Oil And Wine

(C) 2013 Rebekah Robinson

I look up through the red haze

The view is narrowed down

He turns me over, concerned

Can He turn me around?

This world has robbed me

blind ritual let me bleed

All I’ve left are filthy rags

The Law did not meet my need …

Arms and water

Oil and wine

On His shoulder

The soil of mine

Arms and water

Oil and wine …

I look up through the whiteness

The place of healing

pieces, I can’t believe my ears as

He pays the bill for me

He came an outsider

With no reason to help

Now He offers His credit

Since I cannot help myself

Grace and mercy

Oil and wine

Soul-torn, thirsty

Joy shall shine

Past and future

Oil and wine

Lasting sutures

Coil and bind, coil and bind

Oil and wine

Oil and wine

You anoint my head

Overflow the cup I’m fed

Oil and wine

———–

The beautiful thing about the Word of God is that it has layers.  There are so many layers in the “Good Samaritan” story that I couldn’t fit them all in one song.  Oil and wine, for instance.  Oil represents anointing – empowerment by the Spirit of God to break the yoke of bondage, to do great exploits.  Wine represents the outpouring of God’s Spirit: new life, joy, abundance, celebration.  Together, oil and wine speak of prosperity: “do not damage the oil and wine” – let luxuries still exist.  Olive oil was used as a cosmetic (moisturizer/conditioner?) as well as a food ingredient and a cooking essential.  Medicinally, wine could have been used for an antiseptic and a painkiller.  So when the Samaritan took the man who’d been mugged to the inn and “poured on oil and wine”, he was making provision for healing, he was expressing generosity, he was going all out.

What grips me most is the credit card.  The Samaritan not only pays for the medical treatment to set the man right.  He also pays it forward, should the man need further treatment.  That is so like grace.  God’s bottomless grace has covered not just other peoples’ sins against me, not just the sins I’ve committed, but also any sin I might commit in the future, since all times are Present to Him.  It all goes on His tab – His endless tab.  The one paid in His blood.  He’s good for it.

So.  The inn.  I’m guessing they didn’t have hospitals in first-century Judea.  As in many primitive parts of the world today, an injured person is cared for at the cost of the family, at whatever facility works for all, usually home.  A man found  lying on the road, beaten to a pulp, would be too unconscious to give his address even if he could be safely transported to it.

If we cast Jesus in the role of the Samaritan – the person whose views didn’t match up to orthodoxy, who shared some of our ancestry and was otherwise quite alien, like us and not like us, who could have claimed He was no neighbour of us victims until He chose to stop and become one – then the inn in this parable is the place He takes us for healing.  A place where we recover.  A place where we’re patiently treated, if you’ll excuse the pun.  And of course you see where I’m going with this.

The inn should be the church.  Is there room at our inn?  If Jesus were to shoulder in the door, bleeding people draped all over Him, one after another, and ask us to nurse them back to health and put it all on His tab … would we be up for that?  Can we confidently back our churches as places of healing, where those to whom Christ has chosen to be a neighbour can be accommodated long-term while their souls find the path to wholeness?  They come in filthy, as we all once were.  They don’t smell any better than we did.  They aren’t wearing the garment of praise or the robe of righteousness yet.  They leave stains on the linens and they don’t speak the language.  But we cannot afford to be prissy if we are running an inn on the Jericho Road.  It’s not a safe road.  It’s renowned for banditry and hijacking.  Jesus has paid in blood to have these precious people put back on their feet.  Are we going to trust Him to cover His account?  Will we remember that all the oil and wine we have this side of Jerusalem, are there because He’s imported them for us?  That He wishes them to be poured out on all those He cares about?  Will we be moved by compassion, as He is, because their need itself is so much more overwhelming than its symptoms?

(My church was once called Glad Tidings Tab … the glad tidings being that He has paid our tab!)

If the Bible’s most important commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our passion and prayer and intelligence, the 2IC is to love our neighbour as ourselves.  Jesus has just illustrated that our “neighbour” is the person who has compassion on us … which, in the first instance, is Himself.  He has demonstrated that the first and second commandments can actually be synonymous: love the Lord your God … and His Son, who became your neighbour!  And He has asked us to be a neighbour likewise – to have mercy on others, as He has.  If a neighbour is someone who shows us pity, then He’s asked us to love those who are compassionate towards us; not to quietly resent them or think them smug because they’re in a better position than we are at that point.  Don’t be proudly embarrassed when someone has neighbourly compassion on you.  In fact, far from being mortified or humiliated, you could think of yourself as providing a service … if it’s more blessed to give than receive, you’ve allowed someone to be blessed by allowing them to be a blessing!  Is it not a beautiful cycle?  Embrace it with gratitude, and pass on the same blessing later.  Humility has a grace and beauty about it, a strength that holds its own without being showy.

In the parable of the unmerciful servant, the protagonist failed to pass on mercy, pass on forgiveness, pass on generosity.  Having had his million-dollar debt to the King cancelled, he took out his overwrought emotions on the friend who owed him $5.  I wonder if he was frantic to get that $5 because he thought his escape had been too narrow to hold good, and he must at all costs begin to cover his bases.  He was going to try to pay for something the King had already paid for.  Perhaps he didn’t trust the King’s word when the King took pity on him and said the debt was cancelled.  In the end, the King revoked the cancellation because the man failed to love his neighbour as he had been loved.  We tend to forget that the Bible doesn’t call them “the Ten Suggestions”.  We are commanded to love God and love our neighbour. Commandments have consequences.

As many Biblical injunctions go, there’s a horizontal element – be a neighbour by showing compassion, allow others to be your neighbour by accepting their compassion.  And there’s a vertical element – recognize that without any obligation on His part, Christ was a neighbour to you.  What religion and scholarship and title could or would not accomplish, love did.  He was love in action; He was our neighbour; love your neighbour, who chose to love you.

What does it mean to love your neighbour as yourself?  Is this an implicit command to love ourselves, or a nod to some ‘given’ that we already do?  Is it a commutative equation: permission to treat yourself as specially as you’d treat a guest in your home?  Paul says elsewhere, “No man yet hated his own flesh, but feeds and cares for it.”  (Clearly he wasn’t familiar with eating disorders, but that’s beside the point.)  Paul is talking about husbands loving their wives (neighbours) as Christ loves the church (neighbours) and draws a parallel between loving your spouse and loving your own self, which is a clear echo of the commandment.  We are no doubt to feed and care for others, for Jesus, for the Jesus others represent … for inasmuch as we do it for them, we’ve done it for Him.  The whole thing becomes a glorious messy tangle, His favourite kind, where we are so mixed up about whether we’re loving Him or ourselves or the people next door or the cop who let us off the ticket or the cleaner we wished a nice day, that we go right ahead and love them all!  Love becomes circular, fractal, refractal.

I want our inn to stock the best “wines” and the most fragrant “oils”, that whoever comes in cannot help but be bowled over by the extravagant provision Jesus has made for their salvation.  Jesus plans to return to the inn – where He is clearly a known personage or patron – and reimburse any expense suffered in the process.  When He returns to MY inn, I want Him to see holistically healthy people in residence, dressed and sane, happy and home, overflowing with gratitude to Him; and a staff who’ve counted it an absolute pleasure to be part of the miracle!

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