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5 Pentecost - Luke 10:25-37

On her deathbed, Gertrude Stein is said to have asked, "What is the answer?"

Then, after a long silence, "What is the question?", recounts Frederick Buechner.

Don't start looking in the Bible for the answers it gives, he continues.


Start by listening for the questions it asks...

There is perhaps no stronger reason for reading the Bible than that somewhere among

all those India-paper pages there awaits each man and woman, whoever they are,

the one question which (though for years they may have been pretending not to

hear it) is the central question of their own life.


One such question leads to another on the lips of the lawyer.

What must I do to inherit eternal life?


This one often drives people through church doors, to cozy up to God and lobby for

favors while we still can.


In response, Jesus turns the lawyer outward, to the law he knows so well, which turns

him outward to love God and neighbor, but that can get dicey quick, so the lawyer

asks a crucial follow up question that leaps off the page and haunts us still.


Who is my neighbor?

Today ICE raids target people for deportation.


Who is my neighbor?

The Vice President says that the conditions for asylum seekers at our southern

border are unacceptable.


Who is my neighbor?

We mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, after so much looking out into

space and wondering,


Who is my neighbor?

We plan a Game Fair for late August, to open our campus in hospitality to our

wider community, a chance to learn,


Who is my neighbor?

We drive by manicured homes and apartment complexes and tents pitched on

sidewalks.


Who is my neighbor?

People are licking ice cream in stores and debating who deserves health care and

posting it all on social media for literally all the world to see.


Who is my neighbor?

Refugee families, Brexit, trade wars, ground wars, diplomacy, disaster, climate

change, gerrymandering, census questions, and your sister-in-law's drama.


Who is my neighbor?

With about seven billion possibilities, it would be helpful to have a manageable answer.

Ironically enough, on the Sunday we hear about the so-called good Samaritan, Jesus is

not helpful.


He does not provide a definition or draw any lines; he tells a story that erases them.

A man – stop.


Stop right there.


Storytellers know that their audiences overwhelmingly tend to identify with the first character they introduce, so they choose that person carefully.


Both of our gospel storytellers, Luke and Jesus, do exactly this.

Just then a lawyer, Luke begins, so that we will identify with him and his concerns.


A man, Jesus begins, so that our lawyer will identify and unconsciously align his interests

and fortunes with the only character in the story he knows.


Jesus leads him into a bad neighborhood teeming with negative stereotypes.

From the lawyer’s perspective, there are no good characters in this story, none.


Anyone who travels that particular road alone is a friendless f