog. “I accept you.” What presumption! I thought I was whole and he was not. I thought I was the giver and he was alien, the last person in the world who could help me. But the tables were turned. That twisted man in the jazz club became an unexpected source of kindness.
The story is told of Francis of Assisi who one day, on a road in Perusia, came across a leper. He was deathly afraid of leprosy, but impulsively he ran to the man and embraced him tenderly. And then he suddenly had the overwhelming sense that there in his arms was Jesus Christ — and just as suddenly the man disappeared.
—Charlie Scott, “The Good Samaritan,”