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The Good Samaritan (readings for July 15, 2007)

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Abraham Lincoln, I believe, once said he would belong to a church when he found one that had the Golden Rule as its creed. Jesus might have clapped him on the back and said, “I hear you, friend.”

In last week’s reading, Jesus was in Samaria, and I spoke about Jesus taking exception to the mutual disdain flung back and forth between some Jews and some Samaritans. Lectionary planners were courteous enough to drop us this week right into the most famous of Jesus’ statements on Samaritans. And you’ll see, Jesus vastly prefers caring for others over fulfillment of religious responsibility.  [artwork from heqiarts] Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

July 10, 2007 at 11:56 am

Jesus, ooey-gooey, and The Onion (Sermon of Nov 23)

with 5 comments

Jesus paints the end of time over and over in the runup to Matthew’s version of passion week.  But, whew! The implications of these stories are startlingly controversial.

He tells of a great sorting of people (Matthew 25:31-46).  Goyim —gentiles—people, perhaps, like me.  The method of his sort, though, I never heard in Sunday School.

He's an Author and Homeless i...

He explains his choice to the group invited into his “kingdom:”

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me-you did it to me.

Huh.  Wonder what that means.  To him?

Don Jail

Now the second group, whom he says are “good for nothing but the fires of hell.” And why?

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me-you failed to do it to me.

The “goats” go off to their doom, the sheep to their reward.  The end.

But wait, this is going to get very strange. Read the rest of this entry »

Political reform and spiritual transformation

with 2 comments

This map, posted at My Clipmarks aroused considerable conversation, eventually taking a direction I hadn’t considered. Deep in the discussion, an excellent clipper named Righthand posted this comment:

There is also the personal level. You need to be a real generous Christian to want your fellow man to be your equal.*

Ding-ding! Thoughtful comment alert! Here’s the clip:

clipped from


Nationally, 12.4 percent of residents are considered to be in poverty. “In Poverty” means that a given person falls below the poverty threshold assigned by the U.S. Census Bureau. Please see our chart topic on Poverty for a discussion of poverty thresholds.

Examination of the map shows, however, that this 12.4 percent is a misleading representation of poverty status across the United States. Poverty is considerably more prevalent in the southern states. In a clear majority of counties in the South, the proportion of persons in poverty is higher than the national rate.

  blog it

And a response to the comment?

Alarmingly true. And the point of our faith would be “to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.” In response to a weasel’s question: “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells the Good Samaritan story – in which the only good guy is a despised, supposedly heretical foreigner who takes care of someone who’s a foreigner to him, asking nothing in return.

And is this not the real issue behind the endless debates on poverty, healthcare, immigration, and war? We don’t want to lose our stuff. We’re more concerned that the poor live like us than we are that they eat. We’re more concerned that the “right” people take care of the sick than we are that the sick are cared for. We want what our international neighbors have. We don’t want them to have what we have.

We don’t love them as we love ourselves. I wonder if that’s why ongoing spiritual transformation is so important—without love, political reform (of the left or the right) becomes merely self-serving. When our hearts are broken—for Darfur, for south L.A., for Mexicans in poverty—the endless philosophical evasions (And who is my neighbor? or, Shouldn’t private enterprise be the one who … ?) might be swept away by a torrent of more genuine passion for people.

Break my heart, O God.

Think so?

*His comment’s not intended to mean only Christians would want equality; he’s making the case that the run -of – the- mill Christian heart may not be big enough to do so.

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Written by Monte

February 7, 2008 at 3:53 pm

The immigration debate: Does Jesus matter?

with 5 comments

A pastor-friend emailed an article about the down-side of immigration.
Here’s an edited version of my response:

Dear _____ :

The most challenging thing for me about this debate is not what liberals or conservatives think, or whether immigration has been largely good or bad, or whether or not it’s in the economic interest of the American citizen. All those are important, I’m sure, but – since we are “citizens of another country” – I wonder if they are what matters most. I wonder if this question could be more important: What’s Jesus’ example?

For instance, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

August 17, 2007 at 1:14 pm

Jesus dissed in Samaria

with 3 comments

Palestine under the Roman occupation of the 1st century wasn’t Israel the way we think of it today; that name was scarcely in use. Some “countries” in the region were Jewish and others were not.

Jesus mapJesus spent most of his life in Galilee (blue, at left, just west of the “Sea of Galilee”). As the time for his death approaches—the way Luke tells it— he begins the journey south to Judea and its hub, Jerusalem. Jerusalem, on the map at left, is just west of the north end of the Dead Sea. Much of Luke’s gospel after 9:51 takes place on the road to Jerusalem.

Between Galilee and Judea is Samaria: in effect, a foreign country. Samaritans, whose core stock were Jews not taken into exile centuries earlier when most were, saw themselves as holders of the true faith, convinced the “Jews” had compromised truth away while serving Babylon’s courts. Jews, meanwhile, thought Samaritans had so mingled with native religions that they were no longer pure. And thus began yet another of religion’s “adventures in missing the point.”

Normally, observant Jews skirted Samaria by veering into the Jordan valley, avoiding “contamination.” Jesus, however, plunges into the Samaritan countryside, ignoring the taboo.

And one time, as they travelled … Read the rest of this entry »