THE GOOD SAMARITAN: REMAINING TRUE TO OUR PURPOSE

Reading

And° Jesus replying, said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, who having stripped him, and having inflicted blows on him departed, leaving him when he was  half◠dead. 31 And° as it happened°, a certain priest came down the same way, and seeing him, passed by on the other side. 32 And° likewise also a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But° a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came upon him, and seeing him, was moved with compassion. 34 And coming near, he bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and° he set° him on his own beast◠of◠burden, and brought° him to an inn°, and took care of him. 35 And departing on the morrow, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, Take care of him, and whatever thou spendest more, when I come back, I will repay thee. 36 Which now of these three thinkest thou was neighbor to him who fell among robbers? 37 And° he said, He who did mercy with him. Then said Jesus to him, Go, and do thou likewise.  Luke 10:3037: Kempton New Testament.

 

Apocalypse Explained 444.14

…”to be moved with compassion” signifies mercy and charity from within, mercy and charity also forming a one; “to bind up the wounds and to pour in oil and wine” signifies providing a remedy against the falsities that have injured his life, by instructing him in the good of love and the truth of faith, “oil” in the Word signifying the good of love, and “wine” the good and truth of faith; “to set him on his own beast” signifies according to his understanding so far as he was able…

 

Sermon

To love the neighbour is to be in the effort to live from our understanding of the Word, which if heavenly will embody actions of mercy and compassion.  When we live from the Word, then we love the Lord, because we then fulfil our purpose for being, which is to extend the Lord’s love for the salvation of the human race beyond ourselves and out to others.  When we lose our sense of purpose we lose our ability to act because unless truths are acted on we lose them, and so lose the light they are able to provide to give us insight into how the issues and problems we come up against might best be responded to from a spiritual perspective.

This inability to do, to be of real use, is captured in the parable of the Good Samaritan in the responses, or should I say lack of response, from the Priest and the Levite.  In the Word a Priest represents love to the Lord, and the Levite represents love to the neighbour, and as with every correspondence in the Word they also represent the opposite of this depending on the context.  Today we see them in their negative representation when love for the Lord and love for the neighbour have been lost to the church at the end of its life cycle.  Here they represent a state in the church where the Word is not loved either as to good or as to truth, and so in that sense the Priest represents the love of self and the Levite the love of the world or a state in which external things are valued above the internal things of the church which arises when the natural man rules over the spiritual man.  It is not as if there is no knowledge of the Word or its teachings, the Priest and the Levite know the teachings better than most, the problem is that there is an inability to be affected, to be touched, or moved to action by the plight of those in difficulty that the church is called to serve.

We read that both the Priest and the Levite saw the man, i.e. they saw and understood his plight, yet they were unmoved.  This speaks of a church having lost its sense of vision and purpose for when it comes face to face with an opportunity for fulfilling it, it crosses over to the other side to avoid having to deal with the presenting problem.  For the Priest and the Levite it was easier to ignore the plight of the man than to attend to him.  To attend to the man would mean that they would have to go out of their way; also it was something not planned for; it would involve taking on additional responsibilities that may impact on the smooth running of their sense of religious life.  And what if the man was to die on them, should that occur it would require them to undergo an intense week of purification rituals due to having had contact with a dead body.  No it was all just too hard, and it might just be that someone else might just happen along the way more equipped for the task than them anyway.

These attitudes can be found in us all of course.  We become settled, comfortable, and satisfied with the routines and patterns that make up our life because they appear to make life “easier” to handle.  And by that is meant we don’t have to give as much energy or conscious attention to things when they run smoothly.  This appears to be a good thing; it means that that we don’t have to think about things too much and life can stay comfortable for us.  But beneath the outer façade of peace we find an attitude that likes to be in control of things because then we can live in the illusion that all’s fine with the world.  The problem with this is that we will often find ourselves predisposed to resisting anything that might upset our comfortable routines and patterns, such things tend to be viewed as intrusive, an imposition, or something extra we have to somehow find time for.  Such things unsettle us, and we work to try to maintain things so that they cause us the least discomfort.

What spiritual teachings from the Word provide us with is a way of taking the upsets in life in a very different way and this is a hugely positive thing.  They can transform how we engage with life so that rather than becoming settled and comfortable in our routines and seeing the unexpected event as an unwanted imposition that cause our stress levels to rise they can be viewed as an opportunity for our inner growth and development.  The reality is that while we might like life to move forward in ways that cause us little or no stress, life rarely unfolds stress free, and that’s because without stress there can be no growth, and if there is no growth or change we are not living life.  Psychologists now know that a certain amount of stress is needed to maintain our mental health, but too much stress is harmful.  But what’s important is to see that what constitutes a healthy or unhealthy level of stress is different for everyone with the difference lying in a person’s capacity to cope with change.  The Word provides us with the means to cultivate spiritual disciplines and perspectives that enable us to meet the challenges that life presents in ways that builds an openness to the unexpected.  Through such teaching we see that change brings opportunities to experience the Lord in new ways for the good of all.

