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The Good Samaritan

The Gospel for this upcoming Sunday is one of Jesus' most famous parables -- the parable of the Good Samaritan.

To remind you of the major movements in the story:

A religious expert (lawyer) asks Jesus what he must do to "inherit eternal life."

Jesus asks him, "what's the Bible say?"

The religious expert says, "love God and love your neighbor."

Jesus says, "that's correct; do that, and you'll experience eternal life."

But "wanting to justify himself," the legal expert asks, "and who is my neighbor?"

"Say a man is severely beaten by robbers and left for half dead," Jesus says. "Later on, a religious person sees him lying there but crosses to the other side of the road in order to avoid him. A little later, another religious person shows up on the scene, but he, too, avoids the injured man."

Then - think quickly about a group you would never associate yourself with...think quickly of some person whose company you cannot stand - picture that group, or that person.

Then picture someone from that group, or that very person, coming along, and when he or she sees the person lying there, is moved with compassion, bandages the person's wounds, takes him to an emergency clinic, and leaves his or her credit card to take care of all the injured person's bills.

Now ask yourself, "which of the three people acted like a neighbor to the person in need?"

The religious expert says, "the one who showed compassion."

Jesus says, "go do likewise."

So there you have it.

We human beings have made Christianity -- religion, eternal life, getting into heaven, etc. -- awfully complicated.

There's a little lawyer, a little religious expert in all of us, that goes looking for loopholes and justifications, ways to complicate Jesus' simple message so we can believe that "eternal life" is something experienced only after death, and then, only if we held certain beliefs, or belonged to the right religion.

Why we do that, and how we overcome it, is one of the things we'll explore in this Sunday's sermon.

Because Jesus made it very simple:

You want eternal life?

1. It's available here and now, and
2. What you need to do to experience it is
3. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and
4. Love your neighbor as yourself.
5. That's it: there is no fifth point. All the rest is commentary.


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