Friday, August 26, 2016

Bishop’s Note: August 25, 2016 – A Prayer for Clergy and People

Bishop Eric Menees

One of the disciplines that I maintain is that of Morning and Evening Prayer. The daily rhythm of praying the Psalms, reading holy scripture in a systematic way, confessing my faith, praying the collects, and time for personal intercessions, has been a bedrock for me and my family during good times and bad.

Following the decision of the California State Supreme Court not to hear our case, I’ve been working hard on the transition - submitting to the authority of the court, working with TEC, and seeking to support our clergy and lay leaders across the diocese. 

In this season, one prayer has continued to grace my lips and be a balm to my soul. It comes from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, though it may very well predate that edition of the BCP:

“ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift; Send down upon our Bishops, and other Clergy, and upon the Congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and, that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honour of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

This prayer recognizes the supremacy of God as being the source of everything that is good – spiritual and temporal. Even in the midst of these difficult times we need to give thanks to God for the good gifts that he pours upon us.

This prayer asks God’s blessing upon clergy & congregations through the “...healthful Spirit of thy grace,” without which we cannot honor and bless God. In these difficult times, we need to especially seek ways to honor God and demonstrate to a fallen world the joy we find in Christ.

I bid you all to join me in this daily prayer that God will open our eyes to His blessings and use us as His instruments!


Catechism Questions: 327-328

327. How did Jesus suffer from false witness?
The Sanhedrin, desiring Jesus’ execution, hired witnesses to lie about him. (Psalm 109:1-3; Mark 14:53-58)

328. How does Jesus bear true witness?
Jesus always speaks the truth about himself and me, and bears witness before God and Satan that I belong to him. (John 17:6-8; 18:19-24)


Friday, August 5, 2016

Bishop’s Note: August 4, 2016 – Rich Toward God

Bishop Eric Menees

The Gospel Lesson from last Sunday was taken from the twelfth chapter of Luke – the Parable of the Rich Fool. Jesus concludes the parable by saying: “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21) Jesus’ concluding statement begs the question: What does it look like to be “rich toward God?”

There are lots of people now, and throughout history, who have preached something called “The Prosperity Gospel.” I was introduced to this heresy in the mid 1990’s. I was home mid-week, feeling under the weather and flipping through the TV channels. I came upon a television evangelist by the name of Pastor Frederick Price of the Crenshaw Ministry Center. He was a very entertaining as a preacher – but what caught my attention was a topic he kept hammering home; the idea that, “If we obey God’s commandments he will make us monetarily rich!” Just look at him, he said – he has two Bentley’s, lives in a mansion with an ocean view, and travels around the world in first class.

Of course, obeying God meant giving very generously to the Crenshaw Ministry Center. Pastor Price missed the irony. The heresy of the Prosperity Gospel is so very harmful because it leads to the false promise that God will reward faithfulness with material possessions.

However, when we compare that false hope to the promise of scripture where St. Paul writes to the church in Galatia describing the fruit of the Holy Spirit, we discover what true riches are. St. Paul tells us that the true riches of God are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) These riches cannot be purchased; they can only be received as the fruit of a true and lasting relationship with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are the gifts that sustain life on earth and prepare us for the life to come. These are the gifts that give life meaning and cannot be purchased, or forced, or manufactured. 

As we step out in faith, let us learn from the example of the Rich Fool and not put our attentions upon the material possessions of the earth, but rather on the spiritual fruit of a lasting relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I pray you all a very blessed week!

Catechism Questions: 321-322

321. How did God teach Israel to respect the property of others?
God gave land and possessions as a trust from him, which could be bought, sold, and inherited. He required restitution when property was stolen, and forbade unjust loans and interest. (Exodus 22:1; Leviticus 25:36-37; Numbers 27; 33:50-36:12)

322. What things other than property can you steal?
I can steal reputation, wages, and honor; credit, answers, and inventions; friendship, hope, and goodwill from others. I must repay and, to the best of my ability, restore what I have stolen. (Deuteronomy 24:14-15, 17-18; 2 Samuel 11-15; 1 Kings 21)


Friday, July 29, 2016

Act of Conscience versus the Act of Supremacy


Thomas More, Henry VIII, and the Future of Anglicanism

            by Fr. Van McCalister
            December 20, 2011 (Revised July 25, 2016)

On July 6, 1535 Sir Thomas More was beheaded because he was unwilling to agree with the conscience of King Henry VIII, as enforced by the Act of Supremacy, since the King's conscience opposed the Conscience of the Church, as More understood it.

