Archive for the ‘Good Samaritan’ Tag

The Overnighters (2014)   1 comment

Overnighters 02

Above:  The Title Card of The Overnighters

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD



Directed by Jesse Moss

Rated PG-13

1 Hour, 42 Minutes

The Overnighters is a powerful documentary which reminds me of George Carlin‘s critique of the American Dream:  we call it that because we must be asleep to believe it.  The setting is Williston, North Dakota, an oil boomtown which the film presents as a place dominated by residents fearful of job seekers moving into the community.  The rapid change includes the presence of more job seekers (including desperate men with criminal records) than jobs.  Where will they sleep until they find work and housing?  And what, if anything, should the city government do to extend hospitality to them or to make the town a less inviting place?

The biblical commandment to extend hospitality is an order to save lives.  Violations of that command reside at the heart of Genesis 19 (Sodom and Gomorrah) and Matthew 25:31-46.  The Good Samaritan–an oxymoron in the opinions of many people in the original audience for the parable–extended hospitality to the brutalized traveler in Luke 10:25-37.  In that parable the main question is, who acted as a neighbor to the man on the road to Jericho?  The conclusion is that the Good Samaritan was that neighbor, and that we who encounter that story have a mandate from God to go and do likewise.

Overnighters 01

Above:  Jay Reinke Being Introspective

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

Pastor Jay Reinke of Concordia Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) went and did likewise.  During the period of about two years (until the City of Williston shut down the Overnighters program) more than a thousand people slept in the church building and hundreds more slept in their cars, which they parked in the church’s parking lot.  The Overnighters program prompted much hostility in the community, opposition in the church, an exodus of members from the congregation, strained Reinke’s marriage, and filled much time he would have spent with this family otherwise.

The members of the Reinke family–all of them remarkable, generous, compassionate, and Christian people–made themselves vulnerable.  They did the right thing at the right time at the right place–even taking some of the Overnighters into their home.  Jay Reinke, the main figure in the documentary, admits to being a broken person (all people are broken, he says accurately) and questions his motives.  He also makes difficult decisions–sometimes making the wrong decisions–and finds that former allies have become bitter enemies.  Reinke is a mere mortal, for better and for worse–more of the former than the latter.  Who of us always makes good decisions, especially in difficult circumstances?  And who of us acts consistently out of pure motives?  I am not Reinke’s judge.  I conclude, in fact, that his greatest strength as a minister is his awareness of his weaknesses, for that helps him to recognize the potential in people and to reach out to assist them.  His cracks let the light in.

The documentary takes a dramatic turn in the final minutes, after the Overnighters program has ceased.  Reinke’s wife, who has known for years that he struggles with same-sex attraction, learns of a fairly recent infidelity which has led to extortion.  This revelation leads to Reinke’s public confession and the termination of his time as pastor at Concordia Lutheran Church, for The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod is officially homophobic.  The documentary informs us that Reinke is seeking work in the oil fields.  He has, in fact, found work as a salesman in that industry.  He can support his family, but he is not using his greatest gifts to do so.

The recent decline in oil and gasoline prices, which constitute good news for many of us, constitutes bad news for the oil industry in North Dakota.  I wonder how this reality will affect Reinke and many others working in that industry there.  I also hope that he will find a professional position which will permit him to support his family and to utilize his ministerial vocation, for that is where he belongs.  His story deserves a happy conclusion.

The Overnighters challenges me to ask myself if I would have acted hospitably in the context of the events of the documentary or if I would have acted out of fear.  Then it challenges me to look around where I am and ask myself if I am acting hospitably in the city where I reside.  Affirming pious principles is easier than acting according to them.






Doing the Right Thing, Part I   2 comments


Above:  Christ and His Apostles, 1890

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

O God, you are the source of life and the ground of our being.

By the power of your Spirit bring healing to this wounded world,

and raise us to the new life of your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 15:25-31; 22:1-19 (Monday)

Hosea 8:11-14; 10:1-2 (Tuesday)

Hosea 14:1-9 (Wednesday)

Psalm 40:1-8 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:2 (Monday)

Hebrews 13:1-16 (Tuesday)

Matthew 12:1-8 (Wednesday)


Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,

who does not turn to the proud that follow a lie.

–Psalm 40:4, Common Worship (2000)


Turning is of the essence.

The Kingdom of Israel was prosperous and militarily strong under King Jeroboam II. Yet all was far from well. Idolatry and economic exploitation were commonplace and the alliance with Assyria was dangerous. God, through the prophet Hosea, called the populaton to repent—to change their minds, to turn around. They did not do this, of course, and fearful consequences came to pass. Yet there was also the assurance of forgiveness.

