Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Current Reception of the Parable of the Good Samaritan

This one is from my sister, Rev. Nancy Gowler Johnson, and it is well worth reading, contemplating, and putting into practice.

Here is just one section of her sermon:

I was reminded this week of the writings of Thomas Merton, 20th C. Trappist monk, writer of contemplative spirituality. Writing in 1963, in Kentucky, in the midst of civil rights movement, even as disturbing violence was perpetuated toward people of color, Merton wrote what he calls, Letters to a White Liberal. In it he speaks of his uncertain time as a “providential hour,”a kairos moment, Merton borrows a Greek term. Kairos (as opposed to chronos, or calendar time). Kairos – the appointed time, or right time, a fitting season or opportunity, pregnant with possibilities
Merton writes these thoughts when police dogs are lunging at black children in Birmingham, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was thrown in jail, before the Civil Rights Bill was passed, when Citizen Councils and lynchings haunted the south.
And instead of despair, he saw a kairos moment. There was no going back, the protests would continue, civil rights for African-Americans would be won. But that, he said was only the first step. In this kairos moment was the opportunity for white folks to awaken and see, in Merton’s words “the cancer of injustice and hate which is eating white society and is only partly manifested in racial segregation with all its consequences, is rooted in the heart of the white man (sic) himself.”
Merton saw in those days, so fraught with unrest and fear, the possibility for spiritual redemption. He issued a warning that rings true this week. If such spiritual reflection and complete reform of the social system did not take place “the moment of grace could pass without effect.” Destruction and hate would take root. (1)
Merton’s ability to see a moment of grace in difficult days gives me hope. Perhaps in the rawness of these times, when it is nearly impossible to look away from injustice, there is an opportunity for redemption for us.
How does that happen?
First off, we who are white Christians need to shut up and listen.
We need to listen to the stories of those who have been beaten and bloodied and left on the side of the Jericho road.
We need to listen to the painful stories of those who in their suffering and need have been passed by, neglected, dismissed, devalued, unloved.
We need to shut up, and we need to listen.
We can’t truly listen to these stories if we’re busy denying the circumstances.
We can’t truly listen if we’re intent upon defending ourselves from the label of racism.
We can’t truly listen if we brush away the sufferings of others.
We can’t truly listen if our first reaction is to make excuses for dehumanizing behaviors, or if we look to blame victims for the violence perpetrated against them.
White Christians need to button our lips and listen to people of color speak of their experiences.
This is not a Democrat or Republican thing–it’s a white America thing.
Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the house, whose politics paved the way for the Tea Party’s ascendancy said this week, “It took me a long time, and a number of people talking to me through the years to make sense of this…If you are a normal white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America….[White Americans] instinctively underestimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk.”(2)
Listening to voices of color, hearing pain, anger, fear, frustration is not easy. It makes white folk uncomfortable. Because if it’s true, even if just a portion of what we hear is true, then for us to be a more just, compassionate people, change needs to happen. And change not just around the edges, but systemic change.
We need to keep our mouths shut and listen.
Once again, the entire sermon is worth reading carefully. I will mention only one additional sentence:
And we need to focus on the bigger picture: Fix the road. 
As Jesus concluded, "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:37). 

Let us not only be Good Samaritans to those in need; let us work to fix the road.

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