The 1534 Act of Supremacy declared, in part:

Be it enacted by authority of this present Parliament that the King our sovereign lord, his heirs and successors kings of this realm, shall be taken, accepted and reputed the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England called Anglicana Ecclesia, and shall have and enjoy annexed and united to the imperial crown of this realm as well the title and style thereof, as all honours, dignities, preeminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits and commodities, to the said dignity of supreme head of the same Church belonging and appertaining.

Thomas More defended his refusal to sign the oath acceding to Parliament's Act of Supremacy because:

·       The Act of Supremacy contravened God's Law.
·       English subjects could not be removed from the corps (ie. body) of Christianity by an act of parliament.
·       That corps is represented by the General Councils of the Church (over king and pope).

Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Audley ruled against More stating, “if the Act of Parliament be not of unlawful, then the indictment is not in my Conscience invalid.” In other words, with some obvious sarcasm, if the acts of Parliament were valid, than the verdict stood. Audley ignored the entire point of More's argument, which was that neither the acts of Parliament, nor the King could overrule the corps of Faith, as held by the Conscience of the Church.

When More defended his inability to defy conscience, it was not in defense of an arbitrary personal conscience but the conscience of the Church, which was proclaimed and protected by the Councils of the Church. More did not elevate the Councils of the Church above Holy Scripture, but saw them as the guardians against the whims of individuals. It may be that Sir Thomas viewed the “Corps of the Church” as the Councils of the Church with the Pope presiding, or at least that the pope was the instrument of unity.  And from that perspective, it must seem odd and historically impossible to defend Anglicanism.  But the goal here is not so much to defend Anglicanism, as it is ancient Christianity and the inheritors of the Faith.  Thomas was defending his faith as a Roman Catholic because he believed the Roman Catholic Church represented the root of Christianity.  It is his defense of the root of Christianity, and his argument against those who would arbitrarily claim that root for themselves alone, to which we appeal.

Thomas More's act of conscience is still relevant today on at least two points: (1) as we view his argument from the knowledge that the Catholic Faith predates Roman catholicsm, and Anglican catholicism. (2) National expressions of catholicism are subordinate to the apostolic catholicism of the New Testament and Early Church, from which we receive the corps.

Contemporary Anglicans would do well to follow More's example. We rely too much on a sense of individual personal conscience, without first exploring and submitting to the conscience of the Church. North American Anglicans did well to recognize that the leadership of The Episcopal Church and the Church of Canada abandoned the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church, and reoriented themselves back toward their Anglican roots where the authority of Holy Scripture is honored.

However, this reorientation is incomplete and confused. Some are reorienting themselves to the Reformation Movement with particular respect to Thomas Cranmer. Some are reorienting themselves toward the Roman Catholic Church. Some are orienting themselves toward a form of Evangelical non-denominationalism. Some are finding their identity in the Global South – so long as it doesn't require too much submission. And, some look to 1662 or 1928 as their defining ethos. Others look to Canon Law to define who they are.

Even as we endeavor to re-embrace a genuine and orthodox Anglicanism, we are struggling with our identity. We are so accustomed to being western individuals that we struggle to be authentically Catholic. In other words, submission to our ancient catholic corporate identity does not come naturally to us. We value Apostolic Succession in our catechisms but have difficulty honoring it in actual practice.

There is much that we can learn from all of the post-reformation expressions of Christianity. However, these are not our roots if we are a Catholic Church. Our catholic legacy did not begin with the Reformation Movement, but with Pentecost, and the Apostles, and was carried to us by the faithful Church Fathers. This is evident as we read the history of the Church in the British Isles from the Third Century onward, as well as from the writings of so many of the Anglican Divines, who constantly referred back to the Church Fathers as the source of Anglicanism.

Anglicanism is not the illegitimate child of Henry VIII. It is not the invention of Archbishop Cranmer. Anglicanism is no longer ethnocentric and imperialist. Anglicanism is not a pale reflection of Roman Catholicism, as though there never was an undivided Church.

The primary emphasis of Anglicans in North America over the past several years has been to re-establish Biblical orthodoxy, which must be our first concern. This led to a variety of Anglicans, with different identities, banding together for the sake orthodoxy – but not always unity. While agreeing on Biblical orthodoxy, numerous debates have ensued over the Instruments of Unity and other Anglican distinctives. Discussions and meetings about canons and covenants still occupy a considerable amount of attention throughout the Anglican Communion.

