Tag Archives: neighbors

Loving Your Neighbor on the Highway to Hell Luke 10: 25-37 First Saint Johns July 10, 2016

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who serve their neighbor on the highway said … AMEN

I’m sure, at least for those of us who are of an age, you remember the song “Highway to Hell”, since we are talking about the Good Samaritan being on what was probably a main, as it were, “highway”, during that period it is not hard to wonder if the men who left the man to die on the road, we will call him “neighbor”, if those men really were on a highway to hell. Today, someone, a police officer, ambulance, will come along and do what’s necessary to get “neighbor” help. Not the case in first century Israel, there was no highway patrol, no one charged with patrolling the highways for such a situation. Walking past that helpless man, not stopping to help him could well be a death sentence. We Lutherans know that we sin by what we do and what we don’t do. Walking by this man in such a condition was leaving him to die, and is our sin of omission.

Highway to Hell by AC/DC is rather insightful for what was intended to be parody. Do what I want, when I want, I don’t help anyone, I don’t need anyone’s help, don’t need reason, don’t need rhyme, on and on, yea, the exact recipe for Hell, eternal condemnation. Entirely that person’s choice. That’s not love, yet you have many today who say the exact opposite, that it’s entirely loving to let a person do what they want and go where they want in their own time. That’s not God, that’s not love, that’s walking by that person on the highway, crossing over so that you don’t have to interact with that person and moving on in your life, your agenda.

Jesus asks the lawyer, “who do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer answered, “The one who showed him mercy”. Samaritans were so hated by Jews in that time, the man couldn’t even bring himself to acknowledge that a Samaritan would extend such kindness, but conceded that he did show mercy in compliance with the Levitical command: “…but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” God made sure Moses knew to emphasize, “I am the Lord” the Great I AM, the One who is telling you to show this kindness to “neighbor”. Something the lawyer, the priest or the Levite just didn’t/wouldn’t do. They would expect someone to stop for them, but the truth is, on the “Highway to Hell”, “nobody’s gonna slow me down”. Not in terms of them moving on to provide for their own lusts and desires, and certainly not in terms of helping someone else. That is what will always differentiate Christians and everyone else. We are under command to “love our neighbor”, we may not always do it, we may not always do it right, but we are reminded as we move along the highway, that the rest of the world is not under such an injunction. Sure they may stop once in awhile to help, but they often expect something in return, or any number of motivations, but not out of love, and love is always to be the Christian’s motivation.

We have a lot of people today who think that love is about what they receive. They put other people on a treadmill, expecting them to keep providing for them, never really giving anything, but expecting that someone else is supposed to show them “Christian love” on a continuous basis. That’s not “love”, it’s not about me thinking of new ways people are supposed to do things for me, it’s about me doing my best to provide, strengthen, pray for, encourage, provide material help in physical need. That’s love, not what many today want to convince us that love is, our continually doing for those who just want to continue to take and never do anything for themselves, or anyone else that will help them to grow and mature. Those who wag their finger at us about “love”, are usually the ones who do nothing else but accuse others and then expect to be provided for. But there will be those like “neighbor” who will find themselves in times of trouble, we are to be there for those who, through no fault of their own, need our help. We should step up to help “neighbor”. Thieves aren’t going to go to the trouble to mug someone unless they think that there is a payoff. Clearly “neighbor” had means and he was going about his business to the best of his ability. Clearly he deserved to be helped by the priest and/or the Levite. These men were probably afraid that “neighbor” was dead and they might make themselves ceremonially unclean. That is legalism, legalism is never an excuse to not help someone. There are those who have found themselves caught up in lifestyles that are clearly sinful. As Christians we continually walk that fine line between “enabling” someone in their sin and helping someone who is in need and is looking for help to overcome. I find myself here, in a downtown church, continually having to make that call, with limited resources of time, money, energy and the need to tell anyone I come into contact with the good news of the Gospel. We do exercise a great deal of love and compassion here at First St Johns. We do reach out in love to help those who we can help. But our ultimate expression of love is always to tell anyone we encounter of the love of Jesus. That He died on that cross as a payment for our sin and through His righteousness to put us in relationship with God, our all holy, righteous, just God.

