This is one of those weeks when we can puzzle over the relationship between the given readings. The epistle (from II Cor 4) tells us that we look not at the things which are seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. And then we have a gospel (from Luke 10) which gives us the very visible, this-world story of a man mugged on the roadway and helped by a compassionate passerby. What do these readings have to do with one another?
If we look closely at the story from Luke, we see that some sort of strange vision is at work. The people whom we would suppose to be the agents of God – the priest and levite – leave the beaten man in the ditch. It is the heretical stranger, the Samaritan, who can see with the eyes of the heart. He sees the simple human need in front of him and responds to it. He becomes an extension of God’s activity in the world. His ability to see truly changes our vision as well. He shifts our sight in at least two regards:
First, we must open our eyes and see our neighbors in need. Sometimes they may be from groups which do not like us, or could be a personal enemy. Regardless, need calls us to respond. As Will Campbell likes to say, our ministry is not something we have to seek. Such seeking is often, consciously or not, evasion. Ministry is right under our nose. It knocks on our front door, sits in the cubicle next to us – or in our boss’ office, works in the coffee shop. The response called forth from us is not based on our preconceived religious notions, but arises from an openness to the need of the other, whatever it may be. The Samaritan did not lecture the wounded man on Samaritan theology, but tended his wounds.
Second, our vision is cleared to see the activity of God in the world. Drawing on Phillip Dick, we often find God in the trash, in what we throw away, in all the wrong people and all the wrong places. Jesus spent his time with hookers and corrupt government agents. As the inward man is renewed day by day, our vision shifts and we can see the abundant grace of God, running loose in the world, working for us a far more exceeding weight of glory. It is love and mercy, discovered in the everyday world of the temporal, which simultaneously open the door to true knowledge of the eternal. Go and do thou likewise.