Sermon, August 28, 2022
This morning I want to start by telling you a story I read about an incident that occurred in the early 1990’s in New Orleans. There is a prominent Baptist Theological Seminary in the city and back in the early 90’s no women were allowed to attend... it was for men only. I was living on Toulouse Street in New Orleans at the time, and one morning at my favorite coffee shop I picked up a Times Picayune News Paper, which at the time was the New Orleans daily news. There was a front page article that caught my attention. I read it and have never forgotten it.
Here is the story that was told in the newspaper. It was at the end of the Theological School's academic year and classes were taking their final exams. One professor, who had grown fond of his students, wanted to make their last day a memorable one. He told the class he wanted them to walk down Bourbon Street and take it in. He said he knew some of them had been there before, but others had not. He said he had booked a meeting room at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel for them to have a nice off campus place to take their final exam.
On the day of the test, the bus picked up 25 young seminarians and dropped them on Canal Street to start their walk down Bourbon. As they men walked the street some were amazed, some a bit horrified, and all were concerned. As they slowed down to look into open bars, the leader cautioned them... don’t stop. Remember the professor told us not to be late and we have to walk about 7 blocks. So they hurried along
As they reached the hotel, and found the room where the test would be given, the professor met them and gave each one a sheet of paper and a pen. When all the test-takers were seated, the professor asked them how the walk down Bourbon Street was. Several said it was disgusting, some said the smell coming from the bars was awful, and of course some mentioned the risque photos on the walls. Several at the same time said, it was all disgusting.
Then the professor said, did any of you see a man who had obviously had too much to drink and had fallen? He was leaning against a wall holding a broken whiskey bottle. Did any of you see that drunken man? Several said, “Yeah, it looked like he had been in a fight.” Another said, “it looked like he had cut himself on the broken whiskey bottle.” Another said, He was pitiful and should be ashamed spread out like that for us to have to walk over him.”
Then the professor asked, “So all of you saw him?” The students agreed. The professor then said, “Well how many of you stopped to offer help to him?” “Did any of you ask if you could call a cab for him, or a family member? Or, did you ask if he might need to go to the hospital for help? “Did any of you even speak to him?”
No one did. The professor asked, “if you saw him and did not offer help, why not? Why didn’t you?”
One said, “Sir, we were in hurry. You told us not to be late for our final exam.
There was a long pause. The professor said, “Gentlemen, that man was your final exam.”
“Whaaaat? What do you mean?” the students cried? The professor responded, “I hired that man to get dirty, break a whiskey bottle, put a little ketchup on his face to resemble blood. I want to see if any of you would do what Jesus taught us to do. Obviously you did not. Therefore, everyone of you failed this final examination. He continued, “Come back to class Monday morning and once again we are going to examine the meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan. I’ll see you Monday.”
This is the parable, the young all-most ministers went back to class to review: Luke 10: 25-37
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus, “Teacher,” he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The law expert asked, “Who is my neighbor?” 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. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the injured man he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite (a temple priest) when he came to the place and saw the man he also passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan (a person all Jews hated) as he traveled, came where the man was; when he saw him, he took pity on him. 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 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 he has caused you.” Which of these three was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “You go and do likewise.”
That’s the parable the Seminary professor wanted his students to learn, know, and act on the meaning of it. This parable is called the Good Samaritan because all Jews hated all Samaritans. They were all considered bad... simply because they had left their Jewish heritage behind, had left the territory and intermarried with families who according to Jews here pagans. Since this Samaritan did the out of ordinary act of caring for someone who hated him, he was thenceforth known as Good.
I pray all of us as we read and discuss the Bible and especially Jesus parables, let us remember they are stories that tell us what exactly we are to do to live as his followers... be merciful and caring of all... not just those we already love.
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