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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Luke 10:38-42 Erma Bombeck or Martha Stewart

"My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?" Erma Bombeck

If Mary is Erma Bombeck, then Martha is Martha Stewart. Who am I? Everyone who knows me screams "Erma Bombeck/Mary." In my senior pastor days I have been known to prop up commentaries on cannisters of sugar while cooking. The only reason I cooked was to keep my kids from starving. I have never been known to cook for pleasure. While other girls were learning how to prepare meals, I had my nose in John Wesley's Journal.  Am I saying this is one of my favorite passages? Yes! Validation for neglecting housework!

I know kids today are not going to know who Erma Bombeck is...but my child did laugh when I told her last night that the title of one of Erma's books was If life is a bowl of cherries, why am I living in the pits?
My favorite of Erma's titles is The grass is always greener over the septic tank. Mary may have laughed at this title, but Martha was too busy trying to keep the house clean.

Really Martha, give it up. It's just going to get dirty again. If you make the bed in the morning, I promise it will be unmade at night. If you wash the dishes, they are just going to get used. Order takeout and sit at Jesus' feet.
This passage is about priorities. We get too busy to listen to Jesus. We get too wrapped up in nonessentials to care about essentials. Mary and Erma know what is important. Do you?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wanted Help from an Unwanted Helper Luke 10:27-37 Good Samaritan

While studying the passage this week I kept thinking that I must turn this around. We always see ourselves as the hero in the story; of course I would help that person. Of course I would stop. I would give. I would love. Or at least I thought that as an innocent child the first time I heard it. Then I grew up and realized how dangerous it was to stop and offer anyone help along the road. People get killed doing such things. What in the world was Jesus talking about? Is he really asking us to risk our lives to show compassion? (That is a sermon for another day, but I'm sure most of you can guess the answer based on the story of the Gospel.)

So that was my first response...but then my mind kept moving and I remembered the time (see my earlier post on this passage by search the Gospel of Luke, cause I can't figure out how to link back), that I was broken down on the side of the road and I received unexpected aid. Perhaps part of the message of this passage is in how we receive aid, not just how we give aid.

Jesus does not label the man going from Jericho to Jerusalem, but we assume it was a Jew. Most likely he is going from Jericho to Jerusalem because that is the last leg of the journey for Jews traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem while avoiding Samaria. The man is on the road because he is avoiding Samaritans. It was a dangerous road, and the travelers knew it. They knew the risk and took it anyway to stay away from those they despised.

The inevitable happens and the man is stripped, beaten, and left for dead. No one knows his social, religous, or economic status now. The "nice" people avoid him. They certainly don't want to touch an unclean, bloody body. They are on their way to religious service anyway and they don't have time to stop. The original listeners expected this. Of course no one expected Priests and their helpers, the Levites to show compassion to ordinary people. But they did expect the one who showed compassion to be LIKE THEM. The next guy to come along is supposed to be the average everyday Joe. Ouch.

Average Everyday Joe is the one beat up in the ditch. He is not the one stopping to help. The one who stops to help Average Everyday Joe is Average Everday Outcast. The very one Average Everday Joe hoped to avoid on the road is the one who stops and helps him when he is down. Average Everyday Outcast does not just stop, he is moved with compassion the way Jesus is moved when he heals (the only other time this word is used of another person other than Jesus in Luke is when the father welcomes the Prodigal home). He doesn't just stop to see if the guy is OK, he poors oil and wine on them (not cheap supplies here), bandages him (risking uncleanness or infection himself), and puts him on his own animal...this would be like putting the bruised and bloody in the backseat of your Buick.

He takes him to an inn and pays...and then he says, whatever other charges are encured, I will pay. Do you know what a risk that was? It's like saying, "Here's a blank check" or even better, "here's my credit card, use it however he needs it."

What happens when Average Everyday Joe awakens? That is the part of the story I wish Jesus had told! How did he feel when he found out he had been helped by Average Everyday Outcast?

Most of the time we think we are showing the grace of God when we work: when we stop to help, when we give money to a cause, when we feed the hunger, when we give a week for a mission trip...and that is true: we are.

However, this story tells me that sometimes we show the grace of God by receiving the love and care of another human, maybe even one that we had once despised.

Monday, Sept. 24, my 2 daughters & I took a road trip to a state park. After we swam for a while, we drove to a small SW OK town where I went to high school. I only lived there 2 years, but graduated from HS there....had not been back for over 10 years and neither one of my children had ever been there. It is a town of less than 2000, so there is not much site-seeing to be done...

After a brief hike cut short by the sound of a rattler in the grass, we got in the car and drove the 10 miles to M------. If you have never driven in SW Oklahoma or West Texas you cannot imagine what it is like to drive where the land is flat, flat, flat, and you see so much sky you wonder why God made hills. We are about to M----- with the music cranked as high as it will go and my 7-year-old says, "Mommy, I just heard a pop." I said, "So." She said, "Mommy the car is shaking." I still didn't notice anything...then I heard this awful sound...and well, turned off the radio. Blowout. We are in the middle of NOWHERE. M---- is about 2 miles I drove at 25 with blinkers on until we got to town. Pulled off in a parking lot and got out to look at my shredded tire. I started digging in the back of the station wagon for the jack and spare. A loud, old 68 Ford pickup with 2 guys in the truckbed rattles by. I see them turn around. The 2 guys in back jump out before the truck stops. They almost have the tire off the car before the hit the ground.

"Need some help?"

"Sure. But my jack is sorely lacking."

"Don't worry. We can lift the car if we can't get the jack to work. We ain't afraid of work."

The two guys bent over the tire are 20-somethings...wiry, tall, heads shaved, wearing nothing but boots and jeans. Tattoos cover their heads, faces, backs, chests, arms, hands....Their dad and older brother stood back and watched If this had been the city I might have been scared, but I figure if I started talking we'd figure out we went to high school together.

"I'm Kelly."

"We're the _______." They say in unison. I vaguely remember the family name. I ask them if the remember my brother.

The guy behind the truck. "Yeah I remember him."

They have the tire changed by now, and tell me where I can get a decent used tire for a fair price. They jump back in the pickup and tell me to follow them to the tire shop. So I do. Tattoed arms waving, they point to a tiny auto shop.

I don't know how you remember high school, but there are certain families that are labeled in small towns as losers. I don't know how it started with this family, but they had a certain label. It may have been something their great-grandpa did...but teachers and kids at school have a certain idea of a kid with a certain last name. Sometimes the kid chooses to live up to it, sometimes they try hard to overcome it.

Here I am in a tiny farming town in southwest Oklahoma living inside the parable of the Good Samaritan. Believe me, no one would have guessed the dust covered 90 Ford Taurus I drive is the car of a college professor. At the moment I looked like an Okie (I do say it proud, Vince Gill, but I did look like one). My station wagon is loaded down with junk cause we have been on a day trip at the lake. My 2 kids & I have just been swimming and digging clay. I had my hatch up and junk spread around on the gravel, just trying to dig for the spare tire. Did cars drive by and see my distress? Oh yes. Who was it that stopped? The guys that got beat up in school because their family was labeled.