We All Know the Story. Right?

NOTE: I posted this poem, although I consider it incomplete–due to time and commitment pressures at the General Conference of Metropolitan Community Churches in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Reflection in response to Proper 10, 8th Sunday after Pentecost

(click here for biblical texts)

We all know the story.
Jesus continues on his journey to Jerusalem;
even as his face is set toward danger
he is asked the question we may well ask
if we are brave enough to trust we can bear the answer:
What must I do, how must I live, to inherit eternal life?
It’s so simple, Jesus seems to say in response:
You shall love 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.
He does not have to come up with a new teaching,
he merely cites Deuteronomy and Leviticus
like a good judge calling on precedent already set
to decide the case. But his interlocutor, lawyer or scribe,
has a further question: then who is my neighbor?
Is it a trick question or is it a sincere seeking after wisdom?
Or do we care?

And do we really know the story?
It all seems so neat, so tidy. We are to show mercy,
as the lawyer concludes, be kind to others,
help the stranger stranded by the side of the road.
But, but, always the but, with Jesus,
we should know by now that our Lord teaches
at many levels, with meanings within meanings.
Maybe here it is good to ask, for example,
who is it from whom we cannot imagine mercy,
from whom we would not want mercy, whose kindness
would set our teeth on edge?
Who is it whom we cannot imagine as neighbor?
Is the man from ISIS my neighbor? Is the gunman
mowing down dancers in Orlando my neighbor?
Is the presidential candidate who says everything
I abhor my neighbor? Is David Duke my neighbor?
Is the policeman who kills a black man on the ground my neighbor?
Are any of them your neighbors? Why or why not?
Can we say their names in the same sentence
as neighbor, or do we, like the lawyer who refuses
to say “the Samaritan,” choose to look and speak the other way?

The prophet Amos and his plumb line perhaps
can help us here, or make it even harder:
do you, do I, do we, hold ourselves to the same
standard we insist for others? Of course, not!
We are human! Is the status quo
too often our refuge as it was for Amaziah
the priest–not a bad man we might say, just
a little protective of the king? Do we have
the national flag in our sanctuary reminding us
that Jeroboam or his successor today is king?
Where do we pledge allegiance, really?
Do we accept immigration
quotas so we don’t have too many of them, the others,
invading our space? Our space, our country,
our land, our, our, my, my, my, my,
but whose is it anyway?

That ditch was on the open road, a dangerous road
we are told, between Jerusalem and Jericho, maybe
like a highway going too close to inner city “danger
zones,” nonetheless part of God’s creation, God’s earth,
where people may, if they choose, freely go. But would we
even be on that road, and would be we be walking so we
could see a person in the ditch? Or would we be whizzing
by in our SUV unable to see someone in distress,
and if we did see them, would we stop? Would we call
911, or would we think, hope, someone else would do it?
Or would it not even occur to us to call?
Would we wonder why these danger zones exist and
would our answer be to blame those who live there,
avoiding any culpability for ourselves or those who
profit from these places.

We all know the story. Right?

©Robin Gorsline 2016 faithfulpoetics.net