Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Love Takes A Detour!

I’ll never forget the time I was a program director at a summer camp. We had problems with some of the campers who took it upon themselves to sleep in and drag down the morale of the camp. So, one morning I decided to grab these guys in their sleeping bags and along with their counselors we threw them into the pool in their pajamas to the delight of their cabin mates. The thing I remember most was not the splash, but the words of those sleepy campers….”What about my needs!’

Well this series is about getting thrown into pool of service and we will discover how our greatest needs for fulfillment and meaning get met when we reach out and serve others.

Today we will look at a very familiar passage, the story of the Good Samaritan.

Have you ever been on your way to a destination and you are faced with the dreaded detour? Now if you saw two sign, one which said take your usual route and another that said ‘Detour Ahead’ which would you take? Most of us would probably take our usual route especially if the detour cost us time, money and personal frustration

We are talking about detours today and not necessarily the ones that you encounter while driving, but the ones that you discover on the highway of life. There are some detours that come at you and you can’t choose to go your normal way. They are possibly an illness, the loss of a job, a spouse that walks out on you. There are also detours that we can choose to help someone. We will rediscover the story of the Good Samaritan this morning.

In Luke 10:25-28, the question is asked of Jesus, “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus…”What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Experts in the law were respected as lawyers in His time, they were the ones who were professional interpreters of the law. Their three areas of duty included explaining the law as we see in the Pentateuch, to keep alive the memories of past prophets and train
others in the knowledge of the law.

Did you catch the motive in his question – He called him a teacher because he wanted to put him to the test

Jesus responds to a question with a question! What is written in the law? He challenges the man to actually do it…just don’t give me lip service

He then tries to narrow his field of service by asking the question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ In typical lawyer fashion, this guy wants a definition of neighbour and gets more than he bargained for. To the Jews at that time lowing your neighbour meant loving someone who is near in terms of race and religion. Jesus was going to change all that.

Ultimately this guy wasn’t look for an opportunity to love on someone, he just wanted to justify his current status quo….The word justify here in v29 means to ‘excuse himself’ He wanted an excuse to do the bare minimum and come out looking good.

He could answer the question correctly with his lips, but what about the heart? There are many people who are good at talking the talk. I understand that in the Netherlands you can actually be become a professional student. God isn’t looking for professional students…its an apprenticeship and he wants you to learn on the job!

He meant the same thing that W.C. Fields meant when he was found reading the Bible on his deathbed and was asked why…He responded, “I’m looking for loopholes.”

So in understanding Jesus’ response it is important to note that this message is more than just knowing that we need to help people in need. It stretches us to realize just how far, how wide and how deep that level of compassion should reach. It is a story to teach us about excuses and self justification. You love your neighbor…really? how much?

All too easily we let ourselves ‘off the hook’ so to speak from not helping others. We often tell ourselves, ‘well, I can’t help them, it’s too dangerous, it’s too involved, it’s too time consuming, I don’t have the money…

read Luke 10:30-37

Let’s look at the cast of characters in this story:

A priest – a position of supreme importance, he represented the people before God
A Levite – a privileged group of people, responsible for liturgy and protecting the temple.

Now his listeners were expecting Jesus to mention an ordinary Jew next, but Jesus states it is a Samaritan…That is like saying ‘there was papa bear, brother bear and a skunk.

Once again remember who Samaritans are: they are the half Jews, the ½ committed, they were the ones who intermarried with the Assyrians when they were living in exile and the racial and religious contempt between these two groups was intense and very violent. In their worship services, they would publically curse Samaritans! They wouldn’t eat anything if they knew it came from a Samaritan

The Good Samaritan teaches us how to look past our excuses and get involved. He teaches us about divine detours which I really like to look at as divine appointments. So how do we move from our dayplanner to giving it to the one who we want to be our Dayrunner!

Divine detours Take Risks.

10v30 The 28km road between Jerusalem and Jericho had an infamous name. It was known as ‘The Way of Blood’. The road descends 3300 feet through desert and rocky country that could easily hide thieves. The fact that he stopped involved great risk because he made himself vulnerable as well.

