Sermon Title: Engaging our Imaginations in the Generosity of God
Based on Luke 10: 25-37
Delivered November 10, 2010: Middle School Youth Sunday and Commitment Sunday
Godly Play Good Samaritan Live Enactment
Wording for scripture modified from Godly Play curriculum
Today we will be doing a modified version of Godly Play, the storytelling curriculum that allows listeners to wonder about the stories of scripture. Today we hope that this way of engaging in scripture will allow all of us to wonder in new ways about what God is up to in our lives. We invite you to enter the scripture without assuming you know how it will go or the meaning you will draw from it and instead enter in with a wondering spirit.
After the scripture you will hear some questions posed that begin with, “I wonder…” and I encourage you to wonder with us and call out the thoughts that come to your mind as you do.
So, let’s practice, I wonder what you had for breakfast this morning…?
Let’s get ready to hear and watch the scripture from Luke Chapter 10 by going to God in prayer…
Dear God, can you still speak to us through old stories? Is it possible that you are doing something new among us today? Cast out the preconceived notions and anxieties that we carry today. Open our minds and our imaginations to see something beyond what we have thought before. Expand for us what it means to be disciples who follow you, show mercy and who are neighbors who go and “do likewise.” Amen.
(Walk over to Bible on chancel)
Hmmm….I wonder what this is?
(knock, flip pages)
Hmmm it looks very old….
Hmmm, it says “Holy” on the front….seems like there are a lot of stories in here….I wonder what they are for? I wonder who wrote them? Do you think this book belongs to anyone?
You know there may be a parable inside.
Because this book looks old and parables are old. They are older than you, they are older than me. They are even older than your grandparents. They are almost 2,000 years old. I heard Jesus used to tell parables to teach others about the kingdom of God. Let’s look and see.
(Try to pick it up, turn to audience but it’s heavy)
Wow, it’s heavy. There must be a lot of important stuff in here.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…(flip through pages)
In the beginning was the Word.
The Word was with God and the Word was God.
And the Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.
I wonder what that means?
(Pull out brown burlap and place on the ground)
I wonder what this could be? There’s so much brown. It’s really scratchy.
Let’s see if we find anything else around here that could help us figure out what this is.
(Find the two robbers hiding behind organ. They come to stand on the stage and walk down the “road”)
Oh look. It’s a road. It’s going from this place to this place. But there is more. Look…
(Robbers give a menacing look to the audience and then hide behind the chairs)
They are like shadows. Hiding from the light.
Now, there was once someone who did such amazing things and said such wonderful things that people followed him. As they followed him, they heard him speaking of many things. HE was the Word of God who lived among us. Sometimes people asked him questions.
One day, a person asked him what the most important thing in life is. He said, “You already know.”
“That is true. I do know. It is to love God and to love people just like they are your neighbors.” The person paused a while and thought. Then he asked another question, “But who is my neighbor?”
The he was told this parable.
There was once someone who went from Jerusalem down to Jericho. As he went along his way he attacked by robbers. They hurt him, took everything he had, and left him by the side of the road half dead.
[Man walks down path and robbers enter scene attack and take his bookbag, take all his change. Man lays on stage, eyes closed. Robbers go back and hide behind the chairs]
There was a great priest of the temple who went on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.
[Priest enters scene, sees man and then walks away from him- stops on bottom step, faces toward side wall with arms crossed]
As he went along his way he came to the place where the person was who had been hurt, had everything taken from him and had been left by the side of the road half dead.
When the priest came to him, the priest SAW him, went to the other side and went along his way.
There was someone else who worked at the temple who went from Jerusalem down to Jericho. He was one of the people who helped the priests. He took care of the temple and helped with the music. He was called a Levite.
[Levite enters scene, sees man and then walks away from him- stops halfway down steps. faces toward side wall with arms crossed]
When the Levite came to the place where the person who had been hurt, had everything taken from him and had been left by the side of the road half dead, he SAW the man, went to the other side and went along his way.
There was also a person who went on the road who did not live in Jerusalem. He was visiting from a country called Samaria. The people in Samaria did not like the people in Jerusalem, and the people in Jerusalem did not like the people in Samaria.
[Samaritan enters scene, sees man and then kneels down to help]
When the stranger came to where the person was who had been hurt, had everything taken from him and had been left by the side of the road half dead, the stranger SAW him and went over to him. The stranger put medicine on the places where the person was hurt. He gave him his coat to put on. He then put him on his donkey and took him to a place to spend the night.
The stranger even stayed with him all the night and in the morning, he gave the innkeeper enough money for him to stay there until he was well.
