Apparently, over in Australia, they give a lot of tours by bus. One day a tour bus broke down and was stuck by the roadside. Baking in the hot heat the driver flagged down the first bus that came along . . . a bus full of Aboriginals. The driver of the bus asked if his passengers could get a ride on the bus until they got to the city. The other driver said, “Sure, hop on board.” And, off they went down the road.
It wasn’t long before it began to get noisy, but the driver didn’t pay much mind to it as the bus was at full capacity and it was apt to get noisy . . . so, on he drove. Pretty soon, though, the noise escalated and there was shouting and screaming going on . . . a real ruckus was breaking out, making it difficult for the driver to drive. For the sake of safety, he pulled over . . . “What’s the problem here!” he demanded to know.
One of the tourist spoke up, “These people . . . these black skinned people won’t move to the back of the bus!” One of the Aboriginals spoke up, “There people . . . these white people think they can get on our bus and tell us where to sit!” Suddenly a fight broke out.
“Knock it off,” yelled the driver. “We are in a tight situation and there are no black or white skinned people on this bus—there are only green people! Does everyone understand that? If there are any more disruptions on this bus . . . everyone walks!”
And, everyone got on the bus and they resumed the trip to the city. Things were going pretty well . . . it wasn’t noisy . . . there was no fighting. At least for a while. Soon the noise and the arguing started up again. The driver pulled over and yelled, “I thought we settled this . . . there are no black or white people on this bus—only green people!” Everyone shook their heads in agreement. “Okay, then, what is the problem?” asked the driver.
A tourist stood up and said, “These dark green people won’t sit in the back of the bus!” An Aboriginal stood up and said, “These light green people won’t quit bossing us around!”
All of us have our own ways of understanding and interpreting things in our lives. I show you a picture of a glass of water, some of you see a glass that is half-full, others of you see a glass that is half-empty. Which one is correct? They both are. It is all a matter of interpretation . . . none of us seem to see things simply as they are . . . the glass has water in it . . . everyone, no matter whether they are black or white, light green or dark green are still the children of God.
A lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him what is written in the Law. The lawyer responds: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus high fives the guy and tells him that he has it correct, and now all the lawyer has to do is to go out into the world and do it. Now most of us would have been content with knowing that we had received Jesus’ satisfaction, but we are talking a lawyer here . . . The lawyer couldn’t quit while he was ahead . . . he wanted to know who his neighbor was. Which usually means “story time” for Jesus.
Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan . . . a story that is quite familiar to all of us here this morning. A guy is making a road trip . . . along the way he is robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road. The beaten man encounters three potential rescuers while bleeding on the side of the road. The first, a priest, sees the man and takes a wide path around the man ignoring his situation. The second, a Levite, also sees the man and does as the priest did . . . he takes a long way around the wounded man. The third guy, a Samaritan, sees the man, attends to his wounds, takes him into town, makes arrangements for his care, and then heads on to do his own business.
Jesus wants to know from the lawyer, which of the three was the neighbor to the robbed and wounded man. The one who stopped to help, replied the lawyer. “Go and do likewise,” said Jesus to the lawyer.
We like our reading this morning because, once again, Jesus puts the uppity up distractors in their place. We like it because the enemy of the people—the Samaritan—is made the hero in the story. We like it because it puts faith into simple terms that we can all understand—love God completely and love our neighbors. But, the truth is, we probably don’t put any more stock into these words than did the first two guys, who walked by the robbed and wounded guy on the side of the road. We know it in our minds, but our actions probably play out in completely different ways in real life. Yes, we are all God’s children, but some of us are better children than others! It is a matter of interpretation.
The two guys—the priest and the Levite—had their reasons for not stopping and helping the guy on the side of the road. According to their understanding and interpretations of the rules in which they lived their lives, they were doing what they were supposed to do. That is how they saw it. We can blast them all day long for not stopping to help, but we will never win the argument because these two guys only see the glass half-empty while the rest of us see it half-full. In their world, they did what was expected of them. It is a matter of interpretation.
Same with the lawyer asking all the questions. The guy gets paid to muddy up the waters by asking questions . . . gets paid for helping people skirt the issues . . . gets paid for finding the loop holes. Who is my neighbor? That is the question he asks . . . everyone, responds Jesus in his round-about way in a parable. Everyone is your neighbor and it doesn’t matter what gender, age, race, educational level, rich or poor, or shade of green that person is . . . everyone is your neighbor. It is as simple as that. And with that declaration we all shake our heads in approval . . . yeah, we get it. We get it through that grey matter between our ears.
Jesus does not leave much to interpretation. Everyone is our neighbor. Everyone is to be loved. Go and do likewise. What is to interpret when it comes to our own faith on a daily basis?
We all have our likes and our dislikes . . . that is part of what makes us human. Most of us, if not all of us, would probably consider ourselves not to be prejudice . . . but, we are. We may not express it with our words, but we express it all of the time with our actions or non-actions . . . with our looks at others . . . with loose phrases we make in our jokes and humor. Then we remark, “We were only kidding.” The truth is we are probably more often the priest and the Levite more than we are the Good Samaritan. It just depends on how we interpret things.