This week we finish up a six week series on the story of the Good Samaritan. We used this story to take a look at how the behavior of the characters in the story can be like the people we know, and like the organizations we all belong too. We recognize these people: the snooty college professor, the victim no one knows but who needs our help anyway, the angry gang of bandits, and those who pass by because think they are better than you.
We also looked at researcher Dave Logan's models of the organizations. Here in the USA, Logan divides organization into five groups, from the groups who believe that "Life Stinks" (the bandits), to those who think that they're great (and you're not), to those that know that "Life is Great" and always worth our care and preservation (the Good Samaritan).
And here's something you might not know. Most people today use the phrase "good Samaritan" as a compliment. It is a nice thing we call someone who steps up to help someone out. But that isn't how the people listening to Jesus would have understood it.
When Jesus uses the word "Good" together with the word "Samaritan," Jesus does something unexpected. Jesus and those listening to him were Judeans, from Judea. And for a Judean, calling someone a Samaritan was thought of as an insult. To quote the Gospel of John: "Judeans don't have anything to do with Samaritans." Judean people of the first century thought of Samaritans as unwashed outsiders with bad morals and they would not eat with them or hang out with them or even allow them to step into their homes.
The idea that a "Samaritan" could be good was a radical one. With this story, Jesus shows us that this Samaritan person, who others thought of as a smelly lowlife outside the love of God, could indeed be "good"--and what's more, he could be a whole lot better than the clean, educated Judean priests they so admired.
So the challenge for us today is two fold. First, what does life look like when we, like the Samaritan, embrace the idea that "Life is Great!" How do we get to a place where Life feels joyful and abundant. For this is the call Jesus makes to us. Second, consider what kind of organizations you belong to in your life. Are your friends an "in crowd," the kind who exclude those who aren't like you? Or are your friends like the people of the Inn, who take in all those who need a helping hand and thereby prove that it is they that are in right relationship with God.
This week we celebrate the end of our Samaritan series with a picnic following worship. Together we will celebrate the gift of life, and recognize that Life is indeed Abundant and Great!
Blessings for your week.