Sunday, August 13, 2017

SERMON: GO TO THE PLACE I WILL SHOW YOU




OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO SERIES1
30 July 2017

I.  Introduction
            -- this evening we are continuing in our sermon series, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” where we’re looking at the commands from God in Scripture to “Go,” and considering what would happen if we actually stepped out in faith and committed to doing what God told us to do and going where God called us to go
            -- we started this series by looking at the story of the adulterous woman in John Chapter 8 and considering Jesus’ command to her to “Go and leave your life of sin” -- to “Go and sin no more” -- Last week, we looked at the story of the Good Samaritan and heard Jesus’ command to “Go and do likewise” -- this week, we are going to look at the call on the life of Abram as God spoke to him in Ur and commanded, “Go to the place I will show you”

II.  An Amazing Adventure
            -- let’s look at that passage now -- Genesis 12:1-7

1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

2
“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
3
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

      -- when I read this story of Abram, I can’t help but think about the TV show, “The Amazing Race” -- out of all the shows I watch on TV, “The Amazing Race,” is my all-time favorite show
      -- you have seen it -- you know the premise -- it usually starts out with 11 teams of two people who are in some kind of a relationship with each other -- they start out somewhere in the United States and then they are given a clue that tells them where to go next -- and along the way they face challenges and road blocks and detours that they have to solve -- the ultimate reward for winning the race is one million dollars

      -- I think one of the reasons I love this show is that I can live vicariously through the teams as they travel from place to place having great and grand adventures -- I know it is doubtful I will ever travel to Peru or Chile or Argentina or Africa -- so I have to live it out through them and imagine what I would do in their place
      -- at the same time, watching the Amazing Race makes me kind of sad -- I want to travel like them -- I want to do what they're doing -- I told Kim just last night, “I want to go somewhere -- I want to go somewhere different” -- I was looking at these pictures on the internet of Australia and Scandinavia and Europe, and I just had this desire to go -- to travel and go to new places and meet new people and have adventures in distant lands -- to be on a quest like Abram
      -- I felt the same way when I first read the Lord of the Rings and then I feel it again every time I watch the movies -- do you know what my favorite part in the story is? -- it’s not when Frodo throws the One Ring into the fire in Mordor -- it’s not even the great battle of good versus evil or how the Hobbits are applauded at the end as the heroes of the story -- no, my favorite part is at the beginning, when Frodo and Sam set out from the Shire on their quest to bring the one ring to Rivendell -- I so much wanted to go with them -- I just wanted to step out and to do something that mattered -- do you know what I'm talking about?
      -- I believe that God has put this desire in our hearts -- a desire for adventure -- a desire to step out of our humdrum, everyday lives and to be part of a grand adventure -- a great quest -- filled with excitement and danger and with the promise of a great reward at the end -- to help us recognize that we are in the middle of a grand adventure that is bigger than us and we do have an important role to play -- we just have to hear His voice that says, “Go,” and we have to commit to going where He sends

III.  Go to the place I will show you
      -- one thing we need to keep in mind is that when God calls us to “Go” and start this grand adventure, He doesn't always give us all the information up front -- sometimes He just tells us what to do or what is fixing to happen and then He waits until we respond in faith to give us the rest of the answer

