July 14, 2013
“‘Which of these three [priest, Levite and Samaritan], do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ The lawyer said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” (Luke 10:36-37)
At the time of the prophet Amos, the people of Israel were in a time of peace and prosperity. However, prosperity had led them to forget their covenant with God. God had delivered them from bondage in Israel, and in return, they were to show their faithfulness to God by living lives of compassion and righteous and sincere worship. Instead, their religious observance had become an empty form, and social justice had fallen by the wayside. The wealthy few neglected to share the fruits of prosperity with the poor.
The passage opens with the vision of the plumb line. God declares that he will no longer overlook the behavior of Israel. Because of their injustice and religious arrogance, King Jeroboam’s house will be punished by military disaster and sent into exile. When Jeroboam’s priest, Amaziah, confronts Amos and commands him to return to his home in Judah and prophesy there, Amos separates himself from the guild of professional prophets and affirms that his calling comes directly from God. Because Amaziah has opposed the word of God, Amos announces judgment on Amaziah’s family and on the house of Israel.
Amaziah attempts to silence Amos by sending him away. But the truth of the injustice Amos denounces cannot be denied. Can you think of any instances in our times when a self-interested power has tried to silence a modern-day prophet who calls for social justice?
God calls Amos away from his work as a herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees to remind his hearers of God’s presence in their lives. Is there a time when you have been called or reminded to examine how your life must reflect justice and compassion?
Psalm 82 is an interesting text, from the same pre-Babylonian exile time as the text from Amos. In this psalm we see God sitting in judgment, not of the people of Israel, but of the other gods of ancient myth. The Israelites of this time worshipped one god, whom they acknowledged as the most powerful one true God and their deliverer, but acknowledged the existence of other gods of other ancient Near Eastern peoples. The psalmist depicts God chastising the other gods for allowing injustice to thrive among the peoples of the earth. Further, God says that if they don’t behave justly as gods should, they will die like mortals, thus forfeiting their god-like status. Injustice is not worthy of the word of God.
Contrast the gods of Psalm 82 – those who might die like mortals – with Christ, the One who has not died like other mortal human beings. What might be the causes for the death of these gods of early myth? How is Christ different from the gods of Psalm 82?
With your Bible Study or youth group, try writing some intercessory prayers based on the theme of justice found in Psalm 82. Perhaps some verses of the psalm might act as a refrain or an introduction to some intercessions that are related to current events or people in your community.
The letter to the Colossians is concerned with a conflict among a congregation that had been founded by Epaphras. The dispute is between the position of Paul and Epaphras, that the believers in Christ have received through their baptism a new, full life in Christ and admission to the knowledge of the mystery of God. Their opponents, whom Paul scorns, urge special actions and observances to achieve access to God. The letter begins with a typical Pauline letter opening followed by a thanksgiving for the faithful believers who have evidenced the faith, love and hope that they have received from the gospel. The writer prays that the believers will be filled with wisdom and lead lives of steadfastness, patience, endurance and thanksgiving – lives worthy of Christ.
Paul emphasizes that wisdom and knowledge of God’s grace is attained only through what the believers have received by baptism in Christ. There is no other means to sharing in the inheritance of resurrection with Christ, and enthronement with God and Christ. Imagery of light and darkness is used in addition to wisdom language. A life worthy of Christ’s love is the only and sufficient way out of darkness and into redemption.
Paul commends the Colossians for the qualities of true spirituality that they have shown. What are these qualities? What concrete evidence reveals these qualities in a church community? Can you point to evidence of spiritual qualities in your community or another community?
Paul writes that leading a life worthy of the Lord will bear fruit. Think about the aspects of a worthy life and the fruit that will be borne. Are the attributes of the worthy life that Paul describes what you expected them to be? What are the fruits of a worthy life, according to Paul?
It’s a rare person who doesn’t know the parable of the Good Samaritan. Unlike some of the parables, the message seems quite clear: Love your neighbor. Anyone in need is your neighbor. It is understood that the Samaritan is an outsider. It is the outsider who shows compassion to the half-dead man by the roadside after the priest and the Levite, members of the community, have crossed to the other side. In the parable, it is the outsider who is the true neighbor because he shows mercy.
It is moral and Godly to show mercy and compassion to anyone in need, whether that person is one of your community or an outsider. In our lives, we probably know this. While the parable is about doing what is right – “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” and “Go and do likewise” – there is more to the story than righteous behavior.
In the passage immediately preceding the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus says, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!” He is talking about faith. The priest and the Levite are in a hurry, on their way to work in the temple. They don’t really see the injured man except as an obstacle in their path. The Samaritan sees and is moved with pity. He sees in a different way, with blessed eyes, with the eyes of faith. Perhaps when Jesus says to the lawyer, “Go and do likewise,” he means see with the eyes of faith.
Take a look at the various characters in the parable, particularly the lawyer, the priest, the Levite and the innkeeper. Think about their lives and their reaction to the events of the story. Put yourself in each character’s place. In what ways are you like each character? How does each one feel and react to the injured man? Would you react the same way?
Think of this parable as a story of ministry and healing. What does ministry mean? How does the Samaritan minister to the injured man? How does he help to heal him? What are the implications of this kind of healing ministry in our daily lives?