Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

 

"For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always." Mark 14:7

 

From these words of the Saviour we hear that helping the poor is good and necessary, but the Christianity is even more necessary, for the poor are always amongst us and they will never cease to be as long as the world stands, but Jesus is not always with us. Judas and his brothers think that it is a waste if some Mary pours the precious spikenard ointment upon the head of Jesus. They think that the woman did wrong, since she wasted such expensive ointment, which was for no one's good. They thought that Jesus needed no anointing or sign of love, but rather the poor need help, as some of Juda's brothers and cousins say, "People become poor through Christianity.  It would be better to give to the poor than to the schools." But the poor you have with you always, but Jesus is not always. Remember that, you relatives of Judas, that the Christianity is not always offered to you. And if all would have received Jesus when He was offered, there would not be so many poor.  But it appears now that the poor and needy increase because of the lack of Christianity; since Jesus is not in the heart, then the poor come to you. And it is heard from these words of the Saviour that He wanted to be foremost, that first the precious spikenard ointment would be sacrificed, but when He is taken away, then you can give to the poor.  You certainly have the poor with you always, and to them you can give whenever you want to, but in the giving to the poor the first question is this, with what disposition of the heart you give to them. We should help the poor, not upon future payment, but because it is a Christian's obligation, and for that reason our Christianity is tried, if we have love toward our neighbor, if we want to help the poor even if we receive nothing for it. Whoever is greedy for worldly goods, he has nothing to spare to give to the poor.  Some slaves of the world take from the poor and spend on the rich, some give to the poor because of honor, since the poor serve him well; but if we give to the poor because of honor, that people would see how charitable we are and guardians of the poor, then we do as the Pharisees, who gave with the sounding of a trumpet when they gave their alms. Many said truthfully, "I have helped the poor more than you have." And that shows, if not openly, nevertheless secretly, that they might merit a better thanks from God and man than someone el else, if there would not be some wrong foundation of salvation behind their back. If someone says to another, "I have helped the poor more than you have", he is no poor man, he does not need a Saviour very soon, he already has a firm foundation upon which he depends.  But how long will this foundation of salvation last, that is another question. And it is remarkable how many kinds of matters are acceptable to people for a foundation of salvation.  For some, poverty is acceptable for a foundation of salvation; for some, riches are acceptable for a foundation of salvation; for some, meekness is acceptable for a foundation of salvation; and for some, dead faith.  But that only foundation which is already laid, namely Jesus Christ, it is not acceptable to many before all of the false foundations fall.  The poor often say that they do not depend upon their poverty, but upon the Saviour, and nevertheless many poor have that thought, that God has so arranged that he became poor.  Nevertheless if we examine more closely how and in what way he has become poor, then it can be seen that God has not made him poor, but through his own laziness and carelessness or through drunkenness and through wasting he has become poor.  If in his youth he had used the strength of body and soul rightly, he could have avoided poverty.  But a poor one does not want to confess that he, through his own carelessness and laziness, has become such, but he always repeats that God made him poor.  If now spiritual poverty would follow this natural poverty, if he would begin to feel that he has wasted the substance of soul like he has wasted substance of the natural body, then he would have gained something from his poverty.  But his thoughts do not turn in that direction, but he thinks thus, "Since God has made me poor in this world, assuredly God will give me better possessions in the other world." As confirmation for this false faith, he also takes an example of poor Lazarus who reached Abraham's bosom.  Behold, in this way poverty becomes a foundation of salvation for some who do not know the right foundation of salvation. A rich one again thinks thus, "Since God has so abundantly blessed my work and my trouble that I have been able to help the poor, surely He loves me, assuredly He wishes well for me, not only in this life but also in the world to come. And if God wishes so much good, assuredly He can make one blessed. As confirmation for this false faith, he also takes an example of Abraham, who became saved although he was rich.  Neither rich nor poor think about that, that the devil teaches some to become rich through crookedness and through whiskey trade, and some he makes poor through drunkenness or through laziness.  It has been experienced already from the beginning of the world that natural meekness is acceptable to many for a foundation of salvation, as it is founded in the natural intellect.  The natural intellect says thus, "If meekness is not acceptable, what then is acceptable?" Natural meekness has been an old foundation of salvation to all those who know nothing of the Saviour, and even now this false foundation is rooted in the skull of many people.  For although naturally meek people say that they do not depend upon meekness but upon the Saviour, nevertheless it is apparent from their speach that they have no sin.  But what does he need a Saviour for, who does not Accumulate so much sin, enough to become penitent over.  He, who does not have that much sin that they begin to trouble the conscience, does not depend on a Saviour; surely meekness is the foundation of salvation to such a person although he does not know it.