Other assigned radings also concern unwise associations and those perceived to be thus. The lesson from Leviticus 15 demonstrates the antipathy of the Law of Moses toward female biology—in the context of ritual impurity. There were many causes of ritual impurity in that law code. Touching a corpse, coming into contact with a bodily emissions, et cetera, rendered one impure and therefore unfit to fulfill various holy functions. Not doing certain acts just so also resulted in ritual impurity, something contagious. As Jewish Bible scholar Richard Elliott Friedman wrote regarding Leviticus 15:23:

…This tells us something about the nature of impurity. It spreads throughout a person or object. And it is not any kind of creature, like bacteria. It is a pervasive condition.

Commentary on the Torah (2001), page 365

The fear of bad influences present in Hosea and Leviticus exists also in the New Testament readings. Indeed, we ought to care deeply about the nature of our peer groups and our intimate partners, for they do influence us. But we should never forget that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, scandalized respectable people by associationg with marginalized and disreputable people. The sick need a doctor, he said. If we who call ourselves Christians mean what our label indicates, how many respectable people will we offend and scandalize?

We ought also to avoid using piety (such as keeping the Sabbath in Matthew 12:1-8) as an excuse for missing the point. Human needs mater. Sometimes they prove incompatible with a form of piety which only those of a certain socio-economic status can afford to keep. And we should never use piety as an excuse not to commit a good deed, as one character in the Parable of the Good Samaritan did. If the man lying by the side of the raod had been dead, the priest would have become ritually impure by touching him. Then the cleric would have been unfit to conduct certain rites. Human needs matter more, or at least they should.

May we repent of using any excuse for not doing the right thing. May our active love for each other spread like a contagion—a good one.








Adapted from This Post:


Compassion and Scandal   2 comments


Above:  The Good Samaritan’s Inn

Image Source = Library of Congress



The Assigned Readings:

Amos 7:7-14 and Psalm 82


Deuteronomy 20:9-14 and Psalm 25:1-9


Colossians 1:1-14

Luke 10:25-37

The Collect:

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; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 10, Year A:

Proper 10, Year B:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:

Amos 7:

Deuteronomy 30:

Colossians 1:

Luke 10:


The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notoriously difficult due to its geography and the reality that robbers used it as site of frequent crimes.  Did only fools travel it alone?  If so, everyone except the inn keeper in the Parable of the Good Samaritan was foolish.  Those who passed by the crime victim probably did so for more than one reason.  Safety was a concern, for sometimes bandits preyed on compassionate responses.  Other reasons for moving along included apathy and a concern for maintaining ritual purity.  But the unlikely hero was a Samaritan–a heretic, a half-breed, and a marginalized person.

The scandal of the Parable of the Good Samaritan has at least two layers.  Even the possibility of a Good Samaritan proved scandalous to many people originally.  Unfortunately, the parable has become hackneyed for many modern Christians, so I propose pondering who our “Samaritans ” are then paraphrasing the story to restore its fully scandalous nature.  The “Samaritan” should always be the most “other ” person one can name.  So, for one hates Gypsies, the Samaritan might be a Gypsy.  For a xenophobe the Samaritan might be an immigrant.  For an ultra-orthodox person the Samaritan might be a the most relatively heretical individual.  For someone with an especially strong political point of view the Samaritan might be a person from the opposite end of the spectrum.  For a homophobe the Samaritan might be a homosexual.  For a homosexual the Samaritan might be a homophobe.  For an Orangeman the Samaritan might be a Roman Catholic.  The more provocative the paraphrase, the more accurate it is.

Another layer of scandal in the parable is the lesson that sometimes respectable religious concerns and practices obstruct active compassion.  I am convinced that most religious people seek to obey the divine will as they understand it.  But too often many of us do not love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  Too often we make excuses for those who exploit the weak and the vulnerable, including widows, orphans, and the poor.  Too often we seek God’s ways and follow other paths.  Too often we therefore sow the seeds not only of the destruction of others but also of ourselves.  Yet, as Deuteronomy 30:9-14 reminds us, the law of God is very near us–inside us, in fact.  Too often we look for this law in the wrong places.

This law is as simple and difficult as following our Lord and Savior’s instruction:

Go, and do the same yourself.

–Luke 10:37b, The New Jerusalem Bible

In 2001 or 2002 I listened one evening to a public radio program about Hanukkah.  My memory of one story from that program is partial, but the summary of that tale remains with me.  In ancient times there was a rabbi who lacked most of what he needed to observe Hanukkah properly.  He was an especially pious yet closed-minded man at the beginning of the story.  At the end, however, he was pious and open-minded, for a succession of especially unlikely outsiders provided all that he needed.  A Greek wrestler even gave the necessary oil.  That tale, a wonderful piece of Jewish wisdom, is consistent with the readings for this Sunday.  The “other” might be a means of grace, and neighborliness crosses a variety of human-created barriers.