      -- look back at verse 1

1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

      -- when God first spoke to Abram in the desert of Haran and called him to be the father of a great nation, He commanded him to “Go” with no distinct destination -- God just said, "Get up and Go -- leave your country and go to the land I will show you" -- what this means is that God’s command to “Go” demands a response of obedience and faith on our part
      -- Abram was called to get up and start packing and to actually set out before God would share with him where he was going to go -- Abram was called to show trust and faith in God in response to His call -- Hebrews 11:8 sheds a little more light on this -- it reads, "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going"
      -- when God calls and asks you to do something, do you respond in faith and do what He says -- or do you wait for clarification before you start moving? -- what do you think would have happened if Abram had said, "Wait a minute God -- I've got things pretty good here -- I've got all my family and all my things and now you're telling me to pack up and leave without even telling me where I am to go? -- I'm not leaving until I can get good directions"
      -- God's principle is that He calls us to faith and obedience -- not necessarily to knowledge -- sometimes we have to step forward in faith in one area in order to understand why we had to do what He told us to do -- what is God calling you to do right now? -- where is He telling you to go? -- and, here’s the kicker -- are you doing it, or are you waiting for more instructions?
      -- Abram didn't wait -- he was committed to following God and responding to His call to “Go,” even if he didn't understand exactly what was going on -- so in verses 4-6 we see that he took all he had with him -- he took his family -- he took his possessions -- he took everything -- and stepped forward in faith

      -- in verse 2, we see another spiritual principle -- God's calls always come with the promise of a blessing
      -- look back at verse 2-3

2
“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
3
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

      -- God is telling Abram in this passage that if you respond to my call -- if you do what I say -- then you will be blessed -- and all people on earth will be blessed through you
      -- when you respond in faith to God's call, you will be blessed -- maybe not instantly -- maybe not in the way you expected -- but you will be blessed -- sometimes, it may be years and years before the promised blessing comes to fruition -- but God's word is always true -- if He speaks it, it will come to pass
      -- we live in a microwave age -- we want things done now -- we want to know what we are going to get and when we are going to get it before we'll do anything -- we get mad when our food isn't ready by the time we get to the drive-in window -- we want instantaneous gratification -- but God's principle says that the best blessings take time to develop -- that good things come to those who trust God and go where He commands even as they wait for His promises to be revealed
      -- Abram never saw everything that God promised -- the blessings that were given in this passage -- yes, his name was made great -- he was a blessing to those around him -- from Egypt to Canaan and beyond -- those who blessed Abram were blessed by God -- those who cursed Abram suffered the consequences of their actions -- Abram saw all of these come to pass
      -- but the greatest blessings promised he had to wait on and never saw in his lifetime -- the promise that he would be made into a great nation and that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him -- we see that now in the nation of Israel -- and we realize the blessings of God that came to us through that nation and through Abram -- the blessing of the promised Savior who took away our sin and offered us eternal life
      -- but none of these blessings would have occurred if Abram had not heard and responded to the word of God commanding him to “Go”

            -- one more thing I want you to see before we leave this passage -- look back at verse 4


4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.

            -- how old was Abram when he heard the command of God to “Go to the place I will show you” and begin this great journey of faith? -- he was 75 years old -- and that goes to show you that sometimes the call to start a new adventure with God -- to hear Him say to you, “Go,” comes later in life
            -- there is no retirement in the life of a Christian -- Abram was 75 years old when he started walking with God -- Moses was 80 when he stood before the burning bush and heard God say, “Go and tell Pharaoh to let My people go” -- even in our day, we see people in their later years responding to God’s command to “Go” -- Corrie ten Boom was in her late 50s when she was called to rescue Jews from the Nazis -- and Mother Teresa continued to minister through her 80s
            -- just because some of us are getting older is no reason for us to think that God’s call has passed -- it could be He is getting ready to use you in a might way right now -- it’s simply a matter of listening for His voice and responding to His command to “Go” when we hear it
            -- you’re never too old for God -- you’re never too old to begin an adventure with Him -- the only thing that can keep you from doing great things for God is an unwillingness to go when He calls

IV.  Closing
      -- Stephen Curtis Chapman has a song about our Christian life called, "The Great Adventure" that I think sums up this idea that God is calling each of us to “Go” and follow Him quite well -- listen to his lyrics as I read them to you

"Started out this morning in the usual way
Chasing thoughts inside my head of all I had to do today
Another time around the circle try to make it better than the last

But I opened up the Bible and I read about me
Said I'd been a prisoner and God's grace had set me free
And somewhere between the pages it hit me like a lightning bolt
I saw a big frontier in front of me and I heard somebody say "let's go"!

