Amos 7:7-17 – Amos’ call to prophesy. He prophesies against Israel and Jereboam.
OR Deuteronomy 30:9-14- God will make you prosper if you obey. The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.
Psalm 82 – Defend the poor and the orphan. Vindicate the oppressed and suffering!
OR Psalm 25:1-10 – Teach me your paths O Lord. Remember not the sins of my youth!
Colossians 1:1-14- Paul and Timothy write to the church at Colossae, commending them for their faith, and their love, made known to them by Epaphras. They pray that the church there may bear fruit in every good work and be prepared to endure what may come with patience.
Luke 10:25-37- The parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus: “Go and do likewise.”

Good Samaritan

A lawyer (nomikos) stood up to test Jesus. What must I do to inherit eternal life?

Jesus throws the question back at him, as if to say, “You’re a lawyer, you tell me. What do you read there?”

The lawyer responds with Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

The Jewish Annotated New Testament (JANT), quotes Rabbi Akiva as saying this is the greatest commandment in the Torah. A similar text appears in Matthew 22:37 and Mark 12:29-31. JANT goes on to point out that the difference between neighbor (re’a) and enemy (ra), is only in the vowels, which would not have been printed in the text. When Jesus says, “What do you read there?” he is asking the man, “Do you see that the call to love neighbor is also a call to love the enemy and the stranger?”

JANT also says, contrary to popular opinion, the priest and Levite do not bypass the injured man due to purity concerns. The man is not dead, and even if he was, Numbers 19 does not prohibit burying a corpse. Lev. 21 forbids priests, but not Levites. And anyway, the priest is not going up to Jerusalem, where ritual impurity would limit him.

Jews were divided into priests, Levites and Israelites. The story is shocking because the the listeners are expecting to hear Israelite, and instead hear “Samaritan,” enemy of the Jews.

Recently I was led to ponder this story as an interfaith lesson. A few weeks ago, Eboo Patel, a strong advocate for interfaith dialog, spoke at Christ the King, Houston. Synod staff went to hear him speak, along with other pastors, members and interfaith friends.

“The song of religious extremism is loud,” he said. “How do we teach the song of religious pluralism in a way that’s compelling and beautiful?”

We can build bridges or we can build barriers. Bridges will lead to a just and peaceful society. Barriers lead to, well we all know that barriers lead to battlefields and bombs.

Patel said there are two hopes for a diverse society filled with trust and respect:

1. Articulating a meta narrative for a diverse society. This land is your land. We are a melting pot of many people from many places. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all people are created equal.

2. People who act on this diversity proactively and positively. We have bridges because we work on it. Because we talk a out it.

Many in the world see religion. Some even. See it as poisonous. Who will remind the people of the inspiring powers of religion for soaring insight and good if we don’t? Who will show people how inspiring interfaith work is, if not us? Who will remind the people of Gandhi? Who will remind them of Nelson Mandela, who said, “I would still be in there (prison) if it weren’t for people of different religions working together.” Who will tell young people about the inspiring work of Dietttrich Bonhoeffer?

Patel gave us three things we could do to be better preachers of interfaith cooperation:

1. Learn that there is a science of interfaith cooperation. There are things proven to work. Read about them. (A shameless plug for his latest book,

Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America.”)There are things that improve interfaith relations:

A. Attitude

B. Knowledge

C. Relationships

These are the raw materials of positive interfaith relationships.

Have a positive attitude toward those who are different. Knowledge correlates with higher attitudes, so learn about them. Don’t be ignorant. Build relationships. It’s hard to be hateful, bigoted or prejudiced toward people you have come to know and love. Relationships will also improve your attitude. These three are interrelated. Learn the science.

2. Second, to be a better preacher of positive interfaith relations, at all costs, DON’T BE BORING. If its not inspiring nobody comes, so it doesn’t matter how good the science is.

3. Finally, have a theology of interfaith cooperation. At this juncture, Eboo Patel, a Muslim reminded us of our own tradition. He reminded us that Jesus found faith in Roman soldiers, unbelievers and those of other faiths. He reminded us of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. “You worship on that mountain, but we worship on this mountain.” Jesus seemed to indicate the day was coming when people would worship the one God in spirit and truth.

And then he retold the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s always good to hear our own religion’s faith stories reflected upon by those of other faiths. Consider reading “The Good Heart

” in which the Dalai Lama comments on gospel texts.

He reminded us that Jesus’ own clerics bypass the duty to care for those in need, and in a surprise ending makes the hero of the story not an Israelite, but the hated enemy: the Samaritan. This is the thrust of the story. The Samaritan is your neighbor. You and the other are neighbors. God calls you to love God and also to love the other, the stranger. This is the highest form of love. On these two rest all the law and the prophets.