The title of my sermon is "A Priest, A Levite and a Samaritan," the three characters in Jesus' story in the Gospel lesson for today. But that title sounds so much like the title of
countless jokes about 'A minister, a priest and a rabbi.' So, I thought I'd tell you one like that.
There was a survey of clergy, asking what they would like to hear their friends and family to say at over their casket at their funeral. The minister said, "I would like to hear them
to say I was a wonderful wife, a fine spiritual leader, and good mother." The priest said, "I would like to hear them say that I was an excellent teacher, and a servant of God who made a
huge difference in peoples' lives." The rabbi said, "I would like to hear them say, 'Look, he's moving!'"
Now, here's a story that relates to my sermon.
A Sunday school teacher was telling her class the story of the Good Samaritan, in which a man was beaten, robbed and left for dead. She described the situation in vivid detail, so her
students would catch the drama. Then, she asked the class, "If you saw a person lying on the roadside, all wounded and bleeding, what would you do?" A thoughtful little girl broke the
hushed silence, "I think I'd throw up."
We all know the Good Samaritan story pretty well. And we all know the 'moral' of the story about everyone being our neighbor and that we are to help our neighbor.
But really, the most important part of the story is not about the Good Samaritan himself. The young lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him what is
written in the law. He says, "You shall 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 your neighbor as
yourself." And Jesus says, "You have given the right answer; do this and you will live."
It's what you give your attention to that makes the difference. The first lesson read today is from Deuteronomy. It brings home the point of what Jesus is trying to convey to the man.
"The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soul. For the Lord
will again take delight in prospering you...'when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees what are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the
Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul....the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.'"
It's what you focus on, what you pay attention to that matters. Most of us don't think twice about what we focus on during our day. We hold so many ideas in our head that we lose our
focus. It matters what you focus on; what your intention is.
We generally focus on the negative aspect of something we actually want. For instance we focus on what we DON'T want rather than what we DO want. We focus on the lack in our lives
rather than the abundance.
God has it written in our hearts as to what is best for us. The Ten Commandments are seen as 'don'ts' rather than a set of guidelines as to what to DO. The guidelines are to help us
flow with what is written in our hearts by God. There is abundance written in our hearts. Not lack. God will prosper us in our body, our possessions and our soul. As long as we 'go with
the flow' of God's harmony. But most of the time we go against that-and most of the time we don't even recognize we are doing it.
We go against who we are created to be. We go against the abundance that God has already given us because we focus on lack. What you focus on creates your reality. What you focus on
creates what you draw to yourself. If you think of yourself as never having enough money, then you never will. That is, your focus is always on 'never having enough money.' If you
recognize that God has supplied you with enough of what you need, you will find that you will have that.
When God says he will make us 'abundantly prosperous' in all our undertakings, God means it. Why wouldn't you believe God? Why would you not take God's word to be true? And God is
clear about how that prosperity of body, possessions and soul will manifest, be real for us. It depends on what we focus on. It depends on us recognizing that it is already THERE ("the
word is very near to you; it is in your moth and in your heart for you to observe"). It's there for us to recognize and to use.
What is your outlook on life? Do you wake up happy to be experiencing another day of God's love in your life? Do you wake up dreading the day? Do you look forward to your day with
gratitude in your heart? Gratitude on your mind? It's there. But you have to FOCUS on it.
What is your outlook on life? What is your outlook on the world? Do you focus on the work of the devil or the work of the Lord? That is, do you believe the world is a loving place or
a place of fear and hate and terror? Do you believe the word of the Lord, or the word of the devil?
Do you believe that what you do matters? Do you believe that the good you do adds to the good in the world and affects the world beyond your circle of life? Or do you think the good
that you do just goes as far as the good that you do right here? Do you think the anger or hate in your heart for terrorists or whoever is depicted on the news as evil and worthy of your
hate and anger, just stays with you, or do you recognize that your negative energy adds to the negativity of the world beyond your little circle of life?
The young lawyer in our story thinks that his correct answer to Jesus about what the law says is sufficient. So he cleverly asks 'who is my neighbor' thinking that Jesus is going to
give him an answer that relates just to his own immediate circle of life. But you see, Jesus shows him, AND US, that our neighbor is as much those we hate as those we love. He uses the
story of the Samaritan because they were looked down upon, even hated by the Jews. Their focus was on their dislike or hate so that two people pass by the injured Samaritan and don't
help. They couldn't even see the possibility for good, for compassion.
We, today, have to realize that our anger and hate that we harbor for others (and the TV news is set up to make us hate others, certainly not love them as ourselves) interferes with
our own lives and what we draw to us. If we are angry, we draw anger to ourselves and we perceive anger in life. The same is true of hate. If we perceive the world as being more and more
fearful and hateful, then we will draw that into our lives.
Keeping the Ten Commandments should be a DO list. It's a list of things that help us to live in harmony with God. If you haven't looked at Martin Luther's Catechism lately and his
explanation of the Ten Commandments, you need to do that. You will see how positive they are. You will see how God expects us to live in harmony by what we DO, and what we focus on-love
and compassion and gratitude and giving.
Even your attitude about coming to worship is important. Do you focus on worshipping God? Or do you focus on what you DON'T LIKE about the service; what you don't like about what
someone is wearing; focus on mistakes in the bulletin? Where is your FOCUS during worship? Do you have an attitude of gratitude? Are you grateful for those who have joined you in
worship? Or are you focused on how many are here or not here? Are you giving back to God in your worship? Do you give cheerfully?
God has blessed each one of us abundantly. Most folks don't focus on that and so they block the abundance that is waiting to come to them. So, this week, make it a daily practice to
focus on the positive. To focus on the on the abundance of life. To focus on the abundance in your life. The more you do that, the more you will see and feel that abundance and draw more
of it into your life. This week focus your outlook and attitude and every time you see that it is negative, change it. Negative draws negative. A positive, grateful heart will draw the
same to it. Focus on God's words and God's promises. They're positive and uplifting and full of the promise of prosperity and abundance in all aspects of your life and being. Jesus says
he came so that we would experience life more abundantly. Do it.