[Samaritan helps man onto the “horse,” takes man to middle of stage, Samaritan pretends to pay the inn keeper (Matt pops up from behind the organ to take the money). Samaritan pretends to pay the inn keeper. Samaritan comes back to chancel on lectern side. Man who was robbed stands up and horse goes with the Samaritan.]
[All actors pause on the stage, robbers come back out and Priest and Levite return to the stage. Narrator moves over to their side of the stage.]
Now I wonder, who was the neighbor to the person who had been hurt, had everything taken from him and had been left by the side of the road half dead?
I wonder could it be this one? (Priest)
This one? (Levite)
Or this one? (robbers)
I wonder if it could be this one? (Samaritan)
Now, I wonder who is the neighbor to these two? (Bring robbers to the front)
Ahh that’s not so easy is it?
Could it be this one? Or this one?
I wonder who is the neighbor to this one and this one? (bring Priest and Levite to the front)
Ahh that’s not so easy either, is it?
Could it be this one? Or this one?
I wonder what would happen to the people in the parable if the people were women, not men?
I wonder what would happen if the person finding the injured traveler was a child?
I wonder what would happen if all the travelers crossed paths again in Jericho?
Go ahead and call out your ideas: what would happen if they all crossed paths again?
[Actors exit the stage after questions are asked.]
[Narrator moves back to pulpit side]
Sermon Title: Engaging our Imaginations in the Generosity of God
When you read the story of the Good Samaritan in the NRSV there are only three questions asked: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” and, “who is my neighbor?” both asked by the lawyer testing Jesus. Then at the end of the story Jesus asks, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The one who showed him mercy, the Lawyer replies. “Go and do likewise” Jesus says. Jesus identifies the neighbor in the story by their actions, not by their status, personality, or religious belief.
But what happens if we end the story here? What happens if these are the only questions we ask? We might first spend our time debating or affirming which people are included in our realm of “neighbors” and how we might live in order to secure eternal life.
If I was preaching about the first two questions, I might use examples that show how everyone can be our neighbor and tell a story from our summer Middle School mission trips with CROSS, where we learn how to see everyone as a neighbor- from the addict and the homeless, to the newborns born into poverty, the aging with dementia and the person from another youth group. Then I might wrap up with a reminder that it isn’t our actions that win us eternal life but God in Christ who conquers death that promises us eternal life. But this is not the direction of today’s sermon.
If I focused on Jesus’ question to the Lawyer, I might preach a sermon about how we are all called to “go and do likewise.” I might tell you about this time when my husband Nathan and I were driving through Atlanta and saw someone whose unstable gait caused them to trip and drop their water bottle as they crossed the street. The man’s posture told us that he wouldn’t be able to bend back down to pick up his water bottle without falling to the ground. When the light turned green Nathan pulled into the parking lot, ran over to help the man up and picked up his water bottle. It was a “good Samaritan” kind of moment. But this is not the direction of today’s sermon either.
I love the Godly Play style of telling stories from scripture because it encourages us to imagine far beyond what is written on the page.
If we leave the story as it is and fail to imagine any further, each of the characters goes their way, and each of us need only to think about how can I “go and do likewise?”
I believe though, if we engage our imaginations in this parable, that our communal lives and not just our individual lives will be impacted. And I believe this parable could challenge us, in a good way, to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ more fully and in more collaborative ways than we might have imagined.
So, there are three questions I’d like us to wonder about today that are not written on the pages of Luke’s gospel:
- Do we really SEE one another?
- Do we wander into the beautiful and broken places in our world and ask HOW and WHY?
- Do we imagine that there could be a reality BEYOND what we can see now, beyond what is written on the page?
First, do we really SEE one another? Each character that comes across the man walking down the road SEES him. The robbers see him, beat him and leave him. Then, the next two SEE him and pass by on the other side. The third SEES the man and goes over to help. The power of really SEEING someone is life-changing, for better or for worse.
Being noticed, loved and understood are crucial to the human existence. Without these, life is painful and lonely. It’s no mistake that God decided to come down to earth in human form, to look us in the eyes and tells us the good news- that we are loved, that God knows our pains, that we are included in the family of faith, and that we are not alone.
This week I participated in exercises with an organization called “Fearless Dialogues.”
Fearless Dialogues creates spaces for unlikely relationships to change the way people see themselves and the world. One exercise we did was to look at our partner for 90 seconds in silence. It made me feel seen in a way that felt rare.
