July 6, 2010

be careful what story you tell

My friend, Scott, offered us some advice he received from his homiletics professor during Lectionary study this morning. The advice was simple, but poignant, "be careful of the story you tell - if the story is too good, nobody will hear your sermon."

We decided that Jesus violated that rule this morning. Ask a group of 100 people what they know about Luke 10.25-37 and 98 of them will stare blankly back at you. Ask them what they know about the Parable of the Good Samaritan and they will surely list
  • robbers
  • priest passes by
  • other religious type person passes by
  • Samaritan helps and pays
  • the end
What they miss is the sermon, one of the best ever preached, one that if I ever tried to pull off would have me updating my resume.

"Go and do likewise."

The story is too juicy for us to remember what really matters, we are called to a) go and b) show mercy. That's it. That is the Kingdom of God wrapped up in a nice, tidy package. That is the answer to WWJD?

Of course, knowing what mercy looks like is hard. Take Jesus' own story as an example. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a very dangerous road. Robbers, like those who attacked the man, were not above faking injury while a group waited to ambush a "Good Samaritan." The road was not unlike your local interstate, and how often do you stop to pick up a hitch-hiker? Then there is the "stupid decision factor." Travelling that road alone was a stupid decision. Do you enable someone by helping them out of their own stupid decision? Or, are there times when you are called to help no matter what? Mercy is tough to discern. But that is the stuff of another post.

Today, I'm pondering stories to use on Sunday and being very careful not to entertain people right out of the sermon. Remember, Jesus didn't stop at the story, he continued and said, "go and do likewise."

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