A Sermon for the Week
June 14, 2019
We have all heard the story of the Good Samaritan. A man is attacked along the road, is robbed, and left for dead, they even took his clothes. Then along came a Priest, a so-called Holy man. I don’t know, maybe he was on his way to do something holy? But, he saw the man, lying naked in the ditch, all beat to a pulp and maybe he was afraid the bad guys hadn’t left? Besides, he couldn’t mess with a bloody body, it would make him sacrificially unclean and he wouldn’t be able to worship in the Temple. So he crossed to the other side of the road and tried very hard to ignore the man lying in the ditch. He had important things to do and didn’t have time for someone who had been stupid enough to allow himself to be assaulted. Isn’t it sad, he missed his chance to do something holy right there beside the road?
Then along came a Levite. Levites were assistants in the Temple. He couldn’t be late…what would the priest do if the altar wasn’t sat up and the candles weren’t lit. But, he too was probably afraid the robbers might not be gone. He sure didn’t want to be there if they came back. Why, he’d wind up in the ditch with that guy. Lying there naked with everything he owned stolen. So, he hurried and crossed the road, trying not to see this poor, innocent man in the ditch. He thought he had much more important work to do, than helping someone he didn’t know, lying in a ditch.
Then along comes the Samaritan man. He sees the man, but, he really sees the man, he forgets all about where he was going and what he was going to do when he got there. He does not worry if the robbers are still there. He sees only a hurting person, a person in need of help from him personally, and for him that takes precedence over everything else. He dresses the man’s wounds and puts some clothes on him. He takes him to an inn and pays for the man’s care and only then continues his trip. Leaving the man in the care of the Inn owner, but fully intending to return to see how this man is doing and to make sure he has received good care. So, that’s the parable of the Good Samaritan in a nutshell.
Now, we have all been in situations when someone needed help and we did the right thing and helped in every way we could. I often think of an old alcoholic man Carla and I kind of adopted in one of our churches. He had leukemia and we took him to doctor appointments, we gave him food, both things we cooked and groceries. I think Carla even did some washing for him. He thanked us by attending church and by trying, not always successfully to stay out of the bottle. It was such a joy to get to know him and to listen to his amazing stories. I later did his funeral and what a joy it was to tell how he loved Jesus Christ even though he had that bottle on his back.
I think for all of us, there have been others who had something we knew they had done or we suspected them of doing that seemed to put them below our level of caring. People we believed were just too awful, too sinful, or too worthless to deserve our help or our time. I also think we have all been in situations where we have done the right thing, the Good Samaritan” thing. And, we have all checked people out who needed help and decided they were undeserving, or maybe too scary to help. I also think we all know what our correct response is in those times? We do know what we should do, don’t we?
As I was studying this passage, I was wondering about what this wounded guy in the ditch was thinking. What was going through his mind and heart when people walked by trying very hard not to see him? Did he call out to them and they pretended not to hear?
What was he thinking when the Priest walked by on the other side of the road? Did he see him cross to the other side of the road so he wouldn’t have to be near him? I wonder was he a man who had no faith in God and when the priest ignored him…was his lack of faith made even stronger? I imagine him thinking, “Just like one of those Temple people, ignoring those who need their help, while getting fat and sassy in the Temple on the backs of the poor people who give”? Did he think, “That big shot thinks he is better than me, because he isn’t in the ditch half beaten to death”?
Did he think the same things when the Levite walked by? Did he notice that the Levite crossed the road, to not be near him? Was he permanently turned off on God and faith by these so-called holy men? I wonder if he is spending eternity in hell, because two people who were supposed to have faith in a good and loving God, walked right by him when he was in terrible need?
And, I wonder when you and I walk right by someone in need? Do those thoughts go through those people’s mind when we cross the road to avoid those in need? Maybe we don’t literally cross the road, but we do go through some pretty wild contortions to avoid being involved in the lives of those who need help. You know, eyes straight ahead, so that we do not meet the eyes of a needy person we want nothing to do with. Or, the phone calls we ignore, because we recognize the number and do not want to hear the same old sad stories from this person we know is in need. Or, the times we do not answer the door because we know who is there and we tell ourselves we have no time for their troubles or maybe we just don’t care?
