Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
July 12, 2020
Revelation 21: 1-7
Luke 10: 25-37
TEXT: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
An elderly pastor stepped off the curb to begin crossing the street. A motorist honked at him and he leaped in alarm. The frightened clergyman's companion tried to ease the tension with a friendly taunt. "Why did you jump like that at a mere auto horn? You are always talking about faith, and the mercy of God, and heaven as your true home." To which the pastor replied with a confident smile, "Yes, that's true. Heaven is my true home. But right now, I'm not in the least homesick."
The 137th Psalm is the lament of a person who is homesick. The Hebrew people are away from their homeland, unable to return. And out of the loneliness and the depression and the pain of that homesickness comes the Psalmist's cry:
By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.
...our captors required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
"Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? (Ps. 137:1, 3-4).
Homesickness is something most of us can identify with. Most of us have experienced the deep longing -- the physical ache -- that comes with homesickness. In the blockbuster Broadway musical, "Les Misérables," the most poignant solo -- the song which moves audiences to tears -- is called "Bring Him Home!" It touches something deep inside of us.
God's greatest gift to us is the Living Christ. At the heart of our faith is the welcoming of this Living Presence into our very being. Having reminded you of that awesome reality, I ask you to consider what it would be like to invite the Living Christ into your experiences of homesickness. What would it be like to invite the Living Christ into the midst of the ache and the loneliness and the sadness and the depression and the emptiness that you feel -- that we all feel -- at least from time-to-time?
We have been created by a Gracious God with a built-in homesickness. The experience of emptiness is part of what makes us human. It is the sense of incompleteness -- until we find home. It is the sense of powerlessness -- until we find home. It is the sense of hopelessness -- until we find our home in God. The experience of emptiness, while it must be dealt with for what it is, nevertheless is more than just a passing experience. It is a call to come home -- to God.
Just a few hours before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed to the Father that His disciples might experience eternal life. "And this is eternal life," He prayed, "that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (Jn. 17:3).
In today's Gospel Lesson, a homesick lawyer (representing all of humanity, in a sense) asks Jesus this question: "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” ‘What is written in the Law?" was the response of Jesus (Lk. 10:25).
Lord, what shall we do to inherit eternal life? Lord, what shall we do to cure our homesickness? Lord, what shall we do to satisfy our deepest longing for something more out of life? Lord, what shall we do to know the only true God? Lord, what shall we do to come home to God? Lord, what shall we do to know Jesus Christ? What is written in our faith?
The correct answer, Jesus says, is that you must love God and love your neighbor. Love your God and love your neighbor and you will begin to experience eternal life now! "Do this and you will live," Jesus says to the lawyer in today's Lesson. Hearing this, the lawyer continues his cross-examination of Jesus. "And who is my neighbor?" he asks.
"Who is our neighbor? we ask. Jesus gives the answer in parable form. He tells the story of the "Good Samaritan" who "had compassion" for a wounded man lying helpless in a ditch, "and went to him and bandaged his wounds ... and brought him to an inn and took care of him," and gave money to the innkeeper, saying, "Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend" (Lk. 10:33, 34-35).
Having given this story-definition of "neighbor," Jesus says to the lawyer, "Go and do likewise" (Lk. 10:37). And so says Jesus Christ now, to you and to me: "If you want to experience eternal life now, if you want to know God now, if you want to come home to God now, if you want to know Me now, remember the story of the 'Good Samaritan' -- and go and do likewise."
"How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord! ... Blessed are those who dwell in Your house," the Psalmist sang (Ps. 84:1, 4).
What is the world? a garden? a school? an office? a drawing room? a cradle? a prison? a stage? a prize ring? a dungeon? a torture chamber? a cemetery? a mother's womb? a father's estate? Lord and dear God, the world is the workshop of the Kingdom of You and us.
Lord and dear God, the world is the place in which we "Go and do likewise."
A moving van, filled with furniture and other possessions, was standing in front of a suburban home. The homeowners -- husband and wife -- were busy tidying up the front yard when a woman who lived at the other end of the block approached them. "Welcome to our neighborhood," she said. "Here are some cookies I baked. I thought you might enjoy them." The couple seemed too embarrassed to reply. Finally, the wife spoke up: "I don't know how to tell you this, but we've been living here for almost five years. You see, we're not moving in, we're moving away."
"This is eternal life ... that we know the only true God." This is eternal life ... that we come home to the only true God and Jesus whom He has sent. It's our move. The question is, "Are we moving out or are we moving in?
If we want to know God, if we want to move into the eternal life of God, we must come to Jesus. If we want to know the mercy and the love of God, we must come to Jesus. If we want to know all we can know of God in this phase of our eternal life, we must come to Jesus -- and follow Him along the same road traveled by the Good Samaritan.
"What shall we do to inherit eternal life?" we ask the Lord Jesus. "Remember the story of the Good Samaritan," Jesus answers. "Then go and do likewise."
When we disobey Jesus' command of love, we're moving away from God. When we obey Jesus' command to be caring and compassionate not only to those we love but also to strangers -- and even to enemies -- we're coming home to God.