We were told to re-cast a parable of Luke in contemporary terms. I chose to look at the Parable of the Good Samaritan…from a different angle
During the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), held at San Jose in 2008, on the last day, during the last scheduled Business Meeting on the docket…Jesus appeared. No one knew quite what to make of it. There were a host of different reactions. The Presbyterians For Renewal were excited, though a bit fearful of what Jesus was going to say about the “theological trajectory” of their denomination. The More Light Presbyterians didn’t really know what to think at all. All of the YADs (Youth Advisory Delegates) just ran up to Jesus and started asking him questions, talking a mile a minute, as they followed him up to the front of the convention hall. Everyone in the assembly was quite shocked, and a bit tongue-tied, until one of the youngest YADs looked up at Jesus and asked, “Are you going to tell us a story?” Jesus smiled and asked, “Is that alright…?”
Jesus didn’t walk up onto the stage, but did graciously receive the Garth-Brooks-style headset microphone as he began to tell such wonderful stories. After a few hours, just when he was about to grab one of the brown bag lunches from a YAD, the Stated Clerk stood up. It appeared he had a comment, or a question. The expression on his face told everyone that he had a good one. “Mr….Jesus. We really do appreciate all of these stories, but I’m wondering if you could answer one question for me. I would like to know what I must do to really experience life…to experience abundant life?”
Jesus replied, “It seems to me there are plenty of answers in that black leather-bound NRSV you have, or your Book of Confessions, and possibly even in that Book of Order you have sitting on top of the others. You tell me.”
Feeling fairly confident, the Stated Clerk replied, “In accordance with the Holy Scriptures, both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, our Book of Confessions and the Book of Order, I would say that in order to experience life, true life, I must love and serve God with everything that I am and with everything that I have, all the while doing it decently and in order. And I must love those around me, my neighbors, just as I love myself.”
“Yes, that sounds pretty good,” Jesus replied. “I’d say if you tried this, you would experience a deep abundance of life.”
But the Stated Clerk didn’t want to let Jesus off that easy (and he wanted a clearer answer from Jesus – after all, how often did you get to ask Jesus – THE Jesus, a question like this?), so he prodded him a bit, “Okay, well…can I get a little clarification? Who exactly should I consider to be my neighbor?”
Jesus replied by telling one last story: “In Spokane, WA there is a neighborhood called the West Central neighborhood. While it contains Washington state’s largest National Historic District, it suffered incredibly due to the mid-century suburban flight. It is one of, if not the most poor, neighborhoods in Washington state. Poverty is evident everywhere, houses are abandoned, dilapidated – some are condemned. People’s spirits are stripped, broken, beaten…almost dead. One day a few Presbyterian pastors, on their way to a local clergy lunch at a swanky pub, accidentally ended up in the neighborhood. As they drove through the neighborhood, they began to think of ways they could help the neighborhood ‘get back on it’s feet.’ They thought about planting some churches, getting some new pastors in neighborhood. Both pastors sat on the Committee on Ministry and tried to think if there were any potential Candidates who might want a parish in a struggling run-down neighborhood. After running through the list in their head, they realized there were none. And besides, they thought that their bright, able young Candidates would better serve the church elsewhere. As they sat down for their burgers and beer, they forgot all about the West Central neighborhood.
“A few months later, the Moderator of the PC(USA) was in Spokane for a Presbytery meeting, and ended up driving through the West Central neighborhood. The Moderator was late for the meeting, and although she realized the poor conditions that so many people endured in West Central, she realized there was nothing she could do. Besides, she was late for an important Presbytery meeting, where many pastors would come together and discuss and debate all sorts of important matters, such as the Fundraising Campaign Second Presbyterian Church was going to begin so they could build a larger gymnasium for their church.
“Again, a few months later, Pat Robertson was in Spokane, WA and happened to find himself driving through the West Central neighborhood one afternoon. He stopped the car, got out and walked around. As he began to meet some of the local residents, his heart ached for the poor and impoverished people. He went back to his car and called the 700 Club’s 1-800 hotline. Within a few hours, there was a TBN TV-crew in West Central and Pat urged local TBN viewers to come out that very afternoon and help the West Central neighborhood. Within another hour, a few hundred people (all self-proclaimed Conservative Evangelical Fundamentalists) were picking up trash, going door to door asking what house or yard work could be done, setting up mobile soup kitchens and giving out perishable goods, all while establishing friendships with the West Central residents.
“Which person do you think acted neighborly and lovingly to the poverty-stricken people of West Central?” Jesus asked.
The Stated Clerk replied in a hushed, barely audible tone, “The person who hosts the 700 Club.”
Jesus replied, “Well then – there it is. Looks like you have a good example.”