How do you feel about picking up hitchhikers? I remember doing it as a youth until my parents made me read one of those stories in Reader’s Digest.

Our problem today isn’t that we take too many risks…the question is when is the last time you took a risk, rolled up your sleeves, got involved, invited a friend to church…

Divine Detours Take Personal Involvement


When the Samaritan saw the wounded man, he has sincere compassion and bandages the man’s wounds. Possibly he may have used parts of his own clothing and tore strips. Olive oil was used to keep the cut skin supple and the wine was used to clean the wound.

He didn’t wait for someone else to come along, he didn’t pass off the assignment. He got in the ditch with the man and took it upon himself to make a difference. He probably came out of their looking dirty and bloody too.

It was a much different experience for Clive Collins. Here was a 65 year old man in Boscombe, England who while opening his car trunk in a parking lot fell into a five-foot hole after a manhole cover tipped. He shared with the BBC news that about 15-20 people walked by. The more he called out, the less people acknowledged him. Some didn’t even make eye contact. One woman actually parked right beside him and he asked her to call for an ambulance. She refused to even notice him. He waved to one guy who waved back and kept going on his way. He finally managed to get his cell phone out and dial for help. It turned out he needed 47 stitches and treatment for two broken ribs, a chipped tooth and a strained groin!

We need to step up and take notice.

Divine Detours Take Time!

In v34 we see the extent of his care. He took the time to care, to place the man on his donkey and he took it upon himself to find an inn….talk about emergency roadside assistance!
Often we use our schedules to justify not helping people out in need. It is probably the most common excuse of them all.

An experiment was done at Princeton Theological Seminary. The students were asked to prepare a talk on a given biblical theme and then present it in a nearby building on campus. Along the way to the presentation, each student ran into a man slumped in an alley, head down, eyes closed, coughing and groaning. The question was, who would stop and help. Before the stage was even set for this experiment, the students were asked in a questionnaire their reason for studying for the ministry. Did they see as a means for spiritual and personal fulfillment or see it as a practical tool for everyday life. Some were asked to give a talk on the relevance of being a pastor and others were given the parable of the Good Samaritan. They also decided to tell some of the students that they were running late for their talk and with others, they told them they had a few minutes to spare.

So what happened?

Only 10% of the students who were in a rush stopped as compared to 63% of those who knew they had some time to spare.

What is the lesson for us?

The words, ‘you’re late’ had the effect of turning an ordinarily compassionate person into someone who was indifferent to suffering

We live, run and are driven by the clock.

The greatest needs are often the ones that no one sees. They take time to see, to peel away the layers of ‘I’m fine’ They are the needs that often stay in the darkness because we fail to draw them out.

I remember learning this early in my ministry. A student came to meet with me and began by asking me questions about how to have a personal quiet time. I thought I did a pretty good job with that conversation only to learn later that the question that was posed was only with the hope to move to a deeper level on a very troubling relationship they were in. I missed it because I didn’t take the time to uncover it.

People out there are asking questions and those questions if answered with sensitivity and care may lead us to more meaningful conversations and greater levels of transparency if we can stop looking at our watches…

Divine Detours Take Money

V35 The next day he took tow silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper….

If you read between the lines, it looks like this Samaritan knew the Innkeeper and had developed a relationship with him. He probably had stayed at this very inn himself from time to time. Then he promises to reimburse him for any additional expenses that he may incur. He didn’t use money as an excuse to not act.

The two silver coins represented about two days wages. He made financial sacrifices to help the man in need. He even said whatever other expenses, I’ll pick up the tab… Think about that, you know how expensive some of those mini bar items might be!

You may not have heard about John Michael Jasset. He was a teenager who a few years ago was hit by a car. He was thrown from his bike and had scrapes on his knee, arm and hands. He staggered into a fast food restaurant and asked for ice to put on his wounds. He was asked to pay for it! The charge was .99 + tax….the cost of a small pop…are you kidding me. It reminds me of the lady who worked at a Tim Hortons in London and was fired for giving a timbit to a mother of a distressed child!