Saddle up your horses we've got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder of God's amazing grace
Let's follow our leader into the glorious unknown
This is a life like no other - this is The Great Adventure

Come on get ready for the ride of your life
Gonna leave long faced religion in a cloud of dust behind
And discover all the new horizons just waiting to be explored
This is what we were created for

We'll travel over, over mountains so high
We'll go through valleys below
Still through it all we'll find that
This is the greatest journey that the human heart will ever see
The love of God will take us far beyond our wildest dreams
So saddle up your horses... come on get ready to ride"

      -- we ARE in a great adventure far beyond our wildest dreams -- we just need to open the eyes of our hearts and see the truth of the matter -- to hear God say, “Go,” and to do what He says and start living a life of adventure as God intended

      -- I want to close by sharing with you a few thoughts from the literary genius that we are basing this sermon series on -- I am, of course, talking about Dr. Seuss -- in his book, "And to think I saw it on Mulberry Street," a father tells his son to keep his eyes open when he walks to school and back, because there are great and grand things going on around him every single day
      -- but the son doesn't see with the eyes of his heart -- he only sees the ordinary things of life -- all he saw was a horse and wagon on the street -- so on the way back, he makes up this great imaginary tale of what he could have seen
      -- but at the end of the book, when he comes face-to-face with his father, he has to tell him the truth of what he saw on Mulberry Street -- listen to the close of the story:

      -- "Dad said quite calmly, "Just draw up your stool, and tell me the sights on the way home from school"
      -- "There was so much to tell, I just couldn't begin! -- Dad looked at me sharply and pulled at his chin. -- He frowned at me sternly from there in his seat, "Was there nothing to look at...no people to greet? -- did nothing excite you or make your heart beat?"
      -- "Nothing," I said, growing red as a beet.  "But a plain horse and wagon on Mulberry Street."

      -- at the end of our lives, we are going to stand before our Father and He is going to ask us what we saw on our way home to heaven -- the people we met -- the places we went to -- the adventures that we had
      -- He's going to ask us what we did with our life -- and we're going to have to answer Him truthfully
      -- He has called us to be part of a great adventure -- a great quest -- an amazing race -- He has called us to see through our ordinary lives -- through our day-to-day living -- to the great adventure of life all around us
      -- He has called us to “Go” -- to fight the good fight -- to finish the race -- and to keep the faith

      -- at the end of your life, when you stand before God, what will you say you saw along your path? -- what will you say you did with your life?
      -- every single day of our lives should be an adventure with Christ -- but we have to choose to make it so -- and it begins by hearing the command of God to “Go” and getting up and doing so
      -- let us pray

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Have you read your Bible today?


Oscar Wilde wrote: “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

How much truth is inherent in that simple statement. Immersing ourselves in the scriptural truths from the Bible feeds our souls and helps us to live Godly lives. Without a daily dose of God's word filling us and without a reservoir of God's grace within, we cannot stand against the trials and temptations of life.

Psalm 119:9-11 makes this point quite clear.  It reads, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."

The key to living a righteous life, to living according to God's commands and principles, is to hide the word of God in your heart. 

Make reading your Bible on a daily basis a habit in your life. Take the 21-day challenge to make this part of your character. Science has shown that we can reprogram our minds and form new habits, or break bad habits, by doing something intentionally for 21 consecutive days.

