Life Sunday #2 – 2017 LSB #781
Text – Luke 10:30
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, & he fell among robbers, who stripped him & beat him & departed, leaving him half dead.”
PEOPLE OF THE DITCH
Instead of parking in the garage, or in the driveway, how many of you commonly park your car in the ditch? It is tempting for good life-affirming folks, like us, especially on Sanctity of Life Sunday, to point to the Good Samaritan walking along the road & say:
“You’ve got to be like him. He was pro-life! You’ve got to reach out to the vulnerable. You’ve got to protect & defend the unborn; help those in crisis pregnancies; reach out to those hurting because of wrong choices; show compassion to those suffering with chronic disease, disabilities & terminal illness. Yes, be pro-life like the Good Samaritan was.”
Inherent in such admonitions – whether they’re made by the pastor to his congregation or members to their pastor or members to one another – may be a slightly arrogant attitude: “I am like the Good Samaritan. I’m pro-life. I am so pro-life that I know truly pro-life people do not use the phrase pro-life anymore, but ‘life affirming.’ I’ve got it right. You need to be like me.”
It certainly is tempting to start there. A lot of folks do: “Be like the Good Samaritan who walked along the road.” However, as Lutherans we cannot begin there. We need to start in the ditch. As Lutherans, we do not approach the life issues with arrogance, but as people of the ditch; people who have been rescued from the ditch.
If we are going to be like anyone in this parable, we start as the man in the ditch: beaten, bleeding, helpless, forsaken, & left for dead. In winter, in northern climes, ditches often fill with snow. The wind blows it into white waves – drifts of varying shapes & sizes. As long as they do not engulf the road in front of you, they can be quite beautiful. But if there is a January thaw, the beauty melts away. The melting reveals dirty snow, rotting animals, garbage, used diapers, & a variety of empty adult-beverage containers. The ditch is a filthy place to be, & that is where we need to start. We need to be people of the ditch. For when you melt away the facade of our self-righteousness, you find that all of us are quite dirty.
Each of us has a corrupt & rotting nature – one that is beaten, bleeding, helpless, forsaken, & left for dead. So how can that be a good thing? When we realize how utterly filthy we are, we might be able to glimpse the infinite reality of compassion shown by this guy who came walking along the road.
Nothing forced Him to show compassion. He didn’t even have to stop, but He did. Then, astonishingly, He climbs down into the ditch with us!
Sometime after a woman had an abortion, she wrote a letter to Lutherans For Life. It read, “I never realized that Jesus Christ was willing to get down into my muck & miry life & lift me up out of the sewage of my problems. He has since shown me who He really is.”
You see, Jesus is not only willing to get down into our muck & miry lives, He actually did. He came into the filthy ditch of our choices as He hung upon a cross, beaten, bleeding, helpless, forsaken, & left for dead. He absorbed the filth of our sin into Himself.
He heals our wounds with His wounds, stops our bleeding by His blood, prevents our death by dying, lifts us up & gives us new life through His resurrection from the dead. He covers our impurity with His purity as fresh snow will undoubtedly cover those filthy ditches in white once again. As the prophet Isaiah wrote:
“…though your sins are like scarlet [ditch-dirty], they shall be as white as snow…” (1:18 ESV) The Holy Spirit brings us into this “whiteness,” this new life through the faith given in the waters of Holy Baptism. He provides for our continued healing & growth as we recall that Baptism, & as we share in Holy Communion. Jesus sets us back on the road with the certain hope of our own resurrection & eternal life always before us. Then, we can walk along the road & be like the Good Samaritan, or more precisely, be like Christ, or more precisely yet, be Christ who, by virtue of our Baptism, daily lives within us.
As we walk with resurrection hope before us, we keep our eyes on the ditch. We look for the lost, the beaten, the bleeding, the helpless & the forsaken. When we see them, we dare not walk by on the other side. We cannot walk by on the other side. Our heavenly Father does not call us to pick & choose. We cannot look at certain of the vulnerable & say:
“That’s too controversial, I’m not touching that.” We cannot look at certain of the vulnerable & say, “That’s a political issue, I’m not touching that one. People might not like me. We could lose our tax-exempt status.” The love of Christ does not tell us we should reach out to all the people of the ditch; the love of Christ compels us to do so.
So when we see the embryo “in the ditch,” in that petri dish – vulnerable, helpless, & destined for destruction – we are compelled to speak & defend & help. Not because it is the right thing to do or the moral thing to do, but because it is the Christ thing to do. Our God became incarnate as an embryo, giving value to all embryos.
When we see the unborn “in the ditch” – vulnerable, helpless, destined for destruction – we’re compelled to speak & defend & help. Not because it is the right thing to do or the moral thing to do, but because it is the Christ thing to do. His hands that were pierced & His body that died & rose again were formed in a womb, giving value to all who have resided there.
When we see the young woman in a crisis pregnancy “in the ditch” – vulnerable, helpless, feeling destined to make only one choice – we are compelled to speak & defend & help because it is the Christ thing to do. As Jesus got down in the ditch with us, we get down in the ditch with her. We lift her up, offering Christ’s compassion in real, practical ways. When seeing women & men suffering, from their involvement with abortion, “in the ditch” – vulnerable, helpless, destined perhaps to their own destruction – we are compelled to speak & defend & help because it is the Christ thing to do. As Christ to them, we get into the ditch with them.
We offer healing that can come only from the objective & complete forgiveness found in Christ. We lift them up & walk beside them. When we see people suffering from disease or disability “in the ditch” – vulnerable, helpless, destined by many to assisted suicide or euthanasia – we are compelled to speak & defend & help because it is the Christ thing to do.
Human beings brought suffering into the world through sin. Jesus reveals to us a God who knows about that, not just because He’s God, but because He also suffered. We have the Good News of a God who is present in suffering, at work in suffering, & accomplishing His purposes in suffering. He does this to make human beings holy & perfect again.
As we “walk along the road,” we do so as citizens of this country. Christ’s love compels us to pray for our president, our representatives, senators & Supreme Court. We pray for change in policies & laws, as well as the attitudes of those who make them.
We also walk along the road as citizens of heaven – united in Christ. We walk remembering our unique perspective as Lutheran Christians. For we know what it’s like to be in the ditch, & we know Who came into the ditch to save us. You & I know the power of His crucifixion & the power of His resurrection to heal, to restore, to bring peace.
We know His message changes hearts & changes lives. That is the message you & I are called to proclaim. That is the message we are called to be. We are people of the ditch who get down in the ditch & help people of the ditch. It is the Christ thing to do. Amen.
Oh, hearts are bruised & dead, & homes are bare & cold, & lambs for whom the Shepherd bled are straying from the fold. To comfort & to bless, to find a balm for woe, to tend the lone & fatherless is angel’s work below. The captive to release, to God the lost to bring, to teach the way of life & peace, it is a Christ-like thing. And we believe Thy Word, though dim our faith may be: whate’er for Thine we do, O Lord, we do it unto Thee. Amen. LSB 781:3-6
I. We do not start by walking the road
II. We start in the ditch
III. Jesus came into our ditch
IV. Now we walk the road with eyes on the ditch
Pastor Dean R. Poellet