Walking the Jericho Road – Homily by Brad Jersak

Epistle
Reading: Ephesians 4 
– Walk as Children of Light
For you
were once darkness, but now you
are light in the Lord. Walk as children of
light (for the
fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and
truth), 10 finding
out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but
rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things that are done by
them in secret. 13 But
all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes
manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as
fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the
Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be
filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.

Gospel
Reading: Luke 10 – The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 Just then an expert in the law stood up to test Him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the law?” He asked him. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength,
and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
28 “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will
live.”
29 But wanting to justify
himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my
neighbor?”
30 Jesus took up the question and
said: “A man was going down from
Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat
him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest
happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other
side. 32 In the same
way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other
side. 33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had
compassion. 34 He went over
to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an
inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said,
‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you
spend.’
36 “Which of these three do you
think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the
robbers?”
37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.
Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”
Homily
In
this Epistle reading, Paul’s warns his first readers and us today to walk as wise people and not as unwise
people because the days are evil. In fact, the book of Ephesians mentions our walk eight times in a relatively short
letter. By walk, Paul refers to the
way we live. He tells us to walk
wisely, to walk worthily, and to walk as children of light. We still use
this metaphor today when we talk about someone’s walk of life. When we call to mind how we walk, the Gospel reading brings to mind the various people ‘walking’ the Jericho Road.
1. The Walking Half-Dead: First we have the man walking along who is mugged by bandits, robbed and beaten
half to death. He was on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho, which some of the
Fathers saw as symbolic of a journey from communion with God toward a sort of
sin city. What happens in Jericho stays in Jericho!
The walk to Jericho is somewhat parallel to
the prodigal son walking away from
the Father’s house towards the far off land of debauchery that ended in the pigpen.
For those who walk away from the mercy of God into self-will, it often happens
that the thief comes to steal, kill or destroy. This is not about God punishing
us for our sins, but rather, vulnerability to consequences of walking away from mercy.
2. The Busy Religious Guys: Second, the priest and Levite were also walking,
and here too is a walk away from
mercy. Even though they were busily rushing to their next religious task, perhaps
even the Divine Liturgy, they were, like the elder son in the prodigal son
story, far from the Father’s house. Rather than pausing to show mercy to the
victim, they were engaged in their own self-righteous striving and self-will.
They ignored (even though they saw) the one in need of compassion, perhaps
judging him for his plight instead of ministering to him. “He deserved it. If
he had done this or hadn’t done that … And anyway, we wouldn’t want to enable
him by helping.”
And on
they went.
There
is another way. Even the great hierarchs who wrote our liturgies, St Basel the
Great and St John Chrysostom, insisted that true worship is ministry to those
on the margins. “If you can’t find Christ in the poor, you will not find him in
the chalice.” Basil saw his worship embodied in the hostels, hospices and
hospitals that he established. We see it today in these monks, senior citizens
who nevertheless make 5&2 Ministries part of their liturgy, the streets of
Abbotsford one of their prayer cells.
It
could be that the parable also implies the inadequacy of the Law to heal the
broken ones. Grace alone is sufficient to restore those half-dead along the
way.
Both
of the first two describe the ways we might walk
in darkness (from the epistle), whether in unrighteousness or
self-righteousness. The next characters indicate what it is to walk wisely, as the children of light.
3. The Good Samaritan: The Samaritan also walked
by, but his walk was wise, the walk of the children of light, because
the love of God compelled him to truly see, to stop and to help. This kind of
pausing is a miracle, especially these days, and stopping to help is even
avoided because of fear of litigation. But amazingly, the very words of Jesus
have found their way into model justice systems wherever a
‘Good Samaritan law’ has become necessary. Good Samaritan laws tell
us that we have an obligation to see, to stop and to help those in need. In
some nations they refer to traffic laws that require drivers to stop at the
scene of an accident. In Canada, the Good Samaritan laws require us to report
any knowledge we have of a child being harmed or abused.
So now
even the world sees a human obligation to stop and help. Do we? Can we be
compelled by love of Christ and love of neighbour rather than the law? 
Of
course, the Samaritan is also a type of Christ, the One who descends
into the ditch (as he did with the lost and tangled sheep) to rescue those
beaten down by the thief of our lives and robber of our souls. Rather than
scolding the victim or telling him how he deserved it, the Good Samaritan saves
him, applying bandages, oil and wine. The OSB connects to baptism, chrismation
and the Eucharist as the medicine in our healing. He then walks him to the Inn for care.
Note
that Christ also casts the role of the hero to the feared and hated ‘other’ …
a Samaritan, those despicable enemies of the full-blooded Jews. Making the hero
a Samaritan was a direct assault on their bigotry and tribalist us-them
mentality. Moreover, Christ is even identifying himself with that very other,
as if the parable today were called “Christ,
the Good Muslim.” In fact, in John’s Gospel, when Jesus was
accused by the ‘birthers’ of being a Samaritan and possessed by
Belzebub, he only replied, ‘I’m not possessed.” He was not ashamed to be
seen with or identified with those on the other side of our prejudice. And it
seems Luke may be repurposing the parable for the Jew-Gentile tensions of his
readers.
4. The Hospitable Inn-Keepr: Finally, the Inn-Keeper, though not walking
literally, does engage in a noble walk of
life
: hospitality. Hospitality is not just a left-over gift for those who
can’t do anything else. It is more than clicking the on-button on a coffee
maker. The hospitality of Abraham to the Lord and his angels-in-disguise was
the foundation of Judaism. The hospitality of the Theotokos welcomed God the
Word into his first home on earth: her womb, and through her womb, into our
world. So too, the hospitality of the Inn-keeper is crucial to the parable and
to the plan of God in our world.
The Good Samaritan,
in delivering the victim of the enemy to his care, converts the Inn into a
Hospice … both are works of hospitality, but now the task of healing is
added. The Church is this Inn … a place of hospitality and healing if we are walking wisely. Too often it has been
turned into a courtroom and even a prison. But for those who have ears to hear
today’s readings, our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us afresh that he has given us
the resources we need to be a hospitable hospital. Even now, Canada and this
monastery are serving as an Inn for some of the refugees of war—those whom
Christ, the Good Samaritan is delivering. And when he returns, he says, “IF
there is anything owing he will repay it in full.” 
Let
us, therefore, walk wisely and
worthily, as children of light—seeing, stopping and serving—a hospitable inn
and hospice for the downtrodden and stranger, the immigrant and the refugee, giving freely, even of our time.
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