Last Sunday, we began a sermon series focused on how we talk about our faith. Often, when a question like that pops up, the first place our minds go is to argument. We think first about how to defend our faith. We want to convince people it’s true. That’s no different than a lot of the Bible. It also contains plenty of argument, but there’s also quite a bit of story. In fact, the first time we hear about Jesus isn’t in an argument but in a story. Why? Well, let’s talk about that.
Almighty, eternal, and life-giving God, be our wisdom and our comfort this morning. Lead us with your Word and your Holy Spirit, so that in your light we might see light, and in your truth, we might find freedom, and in your will, we might truly discover peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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.”
“Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness” — Rusty Edwards (YouTube video for in-home worship: Click here for Video)
Praise the one who breaks the darkness
With a liberating light.
Praise the one who frees the prisoners,
Turning blindness into sight.
Praise the one who preached the Gospel,
Healing every dread disease,
Calming storms and feeding thousands
With the very bread of peace.
Praise the one who blessed the children
With a strong yet gentle word.
Praise the one who drove out demons
With a piercing two-edged sword.
Praise the one who brings cool water
To the desert’s burning sand.
From this well comes living water,
Quenching thirst in every land.
Praise the one true love incarnate:
Christ who suffered in our place.
Jesus died and rose for many
That we may know God by grace.
Let us sing for joy and gladness,
Seeing what our God has done.
Praise the one redeeming glory,
Praise the One who makes us one.
My kids love stories, sometimes the same story over and over again. Long before we even had breakfast this morning, my three year old sat begging me to tell him a story. He had already heard it half a dozen times since waking up, but he wanted to hear it again. It was about him, so maybe there was a bit of vanity there, but he found it worth repeating ad nauseam.
Good stories like that have power over us. My daughter often disappears for hours downstairs reading book after book after book. When dinner rolls around, we can’t for the life of us get her to put down whatever novel she’s reading. They enthrall her. More than just entertainment, though, good stories shape us and reshape us. They construct and color the paths we walk and the ways we think. They cast visions of who and how we should be.
It’s sometimes said that Jesus never wrote a word, but he told a lot of stories, and his stories were always meant to share a vision of the world as God sees it and yearns for it to be. Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan is like that. “And who is my neighbor?” the lawyer asks. “If you really want to know,” Jesus says, “let me tell you a story. A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers…”
Jesus knew the best way to communicate his particular vision for us and for the world was by telling stories. His tale of the Good Samaritan might be the most famous and powerful of them. It’s a story that’s been told repeatedly for centuries, and it’s been retold and reinterpreted within innumerable contexts throughout the years because it’s both remarkably simple and exceptionally powerful. It leads us (literally) down a dangerous road, forcing us to check our assumptions and our worst fears along the way. Who is the robbed and beaten one in your ditch? Who are those who keep a clean distance? Who happens to be the saint who stops and goes out of her way to bring life and wholeness to a perfect stranger? Jesus’ story bears repeating and reliving in each and every age, along each and every street corner.
During one of my own devotions this week, I was challenged to ask myself, What story have I been telling? And then, What story do I want to tell? It’s made me wonder if we as a people might not need to tell a new story or even simply to rediscover an old one. In his book, Theory U, Otto Scharmer suggests that what is at stake for all of us today “is nothing less than the choice of who we are, who we want to be, and what story of the future we want to participate in.” Can Jesus’ stories, including the grand story of Jesus himself, help us out here? I think so. They remind us not only of who we are (sinners) but also who we should be (saints), how we can get there (grace empowering sacrificial love), and what that blessed future looks like (peace).
My prayer for all of us this week is, therefore, quite simple — that we’ll find our way back to that old, old story of Jesus and that it will capture our vision all over again, so that tomorrow we can begin to retell it anew and lead our world into a new and beautiful future.
Holy God, help us to know your story and your vision and how we might best tell it today. We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, and in the power of your Spirit. Amen.
– Otto Scharmer, Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges, 2nd ed. (Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2016), 20.