Revs Jim & Kathleen Splitt
Sept. 26, 1999
Luke 10:25-37 Matthew 22:36-40 Acts 2:22-24
Luke 10:25-37 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: " ‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ " "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
Matt. 22:36-40 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Acts 2:22-24 "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. For God raised Christ up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Jim’s Homily . . .
I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I did not admit to this for a long, long time. I kept it a secret, from my parents, from classmates, from everyone. I was molested by an older neighbor boy, who lived on our street. When his family moved the abuse stopped. In the 1950s there was not an emphasis on child abuse as there is today. I did not know then as I do today that what happened was abuse and it was a violation against me.
Over the course of my life and my career in ministry, I continue to learn about the nature of abuse and domestic violence. In the mid 1980s I developed specialized pastoral counseling skills to deal with the issues surrounding abuse. I led a weekly Bible Study at a battered women’s shelter in South Toledo. As a pastoral counselor, I helped adults molested as children recover from tormenting memory. My work as a Chaplain at The Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, NY, a residential treatment center for abused children, had prepared and sensitized me for this kind of ministry.
Yet, I realized a growing concern. Other pastors and church leaders were not aware of the issues involving abuse, neglect, family violence, and crimes against women and children. I also became more and more aware incidents recent and throughout history where the church failed to minister to those who were suffering from being victims of horrifying abusive situations. Often church leaders looked the other way, leaving social service agencies to deal with the problem. I have talked with survivors of abuse who said they could not go to their pastor or priest because they would only be made to feel guilty and ashamed. I have talked with individuals who were victimized by abuse in the church by religious leaders and church members. I have talked with women who have left the Christian faith because of the historical practice of the Christian church dehumanizing women and making them feel inferior in the church. For example, I will not use the words in the marriage service, "Who gives this woman to this man." Women are not property to be handed over from father to husband. It is a disgrace that the church ever promoted such a practice. It is time for women to be welcomed in the pulpit instead of shunned.
An expert in Jewish law asked Jesus, "what must I do to inherit eternal life." I would guess that we have all heard the reply, and many of us have memorized the answer. Love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength (emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically). AND, we are to love our neighbor, as we love our self. If we do this then we will LIVE!
Loving God with our whole being is coupled with loving others with the same love we have for our self. Herein lies the problem. Those who abuse and make others suffer have no self-love. They are filled with self-hatred. They act out in harmful and cruel ways to others. All of the recent examples of school shootings stem from individuals hurting from self-hatred. Jesus does not want anyone in this world to feel unloved. It is from a healthy position of love that we can realize the promise of eternal life. Those of us who have a healthy sense of self-respect and love need to pass this on. We need to love those in need with a love that will not fail. The church of Jesus Christ must be the compassionate caring heart of God to anyone who is along side the road in agony and pain. The church must welcome the victim and provide a safe sanctuary for healing.
People who have self-esteem do not abuse. People with NO SELF-ESTEEM abuse. It is the acting out of self-hatred upon another. Jesus response to this teacher of the law in one of the most important lessons we can learn in developing healthy relationships. Our church must continually be a place that restores, lifts up, and safe guard self esteem as the very blessing of God on each and every one of us.
When Jesus said, "DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE", Jesus commanded us to love others with the same love that God has for us. This church is filled with loving people who are enriched with a great capacity to care for and love others as God has loved us. Let us be the church where every stranger feels welcome. . Let us be the church where the lonely, the hurt, the oppressed, the handicapped, the victimized can feel safe and the violators can be loved back into loving themselves. Let us be the church of Jesus Christ that walks the walk of the Good Samaritan.
References: Women in Travail & Transition: A New Pastoral Care. Ed. by Maxine Glaz and Jeanne Stevenson Moessner. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1991. Telling the Truth; Preaching about sexual and domestic violence. Ed. by John S. McClure and Nancy J. Ramsay. Cleveland, OH: United Church Press, 1998.