When Jesus told us the familiar story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-47), he was doing more than telling us a nice story. This story is perhaps, one of the most told stories every told and is well known by people of other faiths and traditions.This is a mandate for us to care--to really care for people. A man is beat up on his journey by thugs and thieves. He was taken advantage of and trauma was the result. Van Gogh paints the story for us in vivid color and by pausing we can see more than just a nice story.The injured man is left by the side of the road in peril and in need of care. After several busy people passed this man by, an insignificant person stopped who no one would have even envisioned worthy to be able to offer the injured man care and help. The man who stopped was a Samaritan--someone who was not respected or well-thought of in his day. This "good" Samaritan we're told, took the ailing and injured person to an Inn where the Innkeeper pledged all the help needed to restore the person's well-being.Look at the injured man on the horse. His body is limp. He's weak from the journey. His head his bandaged showing that he is most likely in a daze--even unable to dismount his horse. He's weak. He's tired. He's been through trauma.Notice the "Good" person in the story. He is the one helping the injured man. He's dressed different from the ailing man. He's strong--reaching to help the man down. Do you see the open suitcase in the bottom left corner. The man has been robbed. Things have been taken from him. He's been violated. He's been a victim. Right above the suitcase is one the people who noticed the injured man but is passing by. He didn't stop to help. He did not care. He was pre-occupied with his life--his mission--his goal--perhaps his own thoughts. Learning to care involves thinking of one's self less and the needs of others more. This is what we mean when we say that someone is "selfless." We mean that their thoughts are focused on something other than self. The folks who passed this dear injured man by--were thinking of religion; thinking of their obligations; thinking of themselves and their own busyness.We learn in the parable and in the fabulous painting that caring for the soul of men and women requires a few simple acts:
- Noticing--Jesus' story is about noticing the folks around us in our every day life who need care. Some noticed and passed by; others rushed by too pre-occupied to stop; too limited in time to really care. Soul Care first begins in the act of noticing. Who needs help? Who in your everyday walking, talking and working life seems to be hurting? Truly "good" people do not see others as invisible. They have a sense that people matter and hurting people matter a lot. When we are too pre-occupied to notice the hurting--we are too busy. By moving fast and by moving with great intention, we overlook someone who is need. Isn't this the real message Jesus offered us in another parable: "For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me."--(Matthew 25:31-36). We notice people by SEEING them. Really seeing the person--the blood--the wound--the need. People in need matter and they matter as much as our mission statement; our mandates; our priorities and our every day "to do lists".
- Stopping-- if we are too busy to stop--then we are simply too busy. This is Jesus' point. We need to stop. It is not enough to see the need--our call is to actually stop and elp. In this parable, Jesus makes it clear that stopping is God's real will-God's real mission--God's real ministry. When we are over-committed and spin rivaling priorities, we cannot stop--at least we live in the illusion that we can't stop. This is Jesus whole point for us to ponder. What is taking up the mental space and heart space that each one of us has in life?
- Reaching--Caring involves reaching out. Just as you see the person reaching to help---real help is incarnational. It involves our feet, our hands; our resources; our intent; our physical act---and not just our prayers.
- Helping--The Good Samaritan took the injured man to a place for healing and help. Soul Care does not happen by thinking or even praying for help. It involves the actually help we extend to others. Our hands become God's extended hands. Our eyes become God's eyes to see. Our feet to move--become the incarnational feet of Jesus to move us to those in need. Teresa of Avila penned these famous words:Christ Has No BodyChrist has no body now on earth but yours, No hands but yours, No feet but yours, Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world; Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.T0 care like is to actually involves oneself in the incarnational work of God in the 21st century. This happens when we live this story out--when we put ourselves into this painting--when we believe the actual words Jesus offered us.
- Providing on-going care--this is the story of the actual Inn--the actual place where help is given. Care does not happen in a vacuum. Care happens in a place where love is extended; wounds are bound and stories are listened too deeply. Love is extended. This is the heart of God, is it not? The wounds are tended to; the man's story is listened to; good food and drink nourish the injured back to health.
When I study this picture as I have for several weeks now, I see that Van Gogh actually captured the mission of Potter's Inn. We care for the souls of leaders in the marketplace and ministry. This parable has shaped our important work. We do this by providing care and by teaching the great preventative work involved in the care of our souls.We have an Inn. We provide a place for people from all over the world to come to learn; to experience care; to be equipped to be a mobile "Inn" in the marketplace and ministry. We have people who care. We know how to provide the care leaders need and we are so deeply glad to be doing this great work. We are profoundly thankful to those of you who help us do this by your financial support and prayers. It takes a lot of help to do what we do.It's important for me to underscore that soul care, when really understood is NOT just like Red Cross kind of work--the kind of work done when catastrophes and storms wreak havoc. Soul Care is really preventative work--to equip people to know how to live well and work well in life. We do this by helping people understand the soul; how to care for the soul; how to live in a sense of rhythm and how to sustain the life God called us to live.