Go, and do the same yourself.






Leviticus and Luke, Part V: Like a Broken Record   1 comment


Above:  A Long-Playing Record

Image Source = Tomasz Sienicki



Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 20:1-16, 22-27 (29th Day of Easter)

Leviticus 21:1-24 (30th Day of Easter)

Leviticus 23:1-22 (31st Day of Easter)

Psalm 93 (Morning–29th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–30th Day of Easter)

Psalm 98 (Morning–31st Day of Easter)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening–29th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–30th Day of Easter)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening–31st Day of Easter)

Luke 11:37-54 (29th Day of Easter)

Luke 12:1-12 (30th Day of Easter)

Luke 12:13-34 (31st Day of Easter)


Some Related Posts:

Leviticus 21-23:

Luke 11-12:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Dedication:


 I admit it; I sound like a broken record:  Loving people and seeking justice for them matters far more than does keeping an obscure element of the Law of Moses.  Speaking of that law code, shall we consider some provisions of it?  We read some sexual laws and an order to execute one for the offense of idolatry.  Then there is this law:

If anyone insults his father or his mother, he shall be put to death; he has insulted his father and his mother–his blood guilt is upon him.

–Leviticus 20:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

To insult is also to curse, the sort of activity the Prodigal Son committed in Luke 15.  Yet the father, the God figure in the parable, forgave the son.

We read in Leviticus 21:16 forward that physically handicapped or deformed Levites were forbidden to serve as priests.  It seems that such men were not supposed to serve God in that way because their physical imperfections reflected the divine form inadequately.  I am glad of progressive attitudes regarding physical differences in modern times; may these ideas flourish.

Then we read about what makes a sacrifice acceptable.  I do not care, for none of that has mattered since the first century CE.

Jesus criticized people who were meticulous about legalistic details while they ignored the imperative of social justice.  He advocated humility before God, trust in God, and active concern for the conditions and circumstances of others.  I think that he cared about blind and disabled Levites, who got to eat well yet were still second-class spiritual citizens.

Speaking of Levites, contact with a corpse made one unclean (Leviticus 22).  That concern played a role in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).  And who was the hero in that story?

People matter more than arcane laws.  Here ends the lesson, again.






Adapted from this post:


Who Is My Neighbor? Who Is Your Neighbor?   1 comment

Above:  Gustave Dore’s engraving of Jonah at the end Chapter 2

(The Dore engravings are in the public domain.)


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Jonah 1:1-2:1, 11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The Word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai:

Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim judgment upon it; for their Wickedness has come before Me.

Jonah, however, started out to flee to Tarshish from the LORD’s service.  He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish.  He paid the fare and went aboard to sail with the others to Tarshish, away from the service of the LORD.

But the LORD cast a mighty wind upon the sea, and such a great tempest came upon the sea that the ship was in danger of breaking up.  In their fright, the sailors cried out, each to his own god; and they flung the ship’s cargo overboard to make it lighter for them.  Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the vessel where he lay down and fell asleep.

How can you be sleeping so soundly!  Up, call upon your god!  Perhaps the god will be kind to us and we will not perish.

The men said to one another,

Let us cast lots and find out on whose account this misfortune has come upon us.

They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.  They said to him,

Tell us, you who have brought this misfortune upon us, what is your business? Where have you come from?  What is your country, and of what people are you?

He replied,

I am a Hebrew.  I worship the LORD, the God of Heaven, who made both sea and land.

The men were greatly terrified, and they asked him,

What have you done?

And when the men learned that that he was fleeing from the service of the LORD–for so he told them–they said to him,

What must we do to make the sea calm around us?

For the sea was growing more and more stormy.  He answered,

Heave me overboard, and the sea will calm down for you; for I know that this terrible storm came upon you on my account.

Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to regain the shore, but could not, for the sea was growing more and more stormy about them.  Then they cried out to the LORD:

Oh, please, LORD, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life.  Do not hold us guilty of killing an innocent person!  For You, O LORD, by Your will, have brought this about.

And they heaved Jonah overboard, and the sea stopped raging.

The men feared the LORD greatly; they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and they made vows.

The LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah; and Jonah remained in the fish’s belly three days and three nights.

The LORD commanded the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon dry land.

Psalm 130 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;

LORD, hear my voice;

let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2  If you , LORD, were to note what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

3  For there is forgiveness with you;

therefore you shall be feared.

