A Neighbor You Know: July 14 lectionary preview

May 22, 2019 by Lee Hinson-Hasty

Editor’s note: Each month, the Presbyterian Foundation asks a PC(USA) teaching elder to provide a lectionary preview for the coming month. The July preview is provided by Rev. Dr. Lee Hinson-Hasty, Senior Director, Theological Education Funds Development at the Presbyterian Foundation. He penned an overview for July, which you can read here. Below is a deeper look at July 14’s lectionary, which centers on Luke 10:25-37. You can read a previous entry for July 7 here.

Twice in Luke’s Gospel, here and in 18:18, Jesus is asked by powerful leaders publicly the same question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Each time, he quotes from the well-known the heart of the Torah and provides a surprise. What is known in Jewish circles as the Shema provides Jesus’ initial response: “Love God with your whole heart, all your strength, and all your intelligence [or mind] and one’s neighbor as you do yourself.” (Luke 10:27 and Leviticus 19:18) Jesus public conversation partner and law expert then asks what appears to be a trick question, “And who is my neighbor?”

Not only does Jesus not answer the question directly by telling a parable, he flips the neighbor from being the object to being the subject. In other words, his story leads the listener to the answer for themselves that revises the question, in effect, to what does a neighbor do? The parable, sometimes called the Good Samaritan, erases any religious, national, or ethnic boundaries and expands the notion of neighborliness to any and all who love others in life-giving and generous ways.

My colleague behind our new Stewardship Navigator, the Rev. David Loleng, talks about “forming generous disciples.” He is working to shift the focus from funds development to people development. That seems to be Jesus’ aim here as well.

The Samaritan is the only one of three to pass the half-dead man to “show mercy” as Jesus’ conversation partner correctly identifies. He does also share his personal financial resources to pay for the cost of his care and promise more, if needed. But is it really about the Samaritan’s development as a person practicing and living love whole-heartedly, wholly-mindful, and with every ounce of his soul and strength? May we all go and do likewise with all the resources available to us for the ones that we pass or that pass by our way.

You know, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho that Jesus’s man in the parable is on would have been familiar to his original hearers as well as that of Luke’s first readers. John Carroll of Union Presbyterian Seminary points out in his 2012 WJK Commentary on Luke (p. 244) that over a short 15 miles the elevation drops down more than a half-mile (3,330 feet). As we navigate steep decline in many areas of our lives, may we not get so preoccupied with our own journey or of those close to us that we ignore those along our way who also stand in need. The gift, as we know from anyone who has done mission work, will be to the giver and provider as much or more that the one that receives our loving care.

This story reminds me of a famous quote of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary use words.” His actual words were likely a bit more nuanced but equally as powerful, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

I’m a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 memoir she titled, Eat, Pray, Love. Maybe generous disciples and faithful neighbors Preach! Walk! Love!

How are you a neighbor to others?