By: Rev. Dr. Scott Sommerfeld, Interim Senior Pastor
Do you remember getting ready for your confirmation and being asked a series of questions from the catechism? Was it a personal interview? Or was it a group experience? In any case, the intent was to help you (and me) to know and recall the key teachings and life habits of a Jesus Follower in the Lutheran Tradition.
As the Parable of the Good Samaritan begins, it feels like Jesus and the expert in the law are rehearsing their good and true answers to the key questions for their confirmation examination. At one point the expert in the law asks Jesus—“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This in one of life’s most important questions!! Knowing this answer is sweet to the soul.
Notice how Jesus answers a question with a question—“How do you read it?” In other words, what is the answer from God’s written Word, the Bible? Jesus says, tell me what God’s Word says about what you must do to inherit eternal life. The man gives an expert answer from the books of Moses, quoting perfectly (he’d been practicing and it was paying off) Deuteronomy 6:5 about loving God with your all and Leviticus 19:18 about loving neighbor as yourself.
Then Jesus replies, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”
But what if we can’t love God with our all and love our neighbor as ourself? What if you and I haven’t done it yet? Jesus tells a parable to answer those questions. It may seem like he is just reinforcing how amazing we need to love so we can have eternal life.
But what if the Parable of the Good Samaritan is about turning the expert of the law (as well as you and me) away from what we must “do” to inherit eternal life—to focus instead on what we must “receive” to inherit eternal life? And on what Jesus has already “done” so you can have eternal life?
The theme for this weekend is not about you and me being a good neighbor—it’s about Jesus—the ultimate Good Neighbor who rescues us and turns us to focus on His mercy which He freely and richly gives to all who will receive it. What if the parable and the season of Lent are about moving us away from a focus on our obedience to a focus on God’s mercy? And moving us to share God’s mercy once we’ve received it?