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“A Power Equal to Our Trust” written by Rev. A. Knighton Stanley; an excerpt from the book A View From My Window
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28And he said unto him, thou has answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. 29But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? 30And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 1And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatosever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. 36Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves 37And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. As the Samaritan departed, he said to the innkeeper: “Here is what I believe to be enough money to take care of the man. But if it cost me more give it to the injured man anyway. And, when I come this way again I will repay you.”
When life requires more of us than we seem humanily able to give, what reliance is there to help us get over, to see us through?
I have a friend who said he knows people who would rather pretend to be rich than go out and do what it takes to earn real money. In like manner, I know some people who would rather debate the issues of faith, than too go out and be faithful. That is the case with the lawyer who approaches Jesus in Luke 10:25-29 with this question: “Teacher, what must I do to attain eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Love God with all you’ve got and your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer, who would rather debate the issues of faith rather than go out and be faithful, asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered him by telling him the story of a “certain man,” who “went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves.” Jesus doesn’t identify the man traveling the Jericho Road. Jesus says nothing of his race or religion. He doesn’t say anything about his morality or lifestyle. Jesus does not identify him as a Baptist, Methodist, Congregationalist, Roman Catholic, Gentile or Jew. Jesus simply describes him as a “certain man,” any man, who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho who fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothes and beat him up departed and left him half dead. Jesus then said that a priest, a high official of the religious establishment, came along the road. When he saw the inured man, he crossed over and passed by on the other side. Soon thereafter, a Levite came, one of the erudite scholars of the faith. When he came upon the injured man, the Levite came over, took a look at him, and, like the priest, crossed the road and passed by on the other side. But then Jesus says that a certain Samaritan, despised by the Jews, came upon the injured man. when he saw this injured man. When he saw this injured man, this Samaritan had compassion on him and bound up his wounds. The Samaritan then set the wounded man on his own donkey, carried him to an inn and took care of him.
Yes, Jesus tells this story to answer the lawyer’s question: Who is my neighbor? But Jesus tells this story in such a sway that causes you and me more than two thousand years later to grapple with an equally important question: Who am I in this story? What role would you and I take in this story? You see, the story of the Good Samaritan is a great story not only because it deals with who my neighbor is but also because it addresses who I am as a person of faith.
In this modern age of intellectual sophistication, we feel the duty of the religious person is to determine how we look at the Bible. But, the real duty of the person of faith is to make a judgment about how the Bible evaluates who we are, how the Bible interprets us. So, we must ask ourselves: Who am I in this story? Am I the priest, the preacher who upon seeing the times I have been the priest who on my way to church, a wedding or some religious function, has had no time to stop and help a neighbor in need. In fact, the past time I dealt with the text, I was on my way to the pulpit, headed down Sixteenth Street in Washington, D.C. on my way to Peoples Church. In the bus shelter across from Walter Reed Army Hospital, I happened up a man, obviously homeless, stretched out on the bench looking as if he were dead. I was the priest in Jesus’ story. I passed him by. I was on my way to church. I was too busy to stop. I passed by on the other side.
Who am I in this story? Some days I’m sure I am the Levite. For I too, have seen human suffering and passed by. I’ve seen human suffering, closed my heart and eyes and passed by on the other side. But before you condemn me please consider that while I did not stop to take care of the injured man, I am well aware that the robbing, and murders and injuries must be stopped on the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Jericho. And while, I did not stop, I hastened to get on down to Jericho. And while, I did not stop, I hastened to get on down to Jericho so I could form the Jericho Road Improvement Association whose responsibility is to rid the road of thieves and clean up the mess on the Jericho Turnpike.
Who am I in this story? I’ll tell you who I am. Some days I’ve been the Good Samaritan, the despised one who helped people regardless of who they are or how much they may dislike me. But on at least as many days, I’ve been the victim. For on the road of life, I too have fallen among thieves, life’s vicissitudes. I’ve been victimized by those who have stripped me of my dignity and my good name. I’ve been victimized by those who meant me harm, by those who departed leaving me empty on the inside, leaving me half dead.
Who I am in this story? When I am honest with myself and you, I’ve not only been the victim, but I’ve been the victimizer, the thief! For as surely as I have been robbed and beaten, wounded and left for dead, I , too, have robbed others of their dignity and good name. I’ve beaten their spirits down with words and deeds. I’ve wounded them to the very core of their existence leaving them half dead on the highways and byways of life.
Who am I in this story? At times, I have been every character in the story. I have been the Priest and the Levite. Yes, I have also, at times, been the Good Samaritan and I have also been the certain man, the victim. At times, I have even been the thief.
But let me confess to you then that on most days of my life, I do not feel a particular identity with any of the characters in the story that I have cited heretofore. Rather most days I feel that I am the innkeeper in this story, the nameless, speechless innkeeper, a minor character in this drama of rescue and redemption. I am just a simple caretaker, a caregiver, a bookkeeper, a paperboy trying to deliver the good news, trying to live the best I can under the reign of Jesus Christ by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. You see, when the Samaritan departed, he paid the innkeeper. He paid him for services rendered to the inured man in the past and also for services anticipated for the wounded man’s future care. “Mr. Innkeeper,” he said, “if the man needs any additional care which restores his life and health, beyond what I have already paid for, by all means, give him that care. And whatever you spend more, don’t worry about it because I will repay you when I pass this way again.”
