The Last Repair Shop

The Last Repair Shop

Good Friday (NL2) John B. Valentine
Mark 15 / Luke 10:30-37 March 29, 2024


The topic on the table this evening is ... believe it or not ... the Oscars ... the Academy Awards.

You see ... you know how ... every year ... at the Academy Awards ... they culminate that event by revealing

• the Best Actor ...
• the Best Actress ...
• the Best Director ... and
• the Best Picture???

Those are the categories in which everyone is supposedly really interested.

But when they start off the evening ... don’t they usually do so by highlighting some of more obscure awards ... like:

• Best Costume Design ...
• Best Cinematography ...
• Best Documentary Short Film ...

Stuff like that???

So it came to pass ... the other night ... that I made Bethany watch this year’s “Best Documentary Short Film” with me ... something called ‘The Last Repair Shop’ ...

Because we had nothing better to do ... wink, wink.

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Actually ... The Last Repair Shop is kind of fun ... and very moving ...... for a documentary.

It tells the story of the LA Unified School District’s singular remaining repair shop for all the musical instruments in all the public schools in LAUSD ....

How it is that a handful of craftspeople work tirelessly to insure that the kids in the district have access to working musical instruments.

So ... for instance ... there’s an interview with a woman ... one of the employees of the Last Repair shop ... who has a ‘treasure jar’ that contains all the treasures she’s found inside of violins and cellos and guitars ... gum ... coins ... little troll dolls ... a Hot Wheels car.

But the story that it really tells is:

How those instruments ... and those music programs ... create meaning and opportunity ... and give life and hope ... to kids whose lives ... by their own admission ... would otherwise be devoid of much in the way of meaning and opportunity and joy.

And how it is that employment in that so-called Last Repair Shop has offered meaning and opportunity and hope to a number of folks who were hard-pressed to find meaningful work elsewhere.

And how it is that that ‘Last Repair Shop’ is really a place where meaning and opportunity and hope can be found in the most unlikely of places.

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Actually ... “The Last Repair Shop” isn’t a bad metaphor for the story that you’re going to hear read and sung anew this evening.

For we’re going to go on a journey to a place where meaning and opportunity and hope can be found in the most unlikely of places.

Seriously ... folks.

• The story which shapes this day we call “Good Friday” begins in a politician’s office ... the office of one Pontius Pilate ... the Governor of the Roman Province of Judea.

But I trust that you know enough about politics to know that most of what comes out of politicians’ offices ‘back in the day’ and yet still today is self-serving and self-dealing ... be they leftists or rightists or moderates.

• Then again ... the next stop in that story is going to be where??? In the court of public opinion. With the crowd weighing in on what they think would be the best outcome of the day.

But I trust you know enough about public opinion to know that ... just because a bunch of people THINK that something is a good idea doesn’t necessarily make it so ... whether it’s bandied about on Twitter or TikTok or Truth Social.

• Then they go off to the Halls of Justice ... to the courtyard of the Governor’s palace ... where one might rightly expect to find justice being meted out.

But ‘justice’ ... both then and now ... is a pretty subjective term ... is it not? I mean ... where is the justice in Sam Bankman Fried getting sentenced just this week to 25 years in prison for fleecing investors out of ten billion dollars ... while a fellow by the name of Richard Paey got an identical sentence for forging a single prescription from a doctor??

But after all that ... it’s off to the executioner’s hill ... the Place of the Skull. A place where justice is never done ... a place where meaning and opportunity and hope are literally snuffed out. And then again ... ultimately ... to a graveyard.

Point being ... if you think about it ... while we might naively HOPE that the first places on our itinerary might be places wherein justice is done and comfort is found and right might reign triumphant ...

We know enough about this world in which we live ... and we know enough about the sorts of people that inhabit this world in which we live ... ourselves included ... to know better.

But ... then ... at our final destination for the evening ... a place that doesn’t bode well for meaning and opportunity and hope ...

We may actually discover ... in that most unlikely of places ... that all those things for which we hoped might actually be found.

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You see ... Jesus once told a story about meaning and opportunity and hope being found in the most unlikely of places.

Actually ... if you think about it ... it might well be said that Jesus told LOTS of stories about meaning and opportunity and hope being found in the most unlikely of places.

But the particular story that I have in mind is one recorded in the 10th chapter of the Gospel according to Luke ...

Wherein Jesus says:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and took off, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan while traveling came upon him, and when he saw him he was moved with compassion. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, treating them with oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and when I come back I will repay you whatever more you spend.’”

We love that story ... that parable of the Good Samaritan.

And Luke the gospel-writer uses it as a poignant reminder that we who would follow Jesus are called to be neighbors like that Good Samaritan.

But what if Jesus didn't tell the parable of the Good Samaritan so much as an EXAMPLE FOR US TO HEAR as a TRUTH FOR US TO EXPERIENCE??

What if Jesus isn't so much asking us to consider behaving in a new way as much as he is wanting us to see things in a new way??

What if the question that Jesus wants us to focus on is not so much "HOW CAN I BE A NEIGHBOR TO OTHERS?" but rather WHO IS A NEIGHBOR TO ME?"

I mean ... Tim Lull ... the one-time president over at the seminary in Berkeley was rightly insistent that ... for we who consider ourselves Lutherans should constantly be alert to the fact that Jesus is always “gift before example” ....

That we have no right and no reason to talk about Jesus as ‘example’ until we have appropriated him as ‘gift’.

And so maybe the first question we need to ask when we hear that familiar parable is not the lawyer’s question “Who is my neighbor?” ... but rather ... “Who is a neighbor to me?”

• Who is it that comes to your side when you're lying in a roadside ditch, beaten and bleeding?

• Who is it that cradles and comforts you when the pains of life become so overwhelming they threaten to "do" you in?

• Who is it that offers you aid when you don't know what to do, or which way to turn?

• Who is it that is there for you when you're life is devoid of meaning and opportunity and hope?

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Let's face it ... folks ...

The only one ... THE ONLY ONE ... who TRULY "neighbors" us all the time is JESUS!

The one who is the Good Samaritan to us is JESUS.

The one who comes to us from outside ourselves and loves us ... as we are ... where we are ... however we are ... is JESUS.

The one who signs that blank check ... and says “Whatever it costs, I’ll pay it” ... is JESUS.

And it is because of him and him alone ... because of self-denying, self-sacrificing love ... that these most unlikely of places become places of meaning and opportunity and hope.


“The Last Repair Shop” was/is a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine in conjunction with our worship gathering on Good Friday — March 29, 2024.  The text upon which it is based is Mark 15, the account of Jesus’ crucifixion.  To access a copy of the evening’s worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order 20240329