Yeah, I know we hear people talking about how they never give money to people who ask for help because they do not want to we become an enabler. First off, do you think maybe we’re a little too quick to worry about being an enabler? Are we sometimes using it as an excuse not to help? Isn’t that a little like crossing to the other side of the road like the Priest and the Levite? I have done it, stopped helping folks because it became obvious I was enabling them. But, we should all think long and hard before cutting back on helping others for these reasons. I think I have told you about the guy and his kids that I gave fifty dollars to and then saw him going in a liquor store. I was angry, but when it all comes down to it…I had done the right thing and my heart had been in the right place. But, Satan had a hold on that man and maybe some of that money got to his children? Maybe we all should be a little quicker to help and a lot slower to judge the needy?
As I wrote this sermon, I also thought about times when I was literally the man in the ditch. Like the time on a very hot day, I had a heat stroke and died. A combat medic stepped up and did what so many emergency people do every day. He checked my pulse, I will never forget when he said, “He’s gone!” I wanted to tell them, “No, I’m not,” as I was watching them carefully a few feet away. I’m not sure if I knew all they were supposed to do, but I guess they did it all or God just wasn’t finished with me here on this earth. He got my heart beating again and they evacuated me to a hospital. Physically I needed help and, “Thank the Lord,” I got it from a combat medic that knew his business, wasn’t afraid to do it, and didn’t look away and pretend nothing was going on. I was, and still am, thankful for his help.
Then there are the times when I was in the ditch mentally and spiritually. Like the time I was partying one Saturday night, trying to forget my problems and met a person who invited me to church the next morning. Or, the time I was hating someone and a friend told me I needed to get rid of the hate and told me how to do it. Or, the time when I was so lonely, I would virtually go anywhere to just not be alone. So, I went to a line dancing class on a Thursday night. Believe it or not, I wasn’t very good at it? I met a beautiful young woman there, who had some of the same problems I had but was willing for us to work them out together. We’re still together after all these years and are still working out our problems and life’s battles together.
I say today, “Let’s all be Samaritans who help others out of the ditches they find themselves in”. Let’s all be the one who helps the person who has found themselves in a ditch of some kind. Let’s be the one, who gives the one in the ditch material and emotional help. Let’s all be the one who does not judge but just tries to help. And, then let’s also be the one who offers to help the person in the ditch to come to Jesus Christ. Because, through our faith in him we know Christ is the answer to all of their problems and ours.
We have all been in a ditch of some sort in our lives. Every one of us sometimes need help getting out of the ditch. We all have those times when fellow human beings guided by God, whether they know they are working for God or not, help us out of our ditch. That ditch may be physical, mental, or spiritual, but after we have helped them we need to tell them about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For, there are no problems more important than being without Christ. We all need him and we need to always remember, “The ditches of this world are only temporary, but being without Jesus Christ in our hearts when we die is forever!”
Let’s never be the Christian who doesn’t try, at least try, after we have helped them out of the ditch, to lead those who are hurting to Jesus Christ for it is after all, the best and only preparation for forever.
Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
Healy United Methodist Church
Luke 8: 26-39
July 7, 2019
As I read this passage I was thinking of a visitor to our house when I was a boy. My Mom’s Mom came to stay with us until her house was finished in town. Her house was in the way of I-70 and was bulldozed to make way for it. Well, one morning we all got up and Grammy, that’s what we called her, was cooking. We had eaten a lot of her food and it was great, we were so excited. But, then someone asked what was for breakfast and Grammy said with a big old smile, “Scrambled pig brains and eggs.” We immediately began to wonder if this visit from Grammy was going to be nearly as good as we thought.
Then Dad walked in, I think he had smelled breakfast cooking and it didn’t smell all that good. He looked in that old twelve inch cast iron frying pan that was heaping full and asked, not as nicely as us, “What is that?” Grammy smiled, she was really pulling out her best stuff for us, and said again, “Scrambled pig brains and eggs.” Dad didn’t say a word, he just picked the pan off the stove and threw it out the door. He was our hero, we didn’t have to try scrambled pig brains and eggs. Then Dad looked out the back door and said, “Look, the dogs won’t even eat it.” I think the dogs wouldn’t eat it because it was hot, but Dad maybe shouldn’t have said that? It wasn’t the best environment around our house for the few weeks it took for Grammy’s house to be ready in town. You might say it was a little frosty and Dad and we kids worked every moment on it, when Dad wasn’t working at his regular job.