Indeed it is so, on most days of my life I am the innkeeper. As I travel through life with all of my deficiencies and shortcomings, I ask the question: When I have given life all that I am humanly able to give, when I’ve played the hand I’ve been dealt to the very best of my ability, what reliance is there to support me, empower me, replenish me and see me through? Yes, on most days of my life, I am the innkeeper. And, the Lord is not only my shephard, but God is also my Good Samaritan.
We do not get very far in life before we need a Good Samaritan; before life begins to require of us more than we are humanly able to give. If one’s career, one’s profession, one’s vocation, does not at some point require more of us than we are humanly able to give, it may not be worth the doing. When i was called to pastor Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ in 1968, I was every bit of 30 years old. I had fought many battle in my young life. I had been active in the Civil Rights Movement in Greensboro, NC and elsewhere. I had contended with able political adversaries in the Old South. But never in life had I met adversaries that seemed as formidable as some I met in Peoples Church. Some of them were among the most powerful people in black Washington. The challenges were great at Peoples church. I was not long in the pastorate before I felt that I had given the ministry of the church as much as I felt humanly able to give. But somehow, I remembered the words of Harry Emerson Fosdick: “There is a power equal to your trust.” When I remembered these words they became my mantra, “There is power equal to my trust.” Then I came to know that when I had given the ministry as much as I was humanly able to give, I was not in the enterprise alone. A still small voice reminded me that there is, indeed, a God, who speaks to me, saying, “When you can go no further, keep on going anyhow. You may run down but you won’t run out because whatsoever you spend more than what you have, keep on spending and you can trust that I will repay you, when I come you way again.”
What is true of our profession is also true of the experience of most of us who have tried our hands and hearts at parenting. I wish some days that I knew just half as much about raising children as I did when I had no children of my own. When we were young, when my mother would see other people’s children misbehaving, she would say to us “Just look at that child. I’d never take that kind of behavior from a child of mine.” When I became older, before I had children, I was out shopping with my mother one day when we saw a child misbehaving. To show that I had reached a level of maturity and had absorbed what she had taught, I beat my other to the draw and said “Mother, I would never take that from a child of mine.” Without missing a beat my mother said to me, “Son, don’t ever say what you won’t take.” I never asked her what she meant by that but I suppose she meant one or both of two things. One, that she had seasoned in her experience of parenthood and had gained new perspective, had plowed new more realistic ground. But she also meant that none of us fully possess the resources to be good parents. She meant that we don’t have to be in the parenting business alone. In blessed parenthood, we are partners with God. And, when parenting requires more of us than we have to give, and it usually doe, we expend whatever is needed, we must give it up anyway, because there is a power equal to our trust. And, when God’s power comes our way again, whatever we have spent more, this good God will repay a thousand fold. The marching song of every parent should be this: “Ask the Savior to help you, comfort, strengthen and keep you. He is willing to aid you. He will carry you through.”
Finally, what is true in life is also true in death. When we stand before the final act of this mortal life, what reliance is there, what resources are there to see us through and to help us cross over to the other side? Death is such a lonely experience. The poet was right when he said “We do not go out this world arm in arm – no matter how much we love each other.” When we stand before the inevitable portals and experience the reality of death what reliance, what resources, are there to support us in the transition to that mysterious realm and to see us through?
Several years ago, I visited the little village of Dudley, North Carolina, the place of my birth. My family owned a home there many years ago. Our house was on the same campus literally sharing the same lawn with the church where my father was pastor. On this rare visit to Dudley, I wanted to go by the house in which I was actually born. I had not been born in a hospital: my mother gave birth to me in the house. I wanted to revisit it to pick up the little pieces of my soul which I had left behind.
When I got there, I discovered that our old bungalow had been moved a quarter of a mile up the road. When I knocked at the door and explained my mission, the new tenants graciously invited me in. They were kind enough to give me silence and space as I explored each room.
Although I had not lived there since I was six years old, many precious memories lingered in that old home and flooded my soul. I remembered family times around the piano. I remembered exploring the interesting things in my father’s little study. I remembered my mother’s bric-a-brac which she kept on “what not’ stands in more than a few corners of that place. We called it “Mother’s junk;” she called it “my things.” I remembered the good food, the good time and the love we shared as a family in that home. Oh, how the precious memories that lingered in that old house filled my soul.
While in the old house, I reclaimed and relived, at least for a moment, a glorious past. But when I got to my car and looked back at the old home place, the place of my birth, a sadness came over me. I said aloud to myself, “This is no longer my house, This is no longer my home.” And then a still small voice said to me, “Don’t worry about it, son. For, if the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, you have a house, a building of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
In life or in death, we are not alone. We are not cosmic orphans; we are not without a Comforter. For, there is a power equal to our trust. God has promised that if more is required of us than we are humanly able to give in life and in death, give it up anyway.
You have never given me a task without providing whatever is needed to fulfill it. Indeed, you are the power more than equal to my trust. Lord, help my unbelief. Amen.