The contrast of becoming settled in mechanical like routines that constitute a poor substitute for a dynamic life open to variety and the unexpected is found in the Greek words used to describe the attitudes of each of the characters in relation to the state of their journey.  Of the priest we read that he came down that way. The term “way” is a noun in Greek and means “a road”.  The Levite is said to have, come to the place, the term “place” is also a noun meaning a fixed spot or location.  Both terms as nouns refer to what is fixed and represent in the case of the priest, whose role is to teach truths, a fixed state as to the understanding of teaching, and in the case of the Levite, whose role involves the administration of the things of the church, a fixed state as to the way things are to be done.  This is in contrast to what is said of the Samaritan of whom it is said that, as he journeyed, came where he was, and perceiving him, was moved with compassion.  In this description we have two terms, one a verb describing him in the process of journeying, as he journeyed, and the other, like the Levite, describing where he is as to position but, unlike the Levite, it is not a fixed spot relating to a place, but is a position related to personal contact with the man in need, for it says that he came to where he was.  So with the Priest and the Levite we have a sense of a level of fixedness or rigidity whereas with the Samaritan we have a sense of fluidity and ability to adjust and accommodate himself to the presenting situation.

This speaks volumes as to the state of the church that has lost its sense of vision and purpose.  Despite having the Word and it’s teaching the Priest and the Levite represent a state in which the church, whether taken as an individual or as a community, has become ridged in its understanding of doctrine and mechanical in its ways of doing things.  As such it has become resistant to moving out from what it is comfortable even preferring to be on the opposite side of its true function and use.  Even when confronted with the plight of those around it, it prefers to remain as a distant observer well able to describe the problems others face, perhaps produce doctrine that explains why things are the way they are, but it has lost its ability to see how what it has can be applied to the presenting issues its confronted with.  Thankfully the Lord doesn’t leave the church or the individual within it without hope, for despite the state of the church represented by the Priest’s and the Levite’s non-response, we are given a picture of a new state of being that is dynamic, responsive, and fluid, that can be held in contrast to the fixed rigidity of a spiritual community in decline.

When the old is about to pass away the Lord always provides for new life and that life here is illustrated in the Samaritan and his response.  The Lord’s choice of a Samaritan in this story as the one who does good in contrast to those of the established church of the day who have no compassion would have been a powerful statement, for the Samaritans were not much better that dog’s in the eyes of the Jews.  The idea that a Samaritan would excel above the Jews in doing good would have been confronting for those the Lord was addressing here.  What it speaks to is that the way forward won’t necessarily fit in with our preconceptions as to what will or won’t work and that often what the Lord calls us to is so far from the established understanding we find our security in, or the way in which we do things that have defined our existence as an organisation committed to spiritual values.

The key to a church recapturing its sense of vision and mission is found here in the story of The Good Samaritan.  The first requirement is that there be a recognition that its current understanding and way of doing things, i.e. the way it has come to be organised over time, represented by the Priest and the Levite, is not geared to meeting the needs of others where they are hurting.  Without this recognition as a first step a church will remain on the opposite side of its actual purpose.  The next thing it needs to do is see that it has a sacred responsibility to represent the Lord to others.  The Lord is only interested in meeting others where they are because it is in meeting people where they are that He is able to draw them closer to Himself.  Now the church exists so that this level of contact is possible in the world.  It is a spiritual principle that the Lord does good through others, and those who should be most in tune with this are those within the church that have an understanding of what the Word teaches.

So far as those in the church are concerned, the story shows that they need to be on the journey, active and engaged so far as their own spiritual walk is concerned.  The Samaritan was said to be journeying.  There is no other way for those in the church to gain the knowledge, skills and abilities that are required to meet and nurture others in a spiritual life than by being in that life themselves.  That life from a new church perspective is a life that acknowledges the Word through its practise in the work of self-examination and repentance as it pertains to the life of the mind.  Another key characteristic of the church represented in the Samaritan is that it is focused on going out, like the Lord, to meet others where they are in there brokenness and hurt.  The prevailing culture of church organisations in decline is not a “going out” culture, but a “hope they come to us” culture and this needs to change if a church is to survive as a viable organisation committed to spiritual goals and aspirations.

Where will we be, I wonder, in 5 or 10 years time?

 

…and seeing him, [he] was moved with compassion. 34 And coming near, he bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and° he set° him on his own beastofburden, and brought° him to an inn°, and took care of him.

 

Amen

About David Millar

My passion revolves around supporting people to engage with the Lord's Word, or Divine truths in the form of sacred texts, to cultivate an intentional spiritual practice. Through the works penned by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) we find that the Biblical texts contain a deeper meaning that, once understood, enables them to be applied in ways that open the human mind to the realisation of its spiritual potential. The goal of the Divine Life is to free each and every human being from the pain of self centred living and bring them into the experience of all that is heavenly through the promotion of what is genuinely good and true. The material shared here is offered in the pursuit of that aim.
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