Now, you might say that visit didn’t really come out too well. But, what about the visit of Jesus and his followers to the Gerasenes’ land, it depended on who you asked. With Grammy, there were some good things, she was a great cook and she was normally fun to be around. But, none of us would ever forget that time she tried to feed us scrambled pig brains and eggs. It kind of worried a feller a little, that she might try it again when Dad wasn’t home. Because, at our house you ate what was served.
You know, different visits can be so different, some visits are wonderful and some are absolutely awful. Many of the Gerasene people probably weren’t thrilled by Jesus’ visit. I’ll bet those farmers who lost their hogs weren’t all that happy about Jesus’ visit? Would you be?
So, what if Jesus came to visit here? What would we do? How would we feel? Would we be excited and honored and do all we could to make his visit wonderful? Would we be comforted and uplifted by a visit from Jesus? Or, would we be nervous and worry, hurrying to do some extra cleaning and straightening of the house? What would we cook? I’m guessing it wouldn’t be pig brains and eggs? So, what would we do if Jesus came to visit?
Today, Jesus visits the country of the Gerasenes, a Gentile region on the east coast of the Sea of Galilee. No matter where Jesus went when he came to visit, things were no longer normal. For, where ever Jesus is, everything is changed and transformed. This visit to the Gerasenes caused quite an uproar.
Almost before he could get off the boat, Jesus is met by a very sick man. This man is naked and obviously mentally ill. He comes at Jesus from his home in the cemetery, and he is shouting at Jesus to leave him alone, not to torment him. We find out later, it is not the man who is speaking to Jesus, but the demons who are in him who are afraid of Jesus. The demons have good reason to be afraid of Jesus. Jesus later destroyed them and restored the man to health. This is the transforming power of God in Jesus Christ at work.
The reactions to the visit of Jesus are different. The demons realize they are in the presence of God. They are some of the forces of Satan and are still active in all our lives and in this world, and are always afraid when they come into the presence of the Lord. But, the reaction of the Gerasenes to the healing of their neighbor surprises me. You would think they would be happy that this man is now sane and whole. You would think they would throw a party to celebrate this miracle and bring others who need healing. But, there is none of that. Luke says they are afraid and ask Jesus to leave.
It seems like an odd response to those of us who aren’t afraid of Jesus. Why are they scared? But, think about it. Maybe they're afraid if Jesus stays around they won't be able to make a living. After all, Jesus has just sent someone’s hogs to death in the lake. Wed all know the power of Jesus extends to pocketbooks and we all know that how often causes trouble. But, the fear of these people may be more than the possibility of no longer having a way to make a living. If Jesus has power over the forces of the world that oppress and bind, if Jesus can heal somebody like this suffering man, while destroying a hog farm, what will he do next? They probably wondered, “Who is safe from this amazing power?” What if I like my life just the way it is and prefer living my life of sin? Would I be thrilled to see someone who will upset the apple cart and change it forever?
I was once talking to a man about church membership and giving his heart to Christ. He wanted to know about asking Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. He was very interested in the idea, that through his salvation in Christ he could spend eternity in heaven and not in hell. But, he wanted to know all that was required of a follower of Jesus, so he asked, “What about church, does the Lord expect me to be in church every Sunday, once I’m saved?” When I told him, “Yes, we should be in church, somewhere every Sunday,” he thought long and hard. But, he finally decided He could live with that. He then said, “I’ve heard I’m supposed to give ten percent of my earnings to the church.” I told him, “Yes,” and he said, “Man that’s a lot of money to just give away.” But, he finally decided he could live with that, too.