It is going to be extremely difficult to overcome these differences (if not impossible) until we come to an agreement on who we are and what our lineage is. If we continue under the mistaken identity that our patrimony is Henry VIII, Thomas Cranmer and the Reformation Movement, then we will be hopelessly embroiled in all the personal conscience issues that those embody. If, however, we recognize, as did Thomas More and the Anglican Divines, that our identity and lineage is to be found in the corporate conscience of the Fathers and Councils of the Church, we will find an appropriate standard through which we can find catholic unity, not only for ourselves, but also with the Churches of Rome and Constantinople.

Anglicans may be pleased to look back at the Act of Supremacy and see a moment of liberation and so find our identity as a distinct entity.  And, it was a moment where the Church in England began a process of re-discovering her ancient Catholic roots, but it is not helpful to corporate Christianity to view that as our “birthdate”.  It is helpful when we look through that moment and other historical moments as lenses through which we view the real birth of the Church at Pentecost.  But to give the Act of Supremacy and King Henry the VIIIth, any more value than that, is not all that different from recognizing the illegitimate authority of The Episcopal Church and the Church of Canada. Henry never had the authority to redefine the Corps of the Church, nor do we. 

. . . And, therefore, since all Christendom is one corps, I cannot perceive how any member therof may, without consent of the body, depart from the common head.  And then if we may not lawfully leave it by ourself, I cannot perceive, but if the thing were a treating in a General Council, what the question would avail, whether the primacy were instituted immediately by God, or ordained by the Church.
            As for the general councils assembled lawfully, I never could perceive but that in the declaration of the truths it is believed to be standen to; the authority thereof ought to be taken for undoubtable, or else were there in nothing no certainty, but through Christendom upon every man's affectionate reason, all things might be brought from day to day to continual ruffle and confusion, from which by the general councils, the spirit of God assisting, every such council well assembled keepeth and ever shall keep the corps of his Catholic Church. (Thomas More to Thomas Cromwell – March 5, 1534)


Note: The historical references are from lectures by Prof. Dale Hoak of Wm and Mary College; The Last Letters of Thomas More, Letter 5 “To Thomas Cromwell, Chelsea, 5 March 1534.” Edited by Alvaro de Silva, and Life and Writings of Sir Thomas More,.by Thomas Edward Bridgett



Bishop’s Note: July 28, 2016 – The Lord's Prayer


Bishop Eric Menees

This last Sunday the gospel lesson was taken from the eleventh chapter of Luke, which begins with the shortened version of the Lord’s Prayer – or perhaps what should be called the “Disciple’s Prayer” – Jesus said; “When you pray, say…”

“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:2-4 ESV) It is impossible for us to understand how outrageous this prayer would have sounded to first-century Jewish ears. To refer to Yahweh as Father – Abba – Papi would have presumed a familiarity that would have been offensive. But that is exactly what Jesus was saying – that we, the disciples of Jesus, are the adopted children of God (John 1:12). Let’s examine this prayer:

ABBA. Father. You can guarantee that John the Baptist never prayed to God saying “ABBA.” Too few of us accept our place as God’s adopted children, choosing to keep our relationships formal and distant. But clearly Jesus is inviting us into a relationship that is both profoundly intimate and transcendent at the same time.

“…hallowed be your name.” We must honor and give reverence to God’s name! We must take this relationship seriously. However we must also remember that ours is not an unknowable Heavenly Father. But one whose name is holy as is His character – His attributes – His perfection. Jesus refers to this when he says in his prayer, “[28] Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” (John 12:28 ESV) It is not we who glorify or make holy God’s name – God does it!

Your kingdom come! What does this mean - your kingdom come?
On the one hand - we’re asking for God’s rule and reign to continually advance in our hearts and lives here and now. On the other hand – we’re asking for God’s sovereign to break into a fallen world – not just the individual lives of believers but the lives of all people. Of course, God began to answer that prayer with Jesus’ incarnation – His birth – and he will complete that prayer with Jesus’ second coming! Ultimately this is where the trust starts coming in. If we are going to allow God to be our King we need to trust the king!

Give us each day our daily bread… God’s perfect provision isn’t simply for our stomachs, but for all the believers needs. Remembering that our needs and our desires are not the same.

We’ve discovered over and over again as people are preparing to step out of their properties at just the right moment God opens up the right place.
And you know what? God’s provision is always perfect and sufficient.
I think of when I first stepped out of the Episcopal Church in San Diego. The Bishop of San Diego gave an interview to the newspaper.