For the next 21 days, commit to reading at least one chapter out of the Bible and reflecting on what God is saying to you in His word, and see if it makes a difference in how you view and approach your daily trials.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

SERMON: GO AND DO LIKEWISE




OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO SERIES1
23 July 2017

I.  Introduction
            -- turn in Bibles to Luke 10:25-37

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

            -- this evening we are continuing in our sermon series, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” -- as we talked about last week, throughout scripture, God speaks to us and tells us to “Go” -- but too often, we hear God’s word and do nothing with what we hear -- James counsels us in James 1:22 to not merely listen to the word and deceive ourselves, but to do what it says
            -- so over the next several weeks, we’re going to be looking at some of the commands from God to “Go” and commit ourselves to actually stepping out in faith and doing what He has commanded
            -- today’s message is from a familiar passage -- the story of the good Samaritan -- everyone in here knows this story -- we’ve all heard it -- and the idea of the good Samaritan has even found its way into our culture -- we have hospitals and medicals centers named after this parable -- the camping organization, Good Sam, has even taken its name from this parable and encourages its members to help one another on their travels
            -- but, as they say, familiarity breeds contempt -- and we have become so familiar with this story that we have inoculated ourselves against the true message that Jesus was trying to express

            -- let me give you an example -- several years ago, a seminary professor designed an engaging experiment to see whether his students were actually applying the biblical truths they were learning -- so he began an in-depth study of the parables with his class -- and told them that the majority of their grade was going to be dependent on an oral examination where they would have to answer questions about each of the parables -- the students were given a schedule for their times and were warned that if they missed their appointment, they would receive a zero on the test
            -- on the day of the exam, the students hurried to the professor’s office for their scheduled appointment -- but as they neared the building, they heard someone crying for help -- there was a man lying there on the side of the road, his clothes disheveled -- blood running down his head -- it looked like he had hurt or mugged
            -- and each student rushed right past him without stopping to help, because they feared missing their appointed time -- what they didn't realize was that this was their real exam -- after an in-depth study of the parable of the good Samaritan, the professor wanted to see if the students would apply what they had learned -- none did, and all failed the test -- all failed to show grace and mercy to a person in need
            -- they knew the truth -- they had heard the command of Jesus to the expert in the law to “Go and do likewise” -- but each of them failed to do what was required
            -- so let’s look at this familiar parable and see what we can learn about the place Jesus wants us to go today

II.  Scripture Lesson (Luke 10:25-37)
            -- verse 25

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

            -- now in order to understand this passage, it’s important to know the context and what is going on -- a shift has just occurred in the ministry of Jesus -- as Luke says in Luke 9:51, “as the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem”
            -- up to this point, Jesus’ ministry has been focused on proclaiming Himself as the Messiah -- this has been the season of teaching and preaching to the people -- this has been the season of miracles and signs that pointed to who Jesus was -- but now, Jesus has left Galilee and is making His way to Jerusalem to fulfill the purpose for which He was sent
            -- He has already sent the seventy-two disciples ahead of Him to proclaim the Kingdom of God was coming -- and now Jesus is resolutely approaching Jerusalem -- bringing with Him His disciples and a growing crowd of people -- it appears that something new -- something revolutionary -- is coming to Jerusalem that will shake up the religious establishment

            -- Luke tells us that as Jesus is making His way to Jerusalem, He is confronted by an expert in the law -- meaning the Law of Moses -- the religious law -- this expert in the law stops Jesus and asks Him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” -- Luke says he asked this in order to test Jesus
            -- now, the thing you need to keep in mind is that the answer to this question was well-known -- God had clearly told the people in His word what was required for eternal life -- every Jew would have known this -- every Jew would have been taught this from childhood
            -- so, the question is not so much to test Jesus as to whether what He was saying was right or not, but to demonstrate to the people that what Jesus was teaching was not revolutionary -- when you got right down to it, it was the same thing that the church had been teaching for ages -- so the lawyer is trying to make the point that there is no need to follow Jesus, just keep doing what you’ve always been doing

            -- but Jesus turns the question back on the lawyer -- verse 26

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

            -- in other words, Jesus is saying, “you know what is there -- you’re the expert in the Law -- what does it say?”