Some might say I made a mistake then. And, if I had it to do over again I might not have said what I did. He could have learned what is required of a person who is in Christ, later as he grew in his faith. He could have grown into all those things we are supposed to do as Christians. I don’t know why, but I then told him we also owe ten percent of our time to Jesus after we have accepted salvation in him. As a kid in confirmation reminded me long ago, “That’s two point four hours a day, sixteen point eight hours a week, and 6,132 hours a year!” I am sure he was doing the same calculations in his head when as he started shaking his head, “You know, I had better think about this,” and left, never coming back. I felt awful, but what I told him is the truth. We are supposed to give of our time to God. Now, there are many ways to do that…with church attendance and Bible studies, serving and helping others, but we are supposed to give BACK ten percent of the time God has given us.
The Gerasenes, felt it was just too much of a risk to have Jesus around, so they asked him to leave. We often fear something new in our lives too. We see it in churches and individuals that cling to the old ways of doing everything. Holding on to the old ways, even when it is clear that some of those old ministries are not producing fruit. If Jesus came to visit, we just might ask him to leave like the Gerasenes did. Because, he might want to shake things up a little. We might be afraid of what he would do to how we want to live our lives?
In fact we are already doing this, when we ignore chances for new ministries. When we see places and people in our society that are not in Christ and then ignore ways we can reach them, we are running from new ministries in Christ when we avoid or ignore opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with our neighbors and friends.
Years ago I took our two oldest girls to the MGM Grand Hotel in Reno, because they had the lion there and were taking pictures of people with him. It took some serious talking, especially with Cori, but we went up and stood beside him as they took our picture. But, as we got close to him we could see his eyes were cloudy, he could barely see. He opened his mouth once when we were close and we could see he barely had a tooth in his head. This was a walking dead, tame lion, not the scary thing we had imagined. Scaredy cat Cori, decided we should take him home and love him. He wasn’t a fearsome lion anymore, he was just a kind of sad, old kitty cat.
One of the ways we get Jesus to leave us alone with his demands on our time, our money, and our lifestyle is by trying to tame him. We make Jesus stop with his constant calls for ministry by turning him into someone who is only kind and gentle, never gets too upset, and who never threatens anyone. We try to make him boring and safe. But, no one ever accused Jesus Christ of being boring. Many of the people who met him thought he was too powerful and controversial to be safe. And, nowadays many of us try to think only of Jesus as the meek and mild, helpless little baby Jesus, not the all-powerful Lord God on earth. Many of us prefer the toothless and clawless lion of the MGM Grand to the real and powerful Jesus Christ. For, that Christ is a lot less scary than the Christ that cleared the Temple in anger. He’s less challenging than the Christ who faced all the powerful people fearlessly, while doing what He was sent to do on the cross.
Well, the weak and sweet Jesus many of us want will leave us unhealed and unchanged by our faith. Sure, it will protect our senses and our hearts from the awesome power of God and that’s exactly the Jesus many of us want. Many of us w Jesus who only comes around when we need some help or when we want to get dewy eyed over the manger. We want a Jesus who will protect us and not ask too much of us.
But, there are other reactions to Jesus and one of them is the man who was healed and it is the reaction we should all be showing. Jesus has given this man back his mind and his life. From a naked, tormented man who lived in the graveyard, he had been changed to one who sits at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. This healed man is so grateful that he asks to go with Jesus back to Galilee. But, Jesus tells him, “No,” stay here and be a disciple in your hometown and he does what he was told, overflowing with the good news of what Jesus has done for him. Did you get that? He stayed in his hometown and witnessed to everyone about the life changing power and love of Jesus Christ He was changed in ways his neighbors could see by his faith in Jesus Christ. Just as we are to be changed by our faith in Him. If we fear the power of Jesus, if we are afraid of the possibility of a new and changed life in him, with all of its responsibilities I think this man would say to us, "I understand your fear, but don't send Jesus away so quickly. I wouldn't go back to who I was before Jesus came to me for anything. Let Jesus make the best of your life.”
Now, we never know when or where Jesus is going to turn up and call us to Christian ministry. But, if we aren’t feeling a call once in the while or we never have felt one, it is probably because we aren’t listening. He just might come to visit us with an offer of healing and new life. He will always call us to lead others to faith in him and if we are honest with ourselves, we know he has the power to do this. I pray we are all open and listening to what Jesus wants to do through us.
Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC Healy, Kansas