Margaret Thatcher once said, “No one would have remembered the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions. He had money as well.

On Friday night I watched the incredible generosity of many of our people who supported the ministry of The Deck, the YFC drop in youth center. It was awesome to see the response with 240 people present and many of our people leading the way with generosity paying way too much for Leaf tickets and restaurant gift certificates.

As a pastor I was also blessed to see the incredible response to one of the ladies coming out of the shelter as one of you just blessed her with $200- on the spot to help her with a fresh start. Once again the Good For Nothing store is open and buzzing with people. It is such a ministry of blessing to see the winter coats come in for families in need. Keep BEING the Church Southside!!

Now let’s look at the passage as a whole again

Did Jesus answer the question, Who is our neighbour? Yes, he did. Your neighbour is necessarily someone who lives next to you. Your neighbour is anyone in need, anyone you can help. But notice that Jesus did more than answer the question. He asked the expert in the OT, ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert replied, “the one who had mercy on him” to which Jesus replied, ‘go and do likewise’

In other words, Jesus changed the focus of the question from who is my neighbour to what kind of neighbour are you?

What is the takeaway this morning?

Are you willing and ready to take a divine detour this week?

Who would you want as a neighbour? Who would you want to show up on the scene? The Good Samaritan disadvantaged himself to advantage someone else. Our spiritual journey calls us beyond managing our to-do lists and into a Faith In Action lifestyle that welcomes divine detours to demonstrate God’s love to people in need.
He may even interrupt your devotions…watch out. I remember a year ago when God interrupted our home and taught our family to take someone in. I never got past the title of my devotional that morning. It read, ‘Operation Rescue’ and I knew what we needed to do as a family.

No Questions for this series, no questions for discussion.

Action For Movement

I challenge you to get off your normal beaten path of life.

Volunteer to babysit for a single mom
Write a letter to a soldier overseas…find out more by either going to http://www.nhop.ca/ or talking to one of those involved with SOS
Provide a meal for a family in need.
Sign up for the food drive with Salvation Army
Sign up for one of the service projects listed for December 7th.

I want to talk about a special challenge that you will be given next week…

It has often been said that unless you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes that you really don’t understand what they go through. I have read about ministries in the inner city that encourage their people to sleep on the street for one night and ask for money. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to go on the street…I am going to ask that you prepare to live on a subsistence diet from Monday November 24th – November 28th. Don’t worry we are not the first church to do this. It has been done by others, most notably Willow Creek in Chicago under Bill Hybels who has inspired in taking up this challenge.

It is a challenge to live like most of the world that is in poverty and what they have to survive on. For them and for us that week, it means rice, water, bean and tortillas. It is a challenge for us to give and not to make any ‘splurg’ purchases that week. The money that you would normally spend on going out what groceries for a normal week would consist of, the money spent on going out to dinner, clothes, buying a coffee, …we are asking you to bring it in to the storehouse and then to give sacrificially above and beyond your tithe on November 30th towards a Partners gift of shelter, water and health.

We understand that some of you do have health related issues and no we don’t expect your kids to live on the same diet although they may decide to do one meal like that with you.

*This message is compiled with credit to Brian Mavis, pastor, Lifebridge Church as part of the Faith In Action series.


Sandi Bird, lay minister - Valley Word Church, Roanoke, VA said...

Powerful message, Pastor Ninaber! I ran across your blog while doing some research for a book I'm writing (Choose Your Own Adventures: Living a Life of Spiritual Adventure). I would love to quote a few portions of your post in the section that I'm writing on the account of the Good Samaritan. I would really appreciate your permission to do so, and will also need to know how you would like the quotes footnoted. I can be contacted at sandibird@valleywordchurch.org. Thank you! Grace and Peace!

Lori Lori Allegory said...

Thank for the NHOP plug Jack :)

It's interesting that you spoke on the Good Samaritan, cause I just heard a sermon on Hebrews 13:1-3 called "Entertaining Angels"

I was all set to tell you about the amazing sermon (from Eastgate Alliance in Ottawa) but you pretty much said the same message through the Good Samaritan.