We live in a busy, quickly changing culture. We live in a time where there are five generations living and working together who all have different life experiences and world views. We live among many who do not share the same religious beliefs or practices. We know this, but do we really SEE each other? Do our distracted glances let us SEE what makes each life so beautiful, difficult and complex?
The work of following Christ and being a good neighbor begins with truly SEEING one another.
This leads to our second question. Do we wander into the beautiful and broken places in our world and ask, how and why?
Martin Luther King Jr. once raised a “how” question about the Good Samaritan story. He says we often see ourselves in the role of the Good Samaritan, but rarely do we “stop to ask how we might improve conditions on the road to Jericho so that the next person who comes along won’t get jumped by a band of robbers.”
This story in Luke 10 is not just about one person who was a neighbor to another, but about how an entire system of people was involved in creating a neighborhood characterized by mercy and neighborly connections (or not).
Asking the HOW and WHY lead us beyond our own view and further down the Jericho road. Why were travelers continuing to be hurt on this road? Why was that man hurt and not the Priest or the Levite? Why do we just accept the dangers of the road to be the norm? What role do we play in making this journey safe for everyone?
I wonder who here has seen the Disney movie Aladdin? No matter if you’ve seen the newer remake or the old version you might have first purchased on VHS, you know that Aladdin is called a “street rat” before he becomes a prince and marries Jasmine. A lot of people in town that don’t want Aladdin around because he’s an orphan living on the streets known for stealing. A “good Samaritan” here and there gives him a free loaf of bread or turns a blind eye when he steals an apple. Yet, no one ever asks, “why he was orphaned?” What if someone else had SEEN him and asked him the how and why of his life? What if someone looked into the neglect of orphans in their town and imagined how things could change?
The power of really SEEING someone and asking the how and the why questions can be life-changing
Now, our third question. Do we imagine that there could be a reality beyond what we see now?
Imagine if the Priest and the Levite got to Jericho and bumped into the Samaritan and the man who had been robbed. If the incident on the road was deemed the norm, the story would end there.
But what if they started talking about the dangers of the road and wondering why that was the case?
[Characters from the skit come up and gather around the communion table]
What if the Priest and the Levite listened to the man’s story and learned of how his friends had the same experience? Maybe the temple leaders don’t feel they have the capacity to solve this problem, but they begin to imagine. So, the Levite invites all of them to his house for dinner to discuss. The wounded man goes out to invite his new friend the Innkeeper to dinner. The Priest acknowledges his own privilege that has kept him safe during all of his journeys from Jerusalem to Jericho and says he could help the temple become aware of the problems they’ve overlooked. The Levite starts holding community dinners that bring people of different backgrounds together.
[Characters go out into congregation and each bring someone else to the table]
They invite more friends to the conversation, and some help to create jobs that pay a living wage for those who feel like stealing is their only option. The young students of the Jewish temple join with the young in Samaria and start meet ups to give solo travelers companions.
Suddenly the strangers become neighbors and neighbors become community and the ripple effect of the Samaritan’s generosity spreads across the divides of age, religious affiliation or background. The community is engaged in a generosity they would have never dreamed of.
Friends today is Youth Sunday, a day when we encourage the community to support our youth in their faith formation and leadership in the church. Youth, can you imagine what youth ministry was like 100s of years ago? Do you wonder was generous then, so that you could have the church you do today? Have you ever imagined what your lives and your time will teach others about God? I hope that you will wonder about these things.
Today is also Commitment Sunday, a day when we encourage each member of the community to make their financial pledge for the next year and consider how they might engage their time and talents in the mission of Christ. We engage generosity not to secure our own fate, but because we are grateful for God’s gifts of mercy and because we imagine a church that will live out Christ’s mission long after we are gone.
So, what if we imagined beyond our own time and our own bank accounts? What if we pooled together our resources and our dreams and began to imagine…imagine not how we could maintain the church for another 200 years, but how our church could share God’s generosity with the world in ways that we can only begin to imagine?
As we engage our imaginations, perhaps we will SEE where unity could be found in the midst of differences, perhaps we will learn HOW there could be hope in the midst of brokenness, and WHY neighbors are needed along a sometimes lonely, dangerous road.
Friends, Christ defies all the boundaries humans have put around generosity and community. So, may we continue to engage our imaginations and our lives in the overflowing generosity of God.
 Berryman, Jerome W. 206. The Complete Guide to Godly Play Volume 3, Lesson 8: The Parable of the Good Samaritan. New York: Church Publishing.
 Katongole, Emmanuel. 2009. Mirror to the Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Rev. Allysen Schaaf
Decatur Presbyterian Church
Associate Pastor for Youth and their Families