We hear from the Apostle James' writing how many people have dead faith as a foundation of salvation, where it is also explained how and in what way dead faith reveals itself.  Dead faith is a false faith upon the Saviour, without penitence, without love, and without works. Apostle James shows what the confessors of dead faith do to the poor who ask for help.  They say, "Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body." The confessors of dead faith give the poor good words, but nothing more; they pity the poor but nothing more. When the rich come into the congregation, the confessors of dead faith say, "Sit here near me," but to the poor they say, "Stand there or sit here under my footstool." This is precisely that sign of dead faith that he overlooks the poor and gives honor to the rich.

After this foreword we must take heed more closely to the words of the Prophet Isaiah:  "If thou open thy heart to the hungering and nourish the afflicted souls, then shall thy light rise in the darkness and thy darkness shall be as the noon day." (Finnish Bible)  In these words are both a natural and a spiritual meaning. A Christian opens his heart to a hungering soul both naturally and spiritually, when he gives the hungering one two kinds of food; he gives him natural food, if he has it, and he gives the hungering one the Word of God if the hungering one has need; and so he satisfies the afflicted souls.  If he has it, he nourishes the afflicted souls with natural food, but he nourishes also with the words of God, if the afflicted one needs them.  And therefore the prophet says, since there is a question here of both natural and spiritual nourishment, "Your light shall rise in the darkness when you counsel the afflicted so they begin to understand the word of God." The light of Christianity begins to shine in the dark heart of the afflicted soul.  "And thy darkness shall be as the noon day." A Christian's darkness is that dark time when sleep commences and movements of the spirit cease. This darkness is nevertheless as the noon day in the souls of the completely blind ones, alongside of that darkness in which a natural person lives. The Christians' darkness is, to a natural person, as the noon day. When a Christian speaks something to an afflicted one who knows nothing of Christianity, it effects more, or gives him more light of Christianity, than that outward knowledge which he has.  I surmise that the confessors of dead faith expound these words of the Prophet in a different way, namely, "Whoever helps the poor with a good intention, he has peace and a good conscience both in prosperity and adversity." And it may be possible that helping of the poor appeases the conscience of a natural person, when he gets to boast and say, "I have fed the poor more than you have." But an awakened one's conscience does not become quieted with this, that he helps the poor or gives them natural help, for his conscience yearns for some thing more. The conscience of an awakened person cannot receive peace before he can open his heart to the hungry ones; that is, to satisfy the afflicted souls.  Just then he receives peace of conscience when his light begins to shine in the dark soul of the hungering one, and the Christian's darkness becomes as the noon day in the heart of the afflicted one.

Today we must consider how that merciful Samaritan pities and has mercy upon that wretched man, who had fallen int6 the hands of the thieves.  If God would allow us His grace, that we could comprehend this great truth and use it rightly for the eternal upbuilding of our souls, since we have become so wretched and afflicted through the robbing of the thieves, through the striking, the whipping, the piercing, through the wounding and ravaging, that if that merciful Samaritan does not take us and have mercy upon us wretched and afflicted sinners and pour oil into our wounds, we will surely die upon that road where the robbers have left us half-dead.  Oh merciful Lord Jesus, do not leave us on the road to die, but have mercy upon us, lift up our afflicted soul and bring it into the inn, because of your merciful heart!  Our Father, etc.

 

The Gospel:  Luke 10:23-37

 

Today's holy text is understood and expounded in many ways.  Some think that this matter which is related here has truly happened.  Some say that the gospel is a parable, for a reminder and an example to the Pharisees of what they should do, since they do not correctly remember what they have read in the catechism about helping their neighbor.  It often happens that the pharisee, who has so much more to do, does not remember to answer correctly to this question, "Who is our neighbor?" Or is the fault in the Pharisee's conscience, which takes away the memory when he is asleep, although it gives a good memory when he is awake.  But some think also that the man who has fallen into the hands of the robbers is an awakened person, whose conscience has been terribly wounded by spiritual robbers, and that the merciful Samaritan is the Saviour Himself, who has mercy upon this wretched sinner, pours the oil of grace into the wounds of the conscience, and brings his soul into the inn. But the Word of God fits many matters, and to whichever matter this gospel is applied it affects much, is weighty and upbuilding. Therefore we take substance for consideration from the merciful Samaritan. The First Consideration; What kind of a man was this merciful Samaritan? The Second Consideration:  In what condition was this person who had fallen into the hands of the robbers? The Third Considerations  What forced the Samaritan to have mercy and to help that person who had fallen into the hands of the robbers? May God give His grace that all who have fallen into the hands of the robbers would be helped before they die on the road!

