July 14, 2013, Proper 10C
The Rev. Andrew Goldhor
I was sitting at home last night finishing my sermon. Then I saw the Trayvon Martin verdict. George Zimmerman was found not guilty by six jurors in Florida. After a few minutes, as my Facebook feed filled with emotion, commentary, calls for action, fury and outrage and satisfaction, I knew I had to scrap my sermon.
I do not wish to preach on whether George Zimmerman should have been found guilty of murder, or if justice was served by the outcome of the trial. A young man is dead. Another in a heart rending list, too long to bear, of dead youth in our cities and towns. I do want to lift this up to God, and to call Holy all our efforts to find Jesus at work in us, in our pain and anger, in our frustration, sadness worry and confusion.
So I hope that we might use these minutes to let God take hold of our hearts and minds. For the family of Trayvon Martin I pray that they might be sustained in their faith, knowing Jesus abiding presence in their pain and grief. For George Zimmerman and his family I pray they too may know God's love. And for Trayvon, I pray that he continue to rest in peace, and rise in glory.
The defense of George Zimmerman, from what I heard of the trial coverage, was that he was acting out of fear for his life, or his safety. This fear drove him to kill Trayvon, and it seems to have been what his defense team used to justify this act in keeping with Florida's Stand your Ground laws. And it is this fear that brings me to Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke's Gospel.
In his final speech in Memphis, Dr. Martin Luther King recalled traveling to the Holy Land with his wife, and traveling the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, the setting for Jesus parable. Dr. King described the road as being well suited to an ambush. And it was that narrow, dangerous road that made him think of why that priest and that levite just kept moving when they saw the half dead man on the side of the road. They were afraid those bandits might still be nearby, or that the man could be faking, trying to lure them into a trap.
Dr. King said, "And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?" The Samaritan might well have been afraid of those bandits too, but he did not let his fear make the choice for him. He instead saw the need of his neighbor, and was moved with pity, and he acted.
Trayvon Martin was a victim of fear, at the least. A fear that made him look dangerous to George Zimmerman.
As we hold these families, and all those affected by violence in our prayers, let us continue to live into our baptismal covenant, always striving to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, to strive for Justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being. These vows are hard, and this case is only one example of why. But in our life of prayer together, and in the food we take from this table, we find strength for these great tasks.
Let us Pray:
Gracious God, you provide us with blessings of life and children and joy. We ask that you will send your Holy Spirit upon us in these difficult days, that we might not be overcome with fear, but might see one another as neighbors, and might use our hearts and souls and minds and strength in service of you, through your Son, our friend and savior, Jesus Christ.