United Church of Jaffrey
An excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr’s I’ve Been to the Mountain Top speech, delivered April 3, 1968. (King was assassinated the next day of April 4, 1968):
The Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about 2200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked — the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
One of the challenges of being a minister is to try to shape ones words from the pulpit not only to the respond to Bible, and our contemporary world, but also to the life of the congregation.
I want to acknowledge two events in the life of the congregation this morning.
The first is that we have lost a dear member of our congregation this last week. Norma Houghton died on Thursday afternoon.
The second is that we have celebrated a baptism here this morning.
In the life of a church, we acknowledge all the movements of life.
Baptism and death are both thoughtfully considered in this place.
Allow me to begin, today, by thanking Frankie and Charley, and all of our esteemed guests who have joined us this morning, for giving us – the United Church of Jaffrey – the honor of baptizing this fine young lad, Korbyn Barry.
We love baptisms – and we don’t get enough of them around here.
Now Baptism is a both a sacrament and a rite of passage.
To say that it is a sacrament, is to say that it is very important in a deeply sacred way.
To say that it is a rite of passage, is to acknowledge that it marks a moment when something changes in the life of both the individual and his or her community.
As we grow from infancy into childhood, and then as we gradually move from childhood into adulthood, we take part in different rites of passage.
The rites of passage that we observe depend a great deal on the culture and religion of which we are a part.
Baptism is a Christian rite of passage.
A Bar Mitzvah is a Jewish rite of passage.
Fifteen-year-old girls in Latin cultures have a big party called a Quinceañera.
Marriage, of course, is a rite of passage that takes place in different ways in different cultures.
Rites of passage are often connected to transitional moments in our lives – moments when we move, both physically, and emotionally, from childhood into adolescence, for example, or from being single into being married.
At such moments, it is important for the individual to know that they are part of a supportive community.
We just acted this out together in a beautiful way.
We just did this together – with one voice we welcomed Korbyn into our community… A special community.
A community based on the teachings of Christ.
So what’s so great about that?
Why create a community around the teachings of a person who lived more then 2000 years ago?
Let’s look at the parable of the Good Samaritan – today’s scripture lesson.
The parable takes place on a road – the “Jericho Road.”
In this morning’s second reading, which is taken from the speech that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr gave a few hours before he was killed by an assassin’s bullet, Dr. King told us something about the Jericho Road:
“That’s a dangerous road. (he said) It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.”
Dr. King has shown us something about Jesus’ teaching.
Jesus’ parables took place in the real world.
Make no mistake. Jesus was not naïve. He did not pretend that our world is a safe or easy place to be.
He knew that when you live a human life, you often find yourself on Jericho Road…
And Jericho Road is a dangerous road.
On Jericho Road, it is entirely possible that you may be attacked by robbers.
You may be beaten and left to die.
In the parable, this, in fact, is what happens to someone. Jesus tells us about a man who has been beaten up and left to die.
Jesus knows that this kind of thing happens. His listeners also know about it. They all know about Jericho Road.
Knowing about Jericho Road, is part of what it means to grow up.
As we grow up, and become adults, we learn that life is not all fun and games. We learn to be careful. We learn to be suspicious of other people’s motives. This is what we call being “Street wise.” Whenever we meet a person, we look them up and down, and we decide whether they can be trusted.
We do this, because we know…
We know that Jericho Road is a dangerous road.
And Jesus does not only know about the robbers who might beat you up the leave you to die on the road.
Jesus goes on to tell us about two other people – a priest and a Levite – who are also on Jericho Road.
The priest and the Levite are a certain kind of people.
These two are not like the robbers – they don’t actively do bad things. But in their own way, these two also make Jericho Road a dangerous road.
They just don’t care.
They come walking down Jericho Road… they see the man who is hurt… and they cross the road.
They pretend that the dying man is not there.
Not caring has its advantages – at least for them.
It is more efficient not to care. These two people will likely get to Jericho pretty quickly.
The parable could end here, and it might seem quite realistic to many people.
Many people have had the experience of that the dying man — victims of violence abandoned by the side of the road, and neglected by people who just don’t care.
But Jesus’ parable does not end there.
Jesus tells us about a Samaritan – a person that most of his listeners would consider kind of a low life.
This lowlife Samaritan comes along.
And he cares.
He tends to the man’s wounds, and takes him to an Inn.
He even uses his own money to pay for the dying man’s lodging while he heals.
Jericho Road, is a dangerous road.
But it is also a compassionate road.
It is a road that can lead to violent death.
And it is a road that can lead to healing.
It all depends on who is traveling on that road.
When we baptize a young person into the community of Christ, we baptize that young person into a community that based on the idea that love is real.
Love is real.
Jericho Road is real…
But love, also, is real.
True, powerful, inefficient, strong love.
So welcome Korbyn
Korbyn, you and your parents should know that there are people on the Jericho Road, who will stop and help you if you are ever in need.
A great example of people who are just like this, are the love ones of Norma Houghton, our dear friend who died last Thursday.
Norma had a terrible disease, called Alzheimers.
Slowly, over a long period of time, her mind became lost to this disease.
But her family did not leave her alone on Jericho Road.
Her family stood by her throughout her long decline.
They not only took care of her, they also worked tirelessly to advocate for other people who have the same disease that she had.
So when you enter this community, Korbyn, you enter a community of people who care.
And welcome again to everyone here.
Welcome to the community that cares.