The following week an anonymous check arrived for $10,000 from someone in Maryland who read the article online and wanted to support us. A new person showed up the first Sunday – again based on the newspaper article – he was a retired sheriff’s deputy and a wonderful wood worker. After the service he said, “Hey if your interested I can build you an altar, lectern, credence table, tabernacle and processional cross!"  And he did! Could I have every guessed that things like that would happen? NO but when we Trust in the Lord he comes though.

And forgive us our sins… This prayer is not the initial forgiveness of sin that we receive in Salvation when we invite Christ into our lives and accept his love and forgiveness. This prayer recognizes our need for regular confession of the ways we’ve missed the mark and put ourselves before the Lord. Regularly asking for forgiveness is a very helpful reminder of our sinfulness and need for forgiveness. When we are aware of our sinfulness we stop making excuses for our selves and rely upon God’s Grace and love.

This prayer is offered with a promise from scripture that God is good and forgiving…“if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV)

for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us… Oh that these words will come to fruition! That we, like Jesus, may have the grace and love to forgive those who have offended us. Oh that we may be released from the bondage of our lack of forgiveness – resentment that can cloud and cover all aspects of our lives.

And lead us not into temptation. This statement should not be interpreted as thinking – that God would lead us into temptation – in fact, scripture teaches the opposite… “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15 ESV) We entreat God, who orders all things in heaven and on earth to guide us in such as way that our best selves come to the fore rather than our worst!

Ultimately what this prayer is asking is that God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will so transform our hearts that our desire will be what God desires.

I pray you all a very blessed week.




Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bishop’s Note: July 21, 2016 – Stop. Rest. Listen.

Bishop Eric Menees

Last Sunday’s gospel lesson was taken from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. This was the account of Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha. You’ll remember that this scripture, taken from verses 38-42, reminds us of Martha’s anxiety at serving Jesus and the disciples, while her sister Mary chose the better portion by choosing to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his teaching.

The Lord’s timing is always perfect, and given the events of this past week, along with the accompanying anxiety over news of the impending confiscation of our properties, the story of Martha and Mary is timely.

Martha always gets the bad wrap, but who can blame her for being anxious? Jesus and the disciples show up unannounced. First century custom required hospitality to be offered, and she was stuck working all alone, to serve all of those people.

Ultimately, Jesus’ gentle rebuke of Martha, (“Martha, Martha you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”), and his praise of Mary, was an act of love — to her and to us.

Like Martha, we all experience anxiety, for a variety of reasons, and we’d be naive to think that Mary didn’t experience the same anxious pull as Martha. Cultural mores are strong, and yet Mary recognizes the opportunity before her, and it outweighs her anxiety. Her actions serve as an example for us in dealing with our own anxiety – from whatever source that anxiety may come.

First, when we start to feel anxious, we need to STOP for a second and ask the question: “What is the source of my anxiety, and is this a matter of life and death?”

Secondly, we need to REST. When we don't slow down - when our anxiety pushes us - we start spinning our wheels, and rather than accomplishing a great deal, we accomplish very little. More importantly, in our anxious activity we start to think that WE have the ability to fix whatever problem lies before us. In this thinking, we lose sight of that fact that it is, in reality, God who is the one who can take care of whatever problem lies before us. When we rest in the Lord, we submit to him with the knowledge that he is sovereign -  he is almighty, all powerful, and all knowing. In him, we can trust and rest.

Lastly, we need to LISTEN. While Luke doesn't record what Jesus taught that night, whatever it was, Martha missed out. If we don't stop and listen, there is no telling what we may miss out on. In a world where we have so many voices calling to us for attention, we need to focus on Jesus and his voice!

Ultimately, Jesus wants to free us from the slavery of anxiety by inviting us to stop anxiously working, rest at his feet, and listen to him. 

In light of the decision by the Supreme Court, and the process we’ve begun to hand over the confiscated properties, we do well to remember the example of Mary – to Stop, Rest, and Listen.

I pray you all a truly blessed week!


