Parable of the Good Samaritan – Luke 10:30-37
Your neighbor is anyone who is in need and whose need you are able to meet.
The large commercial kitchen smelled like chopped onions, freshly peeled potatoes, and beef broth. A mostly volunteer kitchen staff of ten, guided by two veteran professional chefs, was working together to prepare a hearty lunch for a group of about three hundred homeless that were already lined up around the block. Josh and Emily spent most Saturday mornings serving at the shelter. On this day, they were chopping carrots and onions for a beef stew that would be served at noon. Standing next to each other at a stainless steel work station, wearing hair nets and gloves, both sliced away as though they’d been working in the kitchen for years.
Josh was chopping carrots next to Emily who was working on the onions. Both were un-phased by the pungent onion aroma wafting up from the pile of chopped onions accumulating in front of Emily. Working like a well-oiled machine, Josh was able to let his mind drift away from the task at hand and consider his spiritual connection to God.
Glancing over at Emily as he worked, Josh shared what was on his mind. “Jesus said the most important thing for us to do is love God and love our neighbor, right?”
“Yes.” Emily confirmed.
“Okay, and I read last night that our neighbor is anyone who is in need and whose need we are able to meet.” Josh said.
“I guess there’s some truth in there,” Emily suggested as she worked to wrap her mind around that thought. “But everyone is in need of something.”
“Exactly,” Josh agreed. “And if we can’t meet their need, then they’re not our neighbor?” Josh asked trying to make some sense out of the statement he read the night before.
“That doesn’t sound right,” Emily suggested. Then she took a moment to formulate a new point of view. “How about this: Everyone needs to move closer to God and we can help everyone meet that need.”
“So everyone is our neighbor!” Josh announced in agreement with Emily’s point of view.
“Precisely,” Emily said.
“Then we’ve got our work cut out for us, don’t we?” Josh said.
Josh scooped up his chopped carrots and tossed them into a large stainless bowl. Emily scooped up her chopped onions in another stainless bowl. Together they walked across the busy kitchen to a large steam kettle that was bolted to the floor and dumped in the results of their labor.
After their work at the downtown shelter, Josh and Emily took some time to stroll through the business district of Los Angeles. They walked across a footbridge that spanned a busy street below in a high-rise canyon of towering office buildings. From this vantage point, they could see a surging sea of well-dressed men and women scurrying about on their way to a late lunch or back to work. They stopped on the bridge to observe the migration.
“At the homeless shelter, it’s so obvious what the needs are, but all these people have needs as well,” Josh considered.
“They’re all hungry for something,” Emily observed.
“They all need shelter from something,” Josh countered, following Emily’s line of thinking.
Emily suddenly had a spark of an idea and looked over at Josh. “We should go down there and ask them what they need,” she said.
Josh wasn’t sure how that would work. “One at a time? That will take forever,” he said, not wanting to leave anyone out. “And a lot of them will be too busy to talk with us or flat out hate the fact that strangers are confronting them on the street.”
Josh was considering everyone to be his neighbor and sincerely wanted to do whatever he could to help them all. Emily was working the problem in a more analytical process. She wanted to come up with a way to offer help that was realistic, well within their abilities.
“We should advertise!” Emily blurted out in a moment of clarity.
“Advertise what?” Josh asked.
“Help for those in need.”
“And have them call us?” Josh asked.
Emily’s mind was working overtime as she quickly formulated her plan to seek and save the lost.
“No, we can ask Pastor Mark to have a special meeting for those seeking more information about Jesus and what it means to follow him.”
Josh immediately connected with Emily’s idea. “And we advertise all over social media and anywhere else we can find them,” he said.
“Right!” Emily agreed. “We go fishing for seekers,” she said.
It didn’t take long for Emily’s seeker’s meeting to materialize. About a month later Emily and Josh were strolling in the night air toward an empty church parking lot. The lights were on and it was clear that Faith Bible Church was open for business, but no one had yet arrived.
“How many do you think will show up?” Emily asked Josh as they both looked down the street eager to see the seekers pour into the parking lot.
“We had a lot of sing ups,” Josh reminded Emily.
“You know how that works,” Emily lamented. “A lot of people sign up but then don’t show up.”
A sweep of headlights danced across Emily and Josh as the first car pulled into the parking lot with a second car immediately behind.
“I think they’ll all show up,” Josh said as he walked over to greet the first visitor, a young woman just stepping out of her car.
“Which way is the seekers meeting?” the woman asked Josh as he approached.
“I’ll show you the way,” Josh said extending his hand. “Hi, I’m Josh.”
Emily was greeting a young couple and helping them find their way to the seeker’s meeting as a continuous stream of cars poured into the church parking lot. Josh and Emily continued to work the parking lot with a handful of other church volunteers, making sure everyone found their way to the meeting.
When Josh and Emily arrived at the conference room that had been set up for the seeker’s meeting, they found it full of mingling seekers sharing coffee and snacks. Chairs were set up theater style facing a movie screen with a colorful welcome slide being displayed. Pastor Mark, the senior pastor at Faith Bible Church, didn’t look any different than the other forty casually dressed visitors; nevertheless, he was easy to spot as he worked the room greeting each and every one with a warm smile and friendly handshake. When he spotted Emily and Josh at the back of the room, he worked his way over to connect with them as well.
“You guys did a wonderful job helping us find some new neighbors,” Pastor Mark said to Josh and Emily.
“Praise God!” Emily said. “I’d like to think it was His idea.”
“Is everyone here, Josh?” Pastor Marked asked, knowing Josh had the official count.
“Everyone who signed up is here, plus five who didn’t sign up,” Josh shared with joy.
“Well, let’s see if we can’t get them pointed in the right direction,” Pastor Mark suggested.
“They all need Jesus, Pastor Mark,” Josh proclaimed.
“Yes they do,” Pastor Mark confirmed.
With that, Pastor Mark flipped on his wireless microphone already hanging from his ear and began speaking to the seekers as he made his way to the front of the room.
“Welcome everyone!” Pastor Mark began. “Thank you so much for accepting our invitation…”