Getting Ready for Sunday by the Rev. D.J. Griffin

Sunday, July 10th, Proper 10, Year C

The manner in which the Summary of the Law shows up in our appointed Gospel lesson for today is interesting. Unlike in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, it does not come from the lips of Jesus, but rather from the lawyer. This particular lawyer, seeking to test Jesus and to make himself look smart while doing it, asks the Lord a typical question one might pose to rabbi: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” More than likely, the lawyer probably already knows the answer (or so he thinks); he is just interested in seeing how Jesus answers it. Jesus, in typical fashion, responds to the lawyer by throwing it right back at him. In a rather Socratic manner, Jesus responds with questions of his own: “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” Now it is Jesus who wants to see how the lawyer responds, and the lawyer takes the bait. But the implication in Jesus’s questions is that it is walking in God’s ways that one finds eternal life.

The lawyer’s response has both Scriptural and rabbinic precedent. His two-part answer comes verbatim from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Ecclesiastes 12:13 makes a similar claim to Deuteronomy: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone.” A rabbi named Aquiba ben Joseph, about a century before the birth of Christ, said of Leviticus 19:18, “This is the great principle of the Torah.”[1] And another great 1st-century B.C. rabbi named Hillel is recorded to have said, “What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary. Go, learn it!”[2] Having answered in the manner of such good authorities, the lawyer is probably not surprised when Jesus commends him.

But the lawyer is not done yet. Fastidious as he is, he now wants to know exactly who Jesus defines as a “neighbor.” Perhaps he has in mind the way the Babylonian Talmud interprets Leviticus 19:18: “If he does what your people do, you shall love him; but if he does not, you shall not love him.”[3]

Jesus’s answer, in the form of the famous Parable of the Good Samaritan, certainly subverts such expectations. Jesus’s fellow Jews would not have considered Samaritans to be among those who “do what [their] people do.” The Samaritans were the product of mixed unions, genetic and religious, with Assyrians who had conquered the Northern Israelites. They did not worship on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, as the Jews did, but (improperly) on Mount Gerizim. And these are only the beginning of their differences. It is for this reason that, in another story, a Samaritan woman is surprised when Jesus begins a conversation with her, for, as St. John notes, at that time “Jews [did] not share things in common with Samaritans” (John 4:9).

But the funny thing is that, in the parable, it is a Samaritan – an outsider, a Gentile (in the eyes of the Jews) – who actually fulfills the law, not the priest or the Levite who (so to speak) should know better. It is a Samaritan who does what, in the lawyer’s own words, is the substance of the law. As St. Paul says to the Romans, “When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness” (Romans 2:14-15). Furthermore, as the Protestant reformer Martin Luther points out, the Samaritan reminds us of Christ himself, who came to us in our time of need, perfectly obeys God, and offers us the healing grace flowing from the cross.[4]

With his parable, Jesus challenges the lawyer, and us, both to think less provincially and to step up our own game. He commends the example of someone who, though a Gentile, acts more like a son of the Covenant than actual sons of the Covenant. He calls to the People of God to do their job, to live out their purpose in the world of extending the compassion of the Gospel to those who are in both physical and spiritual need.

And now that we have been given our charge, now that we have been enlightened by our Lord’s glorious Gospel, we have no excuse – but we are not without help. Indeed, as Moses declares to the people in Deuteronomy 30:14, “The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.” Having the word of knowledge of God’s will for us so near at hand, and by the help of God who has written that word on our hearts, we may, in Paul’s words, “lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as [we] bear fruit in every good work and as [we] grow in the knowledge of God.” To use the words of the Collect of the Day, having the “know[ledge] and understand[ing] of what things [we] ought to do,” may God give us “grace and power faithfully to accomplish them” – in other words, the grace and power to “go and do likewise.”

