Be the Innkeeper

find potential squareI hope you’re sitting down – or at least holding onto something sturdy – because I’m about to consciously let my worlds collide.

This Sunday, I’m preaching at a small Presbyterian church in southern Indiana, filling the pulpit while their pastor is on vacation. I don’t accept many opportunities to preach anymore. I like my new calling and the ways I find to preach what I believe about seeing the potential in everything. The venue and format for what I do may have changed, but my message and what inspires it have not.

Now, when I’m preaching for a group of folks I don’t know well, I’m not likely to include anything controversial. Oh, let’s be honest, even when I’m speaking to folks I’ve known forever, you won’t hear me say anything all too challenging. And, confession time: when I’m filling a pulpit, I almost always pull a sermon from my “favorites” file and tune it up to suit the date/place/people. The reality of what it takes to write a sermon doesn’t make it practical for a non-salaried person to crank out a new one. Luckily, this Sunday’s lectionary text coincides with one of my favorites – probably my most often preached sermon – based on the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Today, my Facebook feed is filled with posts from friends/pastors struggling with what they’ll say this Sunday, how they’ll speak honestly about the daily gun violence across our nation this week. Meanwhile, I’m thinking I have a “Get out of jail free” card, since no one expects (or wants) a guest preacher to do that. But then I think about the message I hope people take away from my sermon on this parable and it will be impossible not to reference what’s happened this week.

Spoiler alert: when I preach on the parable of the Samaritan, I acknowledge that he does the initial “saving,” but then point out who’s doing the real work. The innkeeper, who is tasked with caring for the victim and nursing this person back to health. The innkeeper, who is paid for the first night’s stay, but must do the rest of what’s needed with only the promise that the Samaritan, a stranger, will return and pay the rest. The innkeeper, who offers a bed and shelter for weary travelers, but is brought so much more than he bargained for and does not turn the man away.

It’s a type of creative reuse, really, someone who must adapt what he offers to provide the type of hospitality that’s needed.

Our news is filled with sensational stories of robbers and feel good stories of Samaritans, but the bigger and more important story is always what happens after the violent or heroic act. There’s a reason we call them “first responders,” because there’s still work to do when they’re done. The challenge, for even the most hope-filled person, is seeing beyond the aftermath and figuring out what we have to offer whomever is laid at our doorstep.

This is when I preach that creative reuse will not only change our world, it can save it.

I believe that if we teach the next generation to see potential in everything, we will equip them to see a way forward. I’m not talking about rose colored glasses, tinting what’s rough and painful so it’s easier to ignore. The practice of creative reuse prepares one to face a life of not knowing, to be comfortable with ambiguity and skilled at idea generation. A creative reuser has the capacity to think creatively and make connections.

Who better to take hold of our world and make something of it?


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