The First Consideration: What kind of a man was this merciful Samaritan? He was of such a lineage which the Pharisees and honorable men of the world despised. The respectable people of the world do not care to keep fellowship with the Samaritan people, who are born of such poor lineage, and in all their habits are so different: poor and despised, filthy and repulsive both in dress and behaviour. Such a person is not worthy to be amongst respectable people. For what reason is the Samaritan held so poor that honorable people cannot keep fellowship with him?  First, for the reason that he was born of such poor lineages second, because he has a false faith.  He is not a total pagan, nor is he such a Christian who is kept to be a Christian in the world, but he has such a confused doctrine and false faith, that the right kind of people keep him to be a false prophet.  He is even worse than a pagan, for the reason that he is so good to bark at respectable people and to skin them of their honor. When the Pharisees and scribes and other Jews travel that way where the Samaritans live, they bypass the village; they do not want to eat or drink anything which the Samaritan offers to them. The Pharisees fear that their honor and their Christianity and their high esteem will be spoiled if they touch with their fingers those dishes which the Samaritans have had in their hands. Therefore the woman of Samaria asked Jesus, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest a drink of me?" Will your honor not be lost when you have fellowship with such a base person? And it was the worst name of abuse which the Jews could give the Saviour when they called Him a Samaritan.  "Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil." You are not the right kind of a person, you have the countenance of a dog. You are not worthy to be in the company of honorable people. Said in a word, a Samaritan was so base and so overlooked, both because of his false faith and because of his barking, that honorable people of the world went far around so they would not meet such a heretic and lose their honor and Christianity.

Now it happened that a priest and a Levite and a Samaritan happened to be traveling the same road, however not in the same company but separately. And that wretched person, who had fallen into the hands of the robbers, lay by the roadside wounded, half dead. The priest looked upon him and went by, he did not recognize this man to be his neighbor; so also the Levite looked upon him and went by.  Neither the priest or the Levite recognized this man to be his neighbor.  They were both respectable men and also, above all, such Christians who are held to be Christians in the world; not such false prophets who have now appeared in the Karesuanto congregation, but such Christians who have become Christians through baptism, and from the time of baptism on have remained Christians. Said in a word, the priest and the Levite were respectable Christians who allow people peace of conscience, and also allow the man who was wounded by the robbers to die in peace. No matter how a person were in wounds, bloody and half alive, certainly the priest and Levite allow such a wretched one to die in peace. They think thus:  "Let us allow this wretched person to die in peace, let us not touch him. Our hands will become bloody, our clothes will become spoiled if we begin to work on him. Let us allow him to die in peace." Otherwise this priest and this Levite place a plaster of sorrowlessness upon the wounds of the conscience when a small hole has come into some person's conscience, but such large and such bloody wounds as this wretched and afflicted person had, those the priest or the Levite cannot heal. They fear that the blood which flows from the wounds will adhere to them and spoil their clean consciences. Therefore they look upon such a one who lies in tribulation of conscience, half dead, and go by. But that merciful Samaritan could not only look upon that person who was so terribly wounded by the robbers and beaten half dead, but He had mercy upon him.

The Second Consideration; What forced the Samaritan to have mercy upon this wretched man, although he was kept as a pagan? Do pagans have a better heart than the priest and the Levite? He was not exactly a real pagan, but he was of that heresy where that false doctrine was preached, through which people become insane. He had read the Scripture, but he had that false faith that a person will not become saved with that Christianity which he received in baptism, but that something more is yet needed. He also had that false faith that love of one's neighbor does not become fulfilled in this, that a person only looks upon the wretched one and pities him.  But only then the love for one's neighbor is fulfilled, when a person does something to alleviate his pain, pays for medicines for him, and also takes and pays it from his own purse.  But the priest and the Levite have that faith that love for one's neighbor becomes fulfilled thus:  that a person looks upon the afflicted one, pities him and goes by, but that a person need not pay anything from his own purse to help the afflicted one. This the Samaritan could not think, although he was a half-pagan and of low esteem. Do such have a better and more merciful heart than the priest and the Levite? We do not know, but nevertheless he had mercy upon the wretched person who had fallen into the hands of robbers.  This wretched person, whom neither the priest nor the Levite recognized as their neighbor, is certainly in a pitiful condition.  First, all his possessions were stolen away; all his travel money with which he should have traveled to eternity was destroyed; all his meekness which he had gathered together with his honesty was taken away; all his food which he had prepared for a repast for himself in the grave was also stolen.  The honorable clothes of self-righteousnes were stripped off, those beautiful clothes, so acceptable before the world, which he had bought from the world's merchants and had made to order by the world's tailors, which he intended to wear in the grave so that he could worthily, bravely and manfully bow himself before the god of the world, all that finery was taken away.  He himself lay on the road half dead, bloody, wounded, in a wretched condition.  The robbers had ravaged his conscience terrible; if that merciful Samaritan had not had mercy upon him, he surely would have died upon the road and become food for all the ravens and beasts.