Catechism Questions: 315-317

315. How else is the Seventh Commandment broken?
Fornication, same-gender sexual acts, rape, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, pornography, lust, or any other form of self-centered sexual desire and behavior, all violate this law. (Leviticus 18; Romans 1:18-28; Matthew 5:27-30)

316. What does it mean for you to be chaste?
It means that I must refrain from sexual acts outside of marriage; and I must respect myself and all others in body, mind, and spirit; practice sexual purity; and view others as image bearers of God, not as objects of personal gratification. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7)

317. How do you benefit from chastity?
Chastity enables me to give of myself in friendship, avoid difficulty in marriage, and experience the true freedom of integrity before God. (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bishop’s Note: July 14, 2016 – The Good Samaritan

Bishop Eric Menees

Last week I had the privilege of celebrating Holy Eucharist, confirming two people, and preaching at St. David’s - San Rafael. The gospel lesson, for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, was taken from Luke Chapter 10, verses 25-37 – the Parable of the Good Samaritan. This is one of the most well-known and beloved teachings of Jesus.

One of the traits of the parables of Jesus is the implicit invitation to identify with one of the characters in the parable. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, most often we are invited to identify with either the Priest or the Levite who pass by the robbed and beaten man, crossing to the other side of the road. Or we can identify with the Good Samaritan who stops and helps the man who has been beaten, robbed, and left for dead. 

If I am honest, I can say that I can identify with all three. There are times when I’ve stopped and helped, like the Good Samaritan. There are other times when I’ve passed by, rationalizing my behavior; excusing myself, feeling convicted by the Holy Spirit, and repenting.

Of course, what we strive for is to model our lives after the example of the Good Samaritan. Recognizing the inherent value of all people, (regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, economic status, etc., etc.) we would stop and offer sacrificial help to the person in need, and thereby demonstrate the love of Christ.

There are times, however, when we identify not with the Good Samaritan, the Priest, or the Levite, but with the man who was beaten and robbed. All of us, to one extent or another, are that man. Life’s injustices and pains, unmet hopes and dreams, and just the reality of living in a fallen world, beat us down and injure the soul.

It is in this realization of our own woundedness, that we recognize that in Jesus Christ we have so much more than just a Good Samaritan – we have a risen Lord and Savior, who died for our sins and rose again!  In Jesus Christ, we may have been beaten down and robbed, but we are not now - and will never be - left in the gutter. We have God the Holy Spirit to lift us up and propel us forward. Our identity is not as a victim, but as a transformed and victorious adopted child of God.

My prayer for each of us in these difficult times is that we will live the victorious life that Jesus calls us to. It is not an easy or comfortable life. It is, however, a life full of purpose and grace; full of opportunities to love and serve the Lord. And to that I say… AMEN!

The Lord bless and keep you all!

Catechism Questions: 312-314

312. What does marriage illustrate?
The New Testament reveals that human marriage is meant to reflect the faithful love that unites Christ to his Church. (Ephesians 5:21-33)

313. What does it mean to be faithful in marriage?
To be faithful in marriage is to be exclusively devoted in heart, mind, and body to one’s spouse in the marriage covenant. (Ephesians 5:29-31)

314. Is divorce ever permitted?
Although he permits divorce in some cases, God hates it. It severs what he has joined, and causes immeasurable pain, suffering and brokenness. (Malachi 2:13-16; Matthew 19:1-12; 1 Corinthians 7:12-16)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pentecost 8C 2016

The Good Samaritan

Fr. Dale Matson


We begin this week as we began last week. In a society, which has been led to believe that I’m OK and your OK, we now wonder if there is still a right and wrong. The Epistle lesson for last Sunday stated in part, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”

Our opening collect for this week states in part, “O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them.”

Our Epistle lesson for this week also states, “For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work.

It seems obvious to me that God is leading us by our readings to the Gospel lesson for today. Good conduct is not optional for the Christian. The Christian must first know the proper conduct and then follow through. We are faced with moral decisions all of the time. Sometimes we do the wrong thing out of ignorance, that is, we don’t know any better or simply out of inattention. For example, how about jaywalking? Here is what California state code 21955 states, “…pedestrians shall not cross the roadway at any place except in a crosswalk.” How many folks knew that? How many folks know that and have done it anyway?

Our Gospel lesson is about the right thing to do but you will see that it is much more than that. “Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" He answered, "You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 

I think this is not just a lawyerly question that he asked. It is the same question that we would ask. He wanted to know what the minimum requirement was so that he could honor only the letter of the law. He didn’t want to honor the spirit of the law, which went far beyond what he was willing to accept. It’s kind of like when I would be lecturing in a class and a student would ask me, “Will this be on the test?” My usual response was, “Why of course, everything I say may be on the test.” 

Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. This is important to listen here since Jesus is saying that the man was naked and probably unconscious from the beating thus his nationality, social status or even that he is alive cannot be determined. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

First, let me explain the difference between a priest and a Levite. All priests are Levites but not all Levites are priests. Levites are temple assistants to the Priests. Priests were descendants of Aaron who was a Levite. Levites were the tribe that did not worship the Golden Calf.