            -- verse 27

27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

-- as expected, the expert in the Law answers correctly -- he gives the orthodox message -- the message that the church had been teaching since the Law had been given -- this is the foundation of the Jewish religion -- the rock they had been standing on and proclaiming from the days of Moses

            -- but look how Jesus responds -- verse 28

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

            -- don’t miss what Jesus is saying -- He’s saying, “Yes, you are correct -- if you do this, you will live” -- but what is implied in that response is the question, “Have you really been doing this? -- Have you been fulfilling the commandments of the Law?” -- Jesus called into question whether the expert in the law had put into practice that which he had preached

            -- verse 29

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

            -- so now the accuser is the defendant -- the expert in the law had started this conversation by trying to question Jesus and put Him on the spot, but now he finds himself defending his own righteousness -- so, seeking to justify himself, he responds back to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
            -- once again, he expects Jesus to respond with the traditional Jewish understanding of the term neighbor -- not only your near kin who lives next door, but the stranger, the poor, the orphaned, and the widows who live among you -- this is what the law said -- and, when Jesus responded like this, the man could honestly affirm, “Good -- I do all that -- I show love and compassion to all of these -- I have earned eternal life.”
            -- as Thomas Long points out, the lawyer “had found a place to stand -- [he] depended upon the concepts “love God” and “love neighbor” to remain fixed and stable, a system of religious justification, and, again like most of us, he had found a sweet spot in that religious system that allowed him to be satisfied with himself and his life.”2 
            -- or, to put it another way, the lawyer sought to justify himself because he went to church, read the scriptures, made the required sacrifices, and loved his family and his friends and neighbors -- sound familiar?

            -- but Jesus doesn’t respond the way the expert in the law expected -- instead of affirming what the expert in the law believes to be true, Jesus throws into question the definition of a neighbor by telling him the story of the good Samaritan

            -- verse 30

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

            -- like I said in the beginning of this message, everyone here knows this story -- but have you really listened to what Jesus is doing here to this expert in the Law?
            -- Jesus begins the story by saying, “a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho” -- other translations have this as “a certain man was going down” -- and the inference here is that this man Jesus is talking about in the story is the expert in the Law himself
            -- Jesus is making this personal -- He is saying to the expert in the law, “pretend that one day, you were going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when you fall into the hands of robbers -- they beat you -- they strip you of your clothes -- they leave you for dead and throw you in the ditch -- you need help -- who do you look to for assistance? -- who will be your neighbor?”

            -- the story goes on that a priest comes by and sees the man, but crosses the road and passes by on the other side -- he is followed by a Levite, who also comes to the same place and sees the man needing help, but does nothing -- finally, a Samaritan comes by and takes pity on the man -- seeing his need, he has compassion on him -- and sterilizes his wounds with oil and wine and puts a bandage on him -- he takes him to an inn, where he sits by him and takes care of him through the night -- the next day, he leaves money behind to ensure the wounded man is taken care of, and promises he will return to check in on his progress and take care of any more needs
            -- now it’s important that you know the Jews and Samaritans absolutely hated each other -- “The two groups disagreed about everything that mattered: how to honor God, how to interpret the Scriptures, and where to worship.  They practiced their faith in separate temples, read different versions of the Torah, and avoided social contact with each other whenever possible.”3  -- Jews would not even cross into the region of Samaria, even if that would shorten a trip -- they would have nothing to do with them at all
            -- so when Jesus introduces the Samaritan as the hero in the story, this would have been shocking to the ears of His Jewish listeners -- they would never consider helping a Samaritan -- and they would never consider having to rely on a Samaritan for help
            -- but Jesus has now painted the picture of the expert in the Law, rejected by the priest and the Levite, now being ministered to by someone he absolutely hated -- think about your worst enemy -- think about that person you just can’t stand -- or that group of people you just can’t be around -- now consider yourself in need, and, while the people you thought were your friends and neighbors pass you by, the only person who comes to your aid is that very person -- that’s the message Jesus is trying to get across

