July 10, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O Lord God, your mercy delights us, and the world longs for your loving care. Hear the cries of everyone in need, and turn our hearts to love our neighbors with the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Amos 7:7-17

7This is what [the Lord God] showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, 
 “See, I am setting a plumb line
  in the midst of my people Israel;
  I will never again pass them by;
9the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
  and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
  and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
10Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11For thus Amos has said, 
 ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
  and Israel must go into exile
  away from his land.’ ”
12And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
14Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
16“Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.
 You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
  and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’
17Therefore thus says the Lord:
 ‘Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city,
  and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
  and your land shall be parceled out by line;
 you yourself shall die in an unclean land,
  and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’ ”

Psalm 82

1God stands to charge the divine coun- | cil assembled,
  giving judgment in the midst | of the gods:
2“How long will you | judge unjustly,
  and show favor | to the wicked?
3Save the weak | and the orphan;
  defend the hum- | ble and needy;
4rescue the weak | and the poor;
  deliver them from the power | of the wicked. R
5They do not know, neither do they understand; they wander a- | bout in darkness;
  all the foundations of the | earth are shaken.
6Now I say to you, | ‘You are gods,
  and all of you children of | the Most High;
7nevertheless, you shall | die like mortals,
  and fall like | any prince.’ ”
8Arise, O God, and | rule the earth,
  for you shall take all nations | for your own. 

Galatians 5:1, 13-25

1For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

16Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Luke 10:25-37

25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He 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.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus 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. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He 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. 35The 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.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

I have loved this passage from Galatians 5 since the year after my freshman year in high school, the summer the ELCA Youth Gathering was in Dallas, Texas and the theme was Called to Freedom. Speakers that year included Tony Campolo and Maya Angelou. 

The theme scripture verse was Galatians 5:13, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence but through love become enslaved to one another.” Whenever you hear me say that we are freed, but not just freed from something, freed for something, this line from Galatians is in the background.

Paul’s metaphorical use of slavery is jarring, but there is a truth behind the metaphor. The cross of Jesus teaches us what love looks like. The work of God’s Spirit in us is the only way that we are ever going to be free from our own selfishness, free to exhibit a fraction of that kind of love toward anyone—especially people whom we do not like.

You could wonder, reading all of Galatians, if Paul sees any place for the law in this new life in Jesus Christ. For Paul, Christ has fulfilled the law by embodying what the love of neighbor looks like. And yet, Paul does not turn to the cross to illustrate what we are to do with our freedom. 

In Galatians 5:14, Paul writes, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Thankfully, neither the Galatians’ salvation nor our own rests on our ability to fulfill that commandment. We are called, however, to follow in Christ’s footsteps—to love one another.

What kind of relationships follow from Christian freedom? Paul’s answer is that Christian relationships ought to be shaped by neighbor love. This is not so surprising. Neighbor love was emphasized by the law in Leviticus 19:18 and reiterated by Jesus.

A lawyer, a scholar of the Torah, stands up to test Jesus. Jesus asks a question of his own and the lawyer gives a good answer, one we would expect from someone who studied scripture his entire career. The lawyer answers with a combination of Old Testament texts—love the Lord your God and love your neighbor.

Jesus tells the lawyer to follow the law’s instruction. But the scholar wants to justify himself. He wants to put parameters on the law. He seeks a definition of neighbor. He is a Jew who expects a definition in line with the purity laws. He expects to discover the limits of the phrase “my neighbor.” 

Jesus tells a story that blows the lawyer’s world view apart. He does not say much about the man in the ditch. Jesus’ Jewish audience certainly assumed he was a Jew. Two people pass on by the man in the ditch.

These are not just two ordinary men. The first is a priest and the second is a Levite. What they share in common is that they, like the lawyer, are students of the law. Presumably they knew the same two commandments that the lawyer quoted, love God and love your neighbor. These two men are leaders in the faith communities, the church establishment. 

Three is a common storytelling number. The first person did not stop to help the man and neither did the second. The audience is prepared; we are prepared for the third man to stop and help this poor fellow in the ditch. But then Jesus shatters all expectations. Then a Samaritan comes along. What?

By making the hero of the story a Samaritan, Jesus challenged the longstanding enmity between Jews and Samaritans. Samaritans were descendants of the mixed marriages that followed from the Assyrian settlement of people from various regions in the fallen northern kingdom. 