[1] Midrash, Siphara 19:18 (89a), accessed at

[2] Babylonian Talmud, Shabbath 31a, accessed at

[3] Babylonian Talmud (supplement), Aboth de R. Nathan 16.4, accessed at

[4] Martin Luther, “A Sermon on the Gospel in a Parable,” accessed at

The Rev. D. J. Griffin is Curate at Annunciation in Lewisville

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Getting Ready for Sunday by R. Christopher Rodgers

With the wonderful words “…O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor…[g]rant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection…through Jesus Christ our Lord,” today’s Collect provides an interpretative key to unlock our Lections. This prayer succinctly reminds us of our duties to God and to neighbor that witness to God’s Kingdom when reenacted in Holy Scripture as well as lived in the World. We should not be surprised that utter devotion to God uncovers the Divine imprint that points to the Divine plan: a pure affection that promises a harmonious union amongst the Creator, the Created, and all Creation.

In all of our readings, a clear theme emerges that following Christ and doing God’s will brings healing and hope that hallmark the Kingdom of God. Luke’s Gospel shares the indelible image of Jesus commissioning and sending the seventy with the warning that “…[t]he harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few…” joined with the ultimate injunction of discipleship to “…[g]o on your way…” (10:2-3). The Apostle Paul paints a knowing picture of what said journey entails when he enjoins the Galatians to “…not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.…then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all…” (6:9-10). According to Luke, the Jesus Movement’s imperative was that “…[w]henever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you…cure the sick who are there, and say to them…The kingdom of God has come near to you…” (10:8-9). Echoing this empowering Emmanuel moment, Paul tells the Galatians that God being with us means that “…[t]hose who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher…” (6:6). Thus, like those very first Apostles and Disciples, we should also be passing along the Good News in thought, word, and deed. Rather than puffing up ourselves, the Lord instructs that we should not take joy in new found power, but “…rejoice that your names are written in heaven…” within the Book of Life (Luke 10:17-20). Accordingly, the bountiful harvest proclaimed needs the harvesters to work the mission fields so that it may be on earth as it is in heaven.

Regardless of the Old Testament track taken, the union of healing and hope brought about by God’s will manifests itself in the texts. Despite initial anger and misgivings, Naaman washes in the Jordan River seven times, as the prophet Elisha instructed, and is completely cured of leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14). The ritual cleansing not only foreshadows Baptism, but we also learn that a prophet of God’s Kingdom has been raised in Israel. If we go one verse beyond the Lection, then Naaman says “…[n]ow I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel…” as a proclamation of his new found faith (2 Kings 5:15). Fittingly, the portion of the Psalter appointed for today offers God the celebratory parallels “…you restored me to health…you restored my life…” and “…[y]ou have turned my wailing into dancing…you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy…” (30:2-3; 30:12). One almost finds the voice of Naaman indistinguishable from the Psalmist in a verse of adoration in the face of grace “…[t]herefore my heart sings to you without ceasing…O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever…” (30:13). The Prophet Isaiah rounds out the rich complex of images by describing the Lord’s intent to “…extend prosperity to [Jerusalem] like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream…as a mother comforts her child…” (66:12). Close readers will note that moral philosopher and proto economist Adam Smith borrowed from this verse for his famous book’s title to evoke God’s brimful abundance. In God’s Kingdom, Isaiah reassures us that “…your heart shall rejoice…your bodies shall flourish like the grass…” (66:14) and, likewise, the Psalmist invites us to “…[c]ome now and see the works of God…how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people…” (66:4). Both Jesus and Paul teach us that we are to bring God’s healing and hope to a desperate world, while Naaman provides a specific example of a freeing moment from bodily bondage that reveals the in-breaking Kingdom of God foretold by Isaiah and powered by the Indweller. Instead of a message just for ordinary time, the profound train of thought in today’s Scriptures is about nothing less than the wholeness that is the very heart of creation and its restoration in the Incarnate Word that ushers in God’s ultimate Rule as well as Reign.

Christopher Rodgers is a Postulant and a rising Middler at Virginia Theological Seminary who is doing his Clinical Pastoral Education as a Summer Chaplain at Children’s Medical Center Dallas

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This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.