The grace, the love freely given, illustrated in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is to be extended to the physically beaten – and to the spiritually beaten. A true story from the Rev. Paul Slentz's 18-year pastorate at 61st Avenue United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, illustrates both.
Slentz recalls a particular Saturday night when, as usual, he drove the church van to a park across from the downtown library to pick up homeless brothers and sisters for a meal and worship.
"I was glad to see that a young woman and her boyfriend who had come with us for the first time the week before wanted to come again," he recalls. The woman had a severe disability that kept her in a wheel chair. To and from the church, she joyfully sang along with the Christian songs playing on the radio.
That second week, Slentz recalls, "She looked very depressed. But what really hit me and made me feel so bad for her was that she was just terribly filthy. She was wearing the exact same clothing she had had on the week before. The pad she sat on was urine-soaked. Frankly, the smell was so overwhelming that it was hard to sit next to her as I drove the van. She did not sing along with the radio."
Arriving at the church, Slentz explained the situation to lay leader Brenda Hix.
"Without blinking an eye, Brenda took that sad young lady into the women's room, helped her bathe, clothed her, cleaned her wheel chair and, most important of all, spoke comforting words to her," he said. "At one point, Brenda had to come out of the restroom just to get some air. After about 15 minutes, the young woman emerged clean as a whistle and with a smile on her face. She then ate supper and joined us for worship. She sang her heart out."
Her "body was beaten down pretty hard, but her spirit was beaten down even more," Slentz says. "She had been stripped of her dignity, robbed of her pride, beaten emotionally and left half-dead in her despair.
"This young woman needed to know that somebody cared. Brenda showed her that."
Adapted from a sermon preached by the Rev. Paul Slentz at 61st Avenue United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, where he served from 1997 to 2015.