Archive for July, 2013







I keep thinking of Treyvon Martin, the 17-year-old African-American who was shot by neighborhood watch person George Zimmerman.  I read one editorial piece and I am convinced Zimmerman is innocent.  Then some new argument sways me the other way.  It is heartbreaking on so many levels.

As I work on the sermon for Sunday on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I wonder if any road, any place, is “safe” for us anymore.  Downtown Minneapolis on a weekend night?  Watching a sports marathon?  Being in an airplane?  Even walking on Grand Avenue at four in the afternoon you can be mugged, says the Highland Villager’s crime section.

The Jericho Road is the place where the action happens in the parable for this coming Sunday.  On the day before he died, Martin Luther King, Jr., described the road as follows:

“I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road I said to my wife, ‘I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.’ It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about twelve hundred feet above sea level.  And by the time you get down to Jericho fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about twenty-two feet below sea level.

That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking, and he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”

But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”*

Can the Good Samaritan story be translated realistically for an age that is marked by fear, terror, and suspicion? How do we factor in the need to be personally responsible and not put ourselves at undue risk?  Can we read this story and not feel guilty – fairly or unfairly?  Which character might hold the clue to the gifts this incredible parable has for us?  (Hint: it’s not the donkey).

Maybe part of it is being responsible for our own “piece of the road,” whatever that is. There’s an old song by Tom T. Hall:

“I had always been a music man

I loved anything that rolls

And all I want is a piece of the road

Piece of the road, a part of that traffic that’s passing’ me by

Piece of the road, a piece of that great big pie in the sky

Want you to use me like you want to Lord

But lemme carry a part of the load

Cause all I want is a piece of the road.”

See you in church.


*Martin Luther King, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, April 3, 1968


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