So why did the priest and Levite pass by this man? It is possible that they believed that the man was dead and to touch him would have made them ritually unclean. They both knew the Law and neither deemed the man their neighbor.They, like the lawyer had lived by the letter of the law. This is an important point Jesus is always making that we must live by the spirit of the law.

Jesus emphasized the spirit of the law over the letter quite clearly in the Gospel of Mark when He criticized the Pharisees who believed that the money a man set aside as tithes for the temple could be withheld from his needy parents.

But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." 

Jesus turns the lawyer’s question around. Which of these three was a neighbor. In this, He is putting the burden on the lawyer himself. In other words, He is asking the lawyer, “To whom are you a neighbor not who is your neighbor?”

Jesus was also shaming His fellow Jew by using a hated Samaritan as the one who was willing to take the risk of helping the injured man who could even have been a Jew himself.
Really, there were more reasons not to help the injured man than to help him. The Jews would not be blamed for passing by an enemy if he was a hated Samaritan. Remember, the Jews were very concerned about someone’s pedigree, their social standing. In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, when Philip told Nathanial that they had found the savior, Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanial said, “Can anything good come out Nazareth?”

The thieves were possibly still in the area and might attack someone else. Unfortunately it is only too easy to see us as the upstanding and proud Levite or Priest and not the Samaritan.
What Jesus is saying in this parable is that of the three men who encountered the injured man, only the Samaritan man was motivated by love. His love was merciful, nurturing, generous, sacrificial, courageous and unconditional.

Now I would like to examine the story of the Good Samaritan on a more symbolic level that I believe Jesus was intending also. The Parables are like a mine that continues to yield nuggets of gold. Like the parable of the prodigal, it is possible to see ourselves in any one of the three persons. In one sense we can be the prodigal and at another time we may be the older brother and finally we can be the father. In the Prodigal it is the older brother who did what was right but lived the letter of the law not the spirit. He was righteous, did what was expected of him but he was not gracious. The father is similar to the Good Samaritan. Both are benevolent and selfless.

So, who really is the Good Samaritan in this parable? I believe the Good Samaritan is Jesus referring to Himself. The Jews hate him, like the Samaritan. Who is the man the man robbed and beaten by thieves, lying naked and half dead along the road? That man is us. We are the ones rescued by the Good Samaritan Jesus. In the Gospel of John (10:10) Jesus states, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have [it] abundantly.” We have been nearly killed by Satan.

Whom do the priest and Levite represent? They are the proper people, the self-righteous, and the people who are religious but not spiritual. They are the ones who live by the letter of the law not the spirit of the law. They do the right thing but they do not love. This can be us too just as we can be the prodigals or the older brother depending on the day of the week. These are the people trying to remove the sliver from their neighbor’s eye but suffering from a stick in their own.

Let’s take the symbolism even further. The Samaritan used oil and wine to dress the man’s wounds. The oil represents the Holy Spirit and the wine represents the Blood of Christ. “By His stripes we were healed.” (1Peter 2:24) What is the inn? It is the church where we are cared for until His return. This of course is His return to earth. The innkeeper is the Holy Spirit who cares for the church and us until His return.

If we examine the story of the Good Samaritan today in light of the events in our nation and how we respond to them would there be people who would be unhappy that the tale of the Good Samaritan was not about justice also? The thieves beat and robbed the man. Jesus does not deal with the injustice of the crime and the fact that the thieves were not apprehended and punished. This is a story about love and neighbor not justice.

When I think about all the suffering in this world it is easy for us to get caught up in it, to dwell on it, to ruminate on it. It is important to stay informed but it is also important not to be overwhelmed by excessive reading, listening and watching what is going on in this fallen world today. I recommend not being immersed to the extent that you’re constantly fearful. Fear is bad for us. Fear causes us to internalize, to only think of ourselves and “awfulize”. Fear isolates us. It is when I am in the worry frame of mind that the Holy Spirit speaks to me.
 
The Holy Spirit asks me the usual questions. Are you sharing the beautiful? Do you have too much? (Red Hot Chili Peppers- “Give it away”) When is the last time you called your sister? Have you invited your son to lunch lately? Did you exercise today? Are you being a good steward of your body? Have you been productive? Is the world a better place because of your actions today? Have you offered a word of encouragement to the discouraged? Are you about your Father’s business? Dwell on the good! Dwell on the Good! Amen