Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Compassion and mercy

In this weekend's Gospel reading, Jesus tells the parable of The Good Samaritan. It's a story so famous we even have Good Samaritan laws to protect those who lend aid to others. I once preached on this passage saying in part,
The Samaritan comes near to the injured man and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.

Here’s where I have to get a little technical again. I’m sorry, but without it, you just don’t get the full impact of the story. The Greek word for moved with pity is “Splanchnisomai.” It sounds kinda funny when I say it, “Splanchnisomai.” But when Jesus said it, I bet no one was laughing. You see that splanchnisomai is a special word. It’s sort of a theological word as it was reserved to describe the compassion and mercy God has for us. It is a common Biblical word for God’s compassion and mercy. But splanchnisomai is a rare word indeed otherwise. In fact, only Jesus ever uses it to describe human action. Everybody else reserved the word for God alone. Now Jesus has the nerve to say that a dirty rotten scoundrel like a Samaritan can show God-like compassion for someone in need. If that’s not shocking, it should be. The Good SamaritanOf course, the story doesn’t stop there. It just gets worse. The good for nothing Samaritan risks his own safety, spends his own money and a good deal of time to make sure that the Israelite who was beaten by bandits is taken care of. While the crowd is still trying to sort out the images Jesus has tossed together, Jesus asks the lawyer, “Which one of the three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The no-doubt dumfounded legal expert said, “the one who showed him mercy.” There it is again, Mercy. The Samaritan was moved by mercy, showed mercy to the injured man and was his neighbor.

But don’t you see, the story is inside out. It started out with who’s my neighbor. That equation starts with me, or in your case you and works outward. For a good person the concentric circle stretch out farther and farther. You not only include your close family and friends, but can be neighborly to people you don’t even know. That’s just great, but Jesus works the equation the other direction. Jesus starts with the person in need and says the person who is closest is the neighbor. If you see a need, if you know of a need, then you are a neighbor. In fact you may be the nearest neighbor and the one God is looking to to express that Godly compassion and mercy.
The full text of the sermon is online here: The Nearest Neighbor.

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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