            -- verse 36

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

            -- once again, Jesus turns the question of the expert in the law back on him -- the lawyer had asked, “And who is my neighbor?” -- now, after telling the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus asks the question back to the lawyer, “Who do you think was a neighbor to this man?”
            -- “The one who had mercy on him”
            -- Jesus has stretched the understanding of the expert in the law -- “When you're lying bloody in a ditch, what matters is not whose help you'd prefer, whose way of practicing Christianity you like best, whose politics you agree with.  What matters is whether or not anyone will stop to show you mercy before you die.”3
            -- your neighbor is not defined by relation -- your neighbor is not defined by geographic proximity -- your neighbor is not defined by religion or politics or personal beliefs -- everyone is your neighbor because everyone is in need
            -- “the real answer to the lawyer’s question “who is my neighbor?” is that you have no idea who your neighbor is until you, yourself, know how needy you are, and in that need receive the unexpected grace of being neighbored by God”2
            -- Jesus did not come to be a neighbor only to the righteous -- nor did He come to be a neighbor only to the Jews -- He came to be the neighbor to everyone, and to save everyone who was in that ditch -- He came for all of us

            -- He sums up His message by commanding the expert in the Law, to “go and do likewise” -- to go and be a neighbor to all -- to go and have mercy on all because of the mercy you have been shown by God

III.  Closing
            -- how well do we do that? -- how well do we go and do likewise? -- if we’re honest, we’d have to say, not very well

            -- Several years ago, there was a news report about a man who was standing near a hole that had been dug as part of a large excavation -- A number of workers were in the hole removing dirt when the walls collapsed around them -- Rescuers began running from everywhere, but the man just stood by and watched the scene with detachment -- Suddenly a woman called out from a nearby house: “Jim, your brother is down there!” -- Instantly, he stripped off his coat and began digging frantically -- Why? -- His brother was in mortal danger and he had to get him out.4

            -- how like him are we? -- we tend to be like the expert in the Law -- we tend to draw circles around our family and our friends and we proclaim these to be our neighbors and everyone outside to not be such
            -- we pass by people in need -- wounded men and women lying in a ditch needing a Savior -- because we don’t see them as our neighbors

            -- I remember listening to a plea from a radio host a few years ago, right after the earthquake in Haiti -- he said that his brother needed help -- that he needed money -- that he had been affected by the earthquake and was asking for people to donate their money and their time and their resources, if they could
            -- and then he said that all those people were his brothers and his sisters -- that in Christ we are all one, and that if one of us hurt, we all hurt -- everyone down there was our neighbor and our brother or sister -- and they needed our help

            -- that’s the same point Jesus is making here -- who is our neighbor? -- is it that guy on the street holding a sign asking for money? -- yes, it is -- is it that single mother who is living out of wedlock with her baby daddy? -- yes, it is -- is it that homosexual carrying a rainbow flag during a Gay Pride parade -- yes, it is
            - I saw a poster one time that showed a homeless alcoholic lying on a park bench and covered with a newspaper -- the caption said, “You only love me as much as you love this man.” -- and it was signed, “Jesus”

            - Everyone is our neighbor -- and the command from Jesus is to go and show mercy to them as He has shown mercy to us -- do not turn from those in need.

            - To be a neighbor, we must show mercy
            - To be a neighbor, we must slow down and look for the need
            - To be a neighbor, we might have to cross over to the other side of the road
            - To be a neighbor, we have to get close to people
            - To be a neighbor, you must love God

            - in the Emmaus movement we have a saying, “make a friend, be a friend, introduce your friend to Christ”
            - the message for you today is that if we are to “go and do likewise” as Jesus commanded here, we must make a neighbor, be a neighbor, and introduce our neighbor to Christ by showing His love and mercy to them, regardless of who they are
            -- let us pray




           
1 Series idea and title borrowed from Eric Bryant, Gateway Church, Austin, TX [http://www.ericbryant.org/]
2 The Lawyer's Second Question By Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching and Coordinator of the Initiative in Religious Practices and Practical Theology