4  I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him;

in his word is my hope.

5  My soul waits for the LORD,

more than watchmen in the morning,

more than watchmen in the morning.

6  O Israel, wait for the LORD,

for with the LORD there is mercy;

7  With him there is plenteous redemption,

and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

Luke 10:25-37 (The Jerusalem Bible):

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert him [Jesus], stood up and said to him,

Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

He said to him,

What is written in the Law”  What do you read there?

He replied,

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus said,

You have answered right; do this and life is yours.

Old Jerusalem-Jericho Road

Image Source =


But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus,

And who is my neighbor?

Jesus replied,

A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead.  Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side.

Rembrandt Van Rijn’s Painting of the Good Samaritan

(Also in the Public Domain)

But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him.  He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them.  He then lifted him on to his mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him.  Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper.  ”Look after him,” he said, “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.”

Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?

He replied,

The one who took pity on him.

Jesus said to him,

Go, and do the same yourself.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


I learn from Newtonian physics that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  This rule explains much of history, as well.  Thus it came to pass that, in the Persian period of Judean history, a measure of exclusivism and hyper-legalism characterized much of Palestinian Judaism.  This was the opposite of pre-Exilic laxity.

The Book of Jonah, a work of religious fiction, contains much truth.  It is a satire on Persian period exclusivism and hyper-legalism.  On its face it is set in when there were still two Jewish kingdoms and an Assyrian Empire.  God tells Jonah to pronounce judgment on Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire.  As the narrative progresses we learn that the judgment leads to repentance then God relenting, but let us return to Chapter 1.  Jonah does not want to travel to Nineveh and pronounce judgment, so he attempts unsuccessfully to flee from God and the mission God has for him.

I will return to the story of Jonah in Chapters 1 and 2 after I deal with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Jeusalem-Jericho road in Jesus’ day was a dangerous, meandering road over terrain which dropped greatly in elevation relative to sea level (from 2,300 feet above sea level to 1,300 feet below that standard) in less than twenty miles.  Thus it provided many natural hiding places for robbers to hide.  Sometimes a thief played dead while his fellow brigands waited for a kind-hearted person to stop.  So the safest way to travel this road was as part of a group.  Many commentators have remarked about how foolish the man was to travel this road alone.  Yet, if he was a fool, the same criticism ought to apply to the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan traveler, too.

Yet a Samaritan–a somewhat successful one at that–who knew a certain innkeeper helped the man.  A Samaritan, a member of a despised group, acted out of compassion and placed himself at risk for someone he did not know.  He acted as a neighbor.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said in his final speech that the priest and Levite were too afraid to help the man.  (A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings of Martin Luther, King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington, 1986, pages 284-285)  He was correct in this analysis.  They were afraid of criminals, justifiably.  (Yet why were they traveling alone?  Am I overanalyzing this parable?)  They also feared the inability to fulfill the Temple functions to which they had devoted their lives.  But what about the man’s life?

Jesus, by making his hero a Samaritan, scandalized many listeners.  Samaritans were heretics and half-breeds.  Many orthodox Palestinian Jews of our Lord’s time despised Samaritans en masse.  So, to grasp the full flavor of the parable, replace the word “Samaritan” with something else.  Many Europeans harbor prejudices against Gypsies, so imagine the Parable of the Good Gypsy.  It is popular in many U.S. political circles to despise immigrants (especially illegal ones) and people of obviously foreign extraction.  So imagine the Parable of the Good Hispanic, the Good Latino, or the Good Illegal Immigrant.  Islamophobia is on the rise in West, so imagine the Parable of the Good Muslim.  During World War II in the United States the Parable of the Good Japanese-American would have angered many people.  My point is this:  Every person, including one who belongs to a despised group, is my neighbor–and yours, too.  Jesus says to act like a good neighbor.

What did Jonah fear?  Perhaps he feared the loss of identity.  Assyria was a great and feared foe of the Kingdom of Israel.  Imagine a twentieth-century retelling of the Book of Jonah.  God tells Jonah, an American, to travel to Moscow, capital city of the Soviet Union, to pronounce judgment and grant the Soviets a chance to avoid divine retribution.  Would not some professing American Christians, including Jonah, have said, “Let them burn”?

Who are we without our enemies?  How do we understand ourselves in the absence of the others, those who are unlike us?  Are we still good guys when the bad guys repent?  This delicate politics of identity plays a part in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, too.  Yet Jesus offers a new identity:  neighbor.  May we embrace it.  And, when Jesus makes us uncomfortable, may we embrace that discomfort, too.





Adapted from this post: