Jesus calls us to be neighbors to one another

I approached this morning's sermon with a good deal of emotion.     The scripture was chosen a while back, the story of The Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke.   I was very excited about this passage as it was also a part of our just completed Vacation Bible Experience.   There, the children learned all about being neighbors.   They learned that neighbors are friendly, kind, giving, and forgiving.   Many friends and colleagues also were at VBE (or VBS) using this same curriculum in different places.    How wonderful to have the children learning about neighbors near and far, singing songs and hearing bible stories that invite us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Last night, I went to the movies with two of my boys.  We saw Monster's University, lots of fun, good laughs, good story.   We were walking home at 11 p.m.   South Haven was mostly closing up, a few lights on in the storefronts, a restaurant or two with the last customers.   DQ had a line, music from Joe's Bar was heard throughout, and the night was cool.   Many folks walking the streets of our small town.  Brandon and I turned at the bank and headed home - Josh walked on to his place.   I felt great.   How wonderful to have two boys, ages 13 and 25, who still like going to the movies with dad.  

Arriving home, I sat down to unwind a moment, and checked email.  That is when I read the news that George Zimmerman was found not guilty.  Some other night it might not have hit as hard, but this night it just did.   As I mentioned in my message this morning, the jury did their job, and I am not here to comment on that or on the politics of the day or on gun control or any of those issues.

What kept coming back to me over and over was the connection between Mr. Zimmerman and the story of the Good Samaritan.    Mr. Zimmerman is always mentions as a member of the Neighborhood Watch.   And in the story of The Good Samaritan, Jesus speaks about neighbors.    Somewhere, we have lost track of what it means to be neighbors.    Sadly, we no longer see one another as neighbors, but as us and them - very much like some of the folks in the story of The Good Samaritan.   

After a week of teaching children that all God's people are our neighbors, it is just hard to explain what took place in Florida.   

The other aspect of this that worries me, is that walking home with my sons, who are both black males, I worry for them in the future.  Here in South Haven, walking together at 11 at night, feels safe and comfortable.   But I will not always be with them and they will not always be walking in small South Haven.   Will they be safe?   Will they be welcomed in different neighborhoods?   I hope so.   But any sense that we are making progress as a nation seems far away.   People can say what happened in Florida isn't about race - but you have a hard time convincing me of that.

So what are we to do?   Continue to strive to be good neighbors.   Continue to seek God's guidance on how to love all our neighbors - and to build neighborhoods around the world that welcome people, not box them out.    We really do need a Neighborhood Watch - but a different one - one that reaches out with generosity, not suspicion, one that cares for others, not sees them as a threat.   It must begin with us, for if not us, then who?

May God give us the grace and assurance to love our neighbor.