Put another way, by the time Jesus told the story, the enmity between Jews and Samaritans was ancient, entrenched, and bitter. The two groups disagreed about everything that mattered: how to honor God, how to interpret scripture, and where to worship. Though we are inclined to love the Samaritan, Jesus’ choice to make him the hero was nothing less than shocking to first century ears.

The lawyer will not even use the word Samaritan. When Jesus asks him who was the neighbor, the lawyer says only, “The one who shoed mercy.” His answer provides a very accurate description of a neighbor. Jesus turns the issue to the essential nature of neighborliness. 

A Samaritan is the exemplar. The lawyer is pushed to learn about genuine love from the deeds of one whom he regards as his enemy. To be committed to love of neighbor involves a willingness to see an enemy as a benefactor, one who can offer instruction about true compassion and righteousness. 

One scholar writes, “To hear this parable in contemporary terms, we should think of ourselves as the person in the ditch, and then ask, ‘Is there anyone, from any group, about whom we would rather die than acknowledge, ‘She offered help’ or ‘He showed compassion’? More, is there any group whose membership might rather die than help us? If so, then we know how to find the modern equivalent of the Samaritan. 

It might be Muslim, Sikh, Jew, Mormon, Black, White, Brown, Republican, Democrat. Genuine kindness and goodness and mercy cannot be restricted to any one people. They also do not depend on having learned the “right” answers.

Jesus’ parable shatters the stereotypes of social boundaries and class division. It renders void any system of religious quid pro quo. Neighbors do not recognize social class. Mercy is not the conduct of a calculating heart. 

The duty of neighborliness is an expression of love of God and love of others. The duty of neighborliness transcends any calculation or reward. The Samaritan could not have expected any reward or repayment for what he did for the beaten man. One who shows mercy in order to gain a reward would not be doing “likewise.” To do “likewise,” to cross boundaries, is to respond to boundaries that have already been crossed on our behalf. 

The Samaritan is the one who notices—who actually sees—the beaten man. By seeing him he is moved to pity. He recognizes that when it comes to the question of who is our neighbor, there are no rules. Our neighbor is anyone in need. So where are we to get such vision? From the one who created us, loved us, crosses boundaries to meet us, walks with us.

This parable shows that the ability to see our neighbors clearly does not come from your ethnic background or where you are from or what your job is. It takes practice to see the neighbor. It takes diligence in the midst of weariness. It requires a community to which we are accountable for our seeing. 

To see our neighbor takes the freedom that comes from Christ alone. To see our neighbor is from the Holy Spirit, at work transforming us into new creation. We often place the list of Galatians 5:22-23 into a spiritual gifts inventory, but that misses the point. Paul uses the word “fruit” in the singular. In other words, the result of the Spirit’s work is all of the above and more. 

“Who is my neighbor?” the lawyer asked. Your neighbor is the one who scandalizes you with compassion, Jesus answered. Your neighbor is the one who upends all the entrenched categories and shocks you with a fresh face of God. Your neighbor is the one who mercifully steps over the ancient, bloodied line separating “us” from “them,” and teaches you the real meaning of “Good.”

Prayers of Intercession

United in Christ and guided by the Spirit, we pray for the church, the creation, and all in need.

A brief silence.

Good and gracious God, you have placed your word of love in the heart of your church. Fill your church with compassion, that we bear the fruit of your healing mercy to a broken world. God of grace, hear our prayer.

You created the earth with seeds sprouting up to new life. We pray for the flourishing of fruit trees and orchards, vines and bushes. Prosper the work of those who plant, tend, harvest, and gather. God of grace, hear our prayer.

Show us your ways and teach us your paths of justice and love. Raise up community and national leaders to challenge and dismantle societal structures that perpetuate ethnic, racial, and religious profiling and discrimination. God of grace, hear our prayer.

Come near to all in need. Orchestrate kindness in the face of cruelty, hope where there is despair, love in the face of neglect, comfort where there is death, and healing in illness (especially). God of grace, hear our prayer.

Turn this community toward neighbors in need. Bring aid and support to those who are poor, beaten down, abused, forgotten, silenced, or avoided (local outreach ministries may be named). God of grace, hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Gracious God, we pray for your holy catholic church. Fill it with all truth and peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen it; where it is divided, reunite it; direct the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America by that truth and peace, as this church prepares to gather in assembly. God of grace, hear our prayer.

We give thanks for the saints who revealed your love and mercy in this life. Inspired by their witness, strengthen us to live in hope. God of grace, hear our prayer.

God of every time and place, in Jesus’ name and filled with your Holy Spirit, we entrust these spoken prayers and those in our hearts into your holy keeping.

Amen.

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