The AC/DC song, is a clear expression of those who just aren’t interested in the Gospel message. They are on that highway, and remember Jesus’ words; there is a narrow road that leads to salvation, a highway is wide and fast. There are plenty of highways that I’ve been on that have a speed limit of 55 miles per hour, but all around me, vehicles are buzzing around at 65, 75 much faster than me, I’m trying to stay safe, but getting caught up with what’s going on around me is putting me in jeopardy and those zooming by are completely callous to the fact that they’re putting me, anyone else with me and themselves in jeopardy. We can try to keep up with those who are on that highway to hell, or we can continue to do the right thing. Jesus said “if you love Me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). We can zoom by neighbor on the highway, literally or metaphorically, or we can do whatever we can to provide a safe place to tell him, and others, the truth and grace of Jesus. Gerhard Grabenhofer in his book God Grant It, a devotional based on the writings of CFW Walther quotes Walther: “The task of every Christian church that rightly bears this name is to provide eternal comfort… To still [our accusing conscience] God has established the holy Christian Church. It should be a garden of heaven on earth full of living springs at which the tired earthly pilgrim can rest and out of which he can draw the comfort that heals his wounded conscience and fills him with the hope of eternal life. A church that does not provide this comfort, one that acts instead like a school of morals, preaching only one’s duties, awakening a servile fear of God and leaving of God and leaving doubt about eternal salvation, is a church in name only.”[1] This is what we see today, too many churches who take a “moral”, politically correct position, that is truly legalistic, that is about conforming to the world’s positions, like the priest and the Levite. More concerned about going through the motions of appearing “right” instead of being that place of true love, that agape love, that puts us in genuine relationship with a God who does desperately love us. The Father wants so much for us to know His Son Jesus and to know that we are saved only through Him, not through our political/social activities, but Him who died to save us. That our strength is always through the love, grace, faith that we have in Christ and not our own. Yes, we have encountered many right here in our downtown area, who try to tell us what we should be concerned with, everyone has their agenda. In Leviticus, God is telling Moses, “…you shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you…You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 18: 3-4) We have a lot of people telling us that’s old news, we need to get with the new world. The things that were happening in Egypt and Canaan, were much like things around us today. People who were oblivious to what God wanted and who did what they wanted. God goes on to tell Moses: “…you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.” (Lev 19: 17) We can’t lose where we need to be and to somehow think it’s loving to enable people in their sin. It’s not, we are well aware of what is loving; “God, who is the eternal love, does not want even one person to be lost, however” quoting Walther. The however being if that person ignores God and choses the highway to hell. We present Christ in love, we see wounded “neighbor” laying by the roadside and try to render assistance, but if he dismisses us, we leave him alone, but keep him, or her, in constant prayer.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Gerhard Grabenhofer quoting CFW Walther “God Grant It” p 582

God’s will, even in the little things.

We had a great “Coffee Break Bible Study” today, (you could have too, you are all invited 10am Wednesdays Green Bean Coffee Co, corner of W King and Beaver Sts, downtown York, Pa.). Part of the discussion was on liturgical worship, but we also made time on the Gene Veith book that we’ve been studying. I had to share some of his book today.

“…The point here is not to identify vocations for people who think they do not have one, but to emphasize that our Christian calling is to be played out in whatever our daily life consists of.” (Gene Veith God at Work pp 58-59)

Cannot emphasize this enough, we compartmentalize our life and if it doesn’t “have to do with religion”, then we leave God out of the equation. However, God is who put you there (“For such a time as this” – Esther 4:14), He has you there at that time and place for a reason. Discern His will, be open to what the other person is doing and what God is moving you to do.

“If a person is married, that is his or her calling. Thinking I should never have married that person or I have no vocation for marriage is no excuse for divorce or abandonment. “If anyone lives in marriage, in a certain way of life, he has his vocation”, wrote Luther. “When this is interfered with – by Satan, or neighbors, or family, or even by one’s own weakness of mind – it ought not to yield or to be broken in spirit. Rather if any difficulty impedes, let one call on the Lord … For it is sure that here, in fidelity to vocation, God has insisted on hope and trust in his help” (Exposition of Psalm 127; quoted in Wingren, 195) Yea, especially in this case, we let friends (who way too often just tell us what we want to hear), or family with that whole history etc going on, or Satan who will twist and try to manipulate any way he can. He doesn’t care how, so long as it separates you from Jesus and messes up your life.

We are put there for a reason, just because it’s not what we like, doesn’t make us happy or blah, blah whatever excuse we have, does not mean that God did not intend for us to deal with this. We grow when we deal with the things in our life, marriage, work, worship etc. Running away is not growing, it’s immaturity. When we deal with the issues at home, at work, at church, we have taken a test and passed, not saying always well, but we grow, mature. Hopefully all involved grow and mature and see God’s hand at work. But the world’s idea of “well if it’s uncomfortable, unhappy, then it must be wrong…” no, it means that God has you there to confront, deal with and grow in.

“We can do nothing about the past. The future is wholly in God’s hand. Now is what we have. The future-oriented obsession of today’s culture pushes our attention and our good works to the future, to what we are going to do later. We must “live in the hour that has come,” says Wingren. “That is the same as living in faith, receptive to God, who is present now and has something he will do now ‘(214)'”

“…Whatever we face in the often humdrum present – washing the dishes, buying groceries, going to work, driving the kids somewhere… this is the realm into which we have been called and into which our faith bears fruit in love..”

What you are doing now is important, God has you there for a reason, so do it well, oh yeah sure, sometimes we aren’t in the right place, doing the right things and we know perfectly well we’re not. But I’ve certainly had the experience, something that doesn’t seem all that important and yet, the person I’m interacting with sees it as being very important. Even if that person doesn’t express it, I’ve had the feeling, walking away, that wow, I’m glad I stopped for that, it didn’t seem important at the time, now I can really see God’s hand in this.

Be open to what God is doing, it isn’t always a big splash for you, but it might be for someone else. Lots of things we think are boring and unimportant, God is using to move us somewhere or do something in our life. We are often too quick to chose  otherwise and then miss what’s supposed to be happening. Putting our will over God’s will, which is never a smart idea.

I could go on, yea I know, when don’t I? But this would be a good topic for next Wednesday. As I said 10am, the Green Bean Coffee Co, corner of W King and Beaver Sts, downtown York, Pa. Parking in the little lot behind the church. Everyone is welcome no charge, obligation etc, I will even buy your first cup of coffee.