To President and Mrs. Bush, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, to all
that are assembled here, and most importantly to all families who have
been deeply touched by this catastrophic storm, our prayers are with
you, as we understand is the only one who can heal the wounded and
bruised soul of this nation and its families and those particularly in
the Gulf.

As we face these troubled times we look to God’s word for
solace and comfort and strength. There are many passages that would
provide that solution and peace for us. But my heart is fixed today on
the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10, verse 30 through 34. In the text it
speaks particularly about a man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho
and fell amongst thieves, which stripped him of his raiment and wounded
him, departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came by a
Priest. And he saw him pass by. A Levite came. He looked too. But he
passed by on the other side. Finally, a Samaritan passed by his way.
Only the Samaritan came where he was, and when he saw him he had that
thing that we so desperately need today. He had compassion on him. He
went to him. And bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine and set
him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

Briefly, I will talk to you about the power of a helping hand. Five
simple truths that are born out of this text that are so relevant if we
face this time of perplexity and crisis, confusion, hurting in our

Number one, the Levite and the Priest show us that restoration is
more than observation. It’s more than looking from the safety of
our television into the lives of other people and accessing their
situation, from the comfort of our own luxury and lives. It teaches us
that we can no longer be a nation that overlooks the poor and the
suffering, and continue pass the ghetto on our way to the Mardi Gras. Or
pass Harlem from Manhattan. Or pass Compton for Rodeo Drive.

Secondly, from this text, we learn that we must reach beyond our
neighborhoods. The text is born out of a question that the Disciples
asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” I submit to you ladies and gentlemen,
our neighbors are more than the people who look like us, who live where
we live, who drive what we drive, or vote the way we vote. In fact, in
all likelihood, the person who gave this man the most service was the
Good Samaritan, different in ethnicity from the victim, but moved with
compassion, he responded powerfully to the crisis at hand.

I’m struck today by the response of this nation as I moved from
one shelter to another and saw the helping hands reaching out to touch
the victim. The stories that have not been told is that those hands came
in all colors, all cultures, all kinds, all ecclesiastical
entanglements, all philosophical viewpoints without distinction. When
America’s soul was hemorrhaging, all hands reached from everywhere
in a philanthropic way while we mourn with those who mourn and worry
with those who worry. And we wait with those we wait. We do also take a
moment to say thank you to all the many people from around this country
and around the world who open up their doors and their homes and hearts
and their lives and their pocketbooks. And if we continue on that path,
when the excitement diminishes, if we continue on that path to
understand that our neighbors are not always the people who are nearest
to us, then perhaps some good will come out of this catastrophic event.
Katrina. Perhaps she has done something to this nation that we needed to
have done. She has made us think and look and reach beyond the breach
and bear to discuss the unmentionable issues that confront us on a day
to day basis, to deal with our differences and distinctives
(that’s what he said….) and perspectives and to talk about
things that are not politically correct.

Third thing, you will notice is that the Good Samaritan who came
riding in on his beast found the victim who had been victimized lying on
the ground. And he learned the precious truth, powerful elixir, that you
cannot help people if you exalt yourself above them. So he came down off
of his beast so that the man who was on the ground could get up. And I
submit to you ladies and gentlemen, till we love enough to trade places
with the poor, the disadvantaged, the disenfranchised, and yes even
minorities in this country, then healing will not be real, and it will
never be complete. May God give us the grace to come down where pain is
and where poverty is and not stop until we have raised them up to an
acceptable standard of living for which sacrifices God is well

The fourth point I would submit to you is that resources, not
rhetoric, changed this man’s life. The Good Samaritan never said a
word to the victim. He simply helped him. It’s not so important
what we say. It is important what we do. Defining moments of history
cannot be defined by rhetoric and words or anger or soliciting people to
respond in a tempestuous way. But real leadership is defined by what we
do. The Good Samaritan teaches us that it will cost money to help
people, and sometimes we have to love them enough to pay the bill.

The fifth point is that relationships are productive. If the Good
Samaritan had not known the Innkeeper, then the victim would have
suffered from the dysfunction of their relationship. I say to you that
this is a time in spite of our distinctives that we must find a way to
know each other if we can help each other. Or the people in the Gulf
will suffer from our inability to communicate over our distinctive

Somewhere down in New Orleans between the city lights that once
glimmered and shined, the skyscrapers that once pointed to heaven, and a
smaller city called Slidell is a bridge called the the Twin Span
Bridge. You can’t see it now because it’s submerged
beneath water. It has been victimized by the storm and the breaking of
the levee, but it will be built back again. I say to you that as we
build back that bridge, that Twin Span Bridge, perhaps God will
bless us to find a way to build the bridges between us, between our
perspectives and our ideas and our opinions. While we’re building
cities and building bridges, let’s build unity. We cannot multiply
by dividing. We cannot add by subtracting. But if we would dare to build
a bridge, I refuse to believe in spite of all the talent, intellectual
properties, resources, influential people in this country, that we
couldn’t make a real difference if we would just try.

Oh, I’m glad to see the Bridge going back up between Slidell
and New Orleans, but I’ll be far happier to see the bridge built
up between blacks and whites, between browns and blacks, between
Democrats and Republicans, between Right and Left, until we understand
the truism that one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and
justice for all.

I only have five points, but those five points make up a hand that
needs to stretch out and touch the hurting and the poor and the
underserved in this nation. And if we can raise our hands to touch them,
then this country and this world will be the place where we were all
taught that it could be.

May God help us to stretch forth that helping hand!

God bless you.