But that merciful Samaritan could not bear to see this wretched person dying on the road, although the priest and the Levite did not recognize him to be their neighbor, since there was no longer that much money found in his purse and pocket with which he could have paid for their trouble.  They left this wretched person to die on the road, although they were good and respectable Christians. No doubt they thought that it is written no where that we must help out the afflicted one with our own money and to pay for medicines for him.  If this wretched man had had money with which he would have been able to pay for their trouble, they surely would have taken care of him on the road, or if this wretched man's conscience would have had a small wound, certainly the priest and Levite could have repaired it with a plaster of sorrowlessness.  But since he had been already stripped naked and exposed so that he had nothing on his bare skin and was entirely bloody, since his conscience was like all one sore, when the robbers had ravaged and torn his conscience, so the priest and the Levite thought that this wound is beyond repair; we do not dare to touch these wounds, and from where would we get paid if we would begin to plaster these wounds? If he was a better man, we would give him a quarter's worth of whiskey with which he could anoint his bowels; we would give him a quarter's worth of ointment for the conscience, that it would cease from bleeding; we would give him a quarter's worth of plaster of sorrowlessness with which he could cover the wounds of his conscience.  But since he is entirely bloody and wounded, we can do nothing for him -

so thought the priest and Levite.

But that merciful Samaritan did not question that this wretched one was entirely bloody and wounded. As soon as He saw him lying there on the road He had mercy on him.  From where did this compassion come toward him, who was so despised by the world and of such low esteem that no one cared to look upon him? We do not know, but we think that the sight of the blood moved Him, that wretched condition in which this person was, who had been wounded by robbers, that wretched person's nakedness, wounds of conscience, pain of heart and spiritual anguish, the spiritual death struggle, the sighs, the painful voice of lamentation, the tears, all this pitiful wretchedness went like a sword through the heart of the merciful Samaritan, And if this merciful Samaritan had not had mercy upon him, he would have died on the road and no one would have taken care of his carcass.

May you be thanked, merciful Samaritan, that you have had mercy upon this wretched man and taken care of him on the road! Without you this miserable person would have died in blood and wounds, and no one would have asked about him, if you had not taken care of him on the road and poured oil and wine into his wounds. Who has bound those wounds which the robbers have made in this miserable man? Who has poured wine and oil into the wounded and bloody conscience, which the robbers have ravaged and torn?  You, merciful Samaritan, have had mercy upon this miserable person.  You have taken care of him on the road, you have bound his wounds, you have poured wine and oil into his conscience, you have lifted him up from the ground when he lay halfdead, strengthless and maimed, sore and sick, full of bleeding wounds, with a bleeding conscience, a wounded heart. You, merciful Samaritan, have brought him into the inn and paid the host what he has spent in his behalf, and intend also when you return to repay more in his behalf. What do you think, you who are wounded by the robbers? Have you now recovered so that you are able to thank the Samaritan for that good work, that He has taken care of you on the road and paid so much in your behalf? Without Him you would have died in your wounds and your blood.  Have you recovered so much that you would be able to thank Him, since you can do no other good toward Him? I think that you are also poor at thanking Him. However, await till the time He returns, if then you would be able to thank Him better, since now you are not able. Do you think He will come soon? I think that He will come soon, if you await Him with love and desire of the heart.  I believe that He still remembers you and prays for you that you would soon recover, that you would be able to thank Him better when He returns. Then He will take you into His own inn where the robbers will not come to wound you, and all who have barked at Him as being a Samaritan can see that He is a better Helper than all the rest. But remember now, you man wounded by robbers, that the merciful Samaritan has taken you up from the road where you lay half-dead in your blood, and remember, too, His merciful promises that when He returns He will repay the Host what He spends because of you.  Return soon, merciful Samaritan. The man wounded by robbers awaits you, that he could thank and praise you because of your mercy, and because of your trouble which you have seen because of him. Amen.