this sermon followed the Children’s Sermon presented by my son Micah.
It’s just that simple. Thank you Micah. It’s so simple that an eight year old boy gets it. Love God and love your neighbor. That’s what eternal life is all about. Love God and love your neighbor. Do you want to know the meaning of life? Love God and love your neighbor. Do you want to know what the purpose of your life is? Simple. Love God and your neighbor! But somewhere along the way, it (life) becomes complicated. It didn’t begin with the lawyer in our gospel, although some people would like to think so. The lawyer doesn’t create the problem—the complication. He just gives voice to it. And who or but who is my neighbor?
You see, life’s a beach, and we people really do like to play in the sand, to draw lines in the sand. On my beach, neighbors are those people on my side of the line. In my life, neighbors are those people close to me. And it’s a lot more complicated than location—the family, the couple, the man or woman who lives in the house, or apartment, or condo next door. There’s all sorts of things like rich or poor, or middle class, education, sophistication, professions, color, religion (or none), proximity of political persuasion. Yes, it can get complicated, but what can Jesus expect. Life’s a beach and if we don’t draw the line somewhere we’ll have as many neighbors as grains of sand. How practical is that if everyone is a neighbor and we love everybody?
So we ask again and again are black, inner city, young men really my neighbor? Are the police officers who ride on their Harleys and squad cars my neighbor? Is someone like the man and the experience author Rob Schenck describes at the beginning of his article: Should Christians Own Guns?
The simple answer is yes.
But how? How do we love? That’s not a rhetorical; that’s not an academic question? This is THE question for us today especially after this past week with the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philander Castille and of Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Lorne Ahrens. And the really sad thing, this is just the latest public tragedy.
Jesus gave us an example—the good samaritan. A parable that played out
The neighbor are the men who stopped at an overturned van outside on a road in the West Bank. The van contained a rabbi and his family who were settling on land once owned by Palestinians. The men who stopped to help, one was a Palestinian who put an injured passenger in his car and then tried to direct traffic around the van. The other was a Palestinian doctor and his brother on his way into Jerusalem to break the Ramadan fast and pray as Al Aqsa mosque. The doctor and his brother helped as best they could. Pulling the seriously injured wife of the rabbi to safety. It did not matter that a Palestinian had shot at the van, killing the rabbi, the husband, and father who was driving. It did not matter that this family of settlers were intentionally taking land away from Palestinians. These Palestinians the doctor, his brother, and another anonymous driver were the neighbors.
This is an example like the samaritan, but just because we may not have such a dramatic experience does not mean that we are somehow off the hook. We are called to love. The love of which I speak is definitely not “sexy”. Anger has become as American as apple pie. It is acceptable and almost expected that we speak, post, and act with aggression—when “we tell it like it is”. There is nothing so sweet as righteous indignation.
But to love, to neighbor is to not fall into that trap. To neighbor is to be able to hear and say “Black Lives Matter” and know that it does not mean only black lives. That Black Lives Matter includes all lives, and at the same time speaks the truth although statistically white people are just as likely to commit a crime, that police are more likely to stop, arrest, and kill people of color. Black Lives Matter admits that racism is behind the impression that black men are more of a threat.
For us right now—to love everyone, to be a neighbor is to post and say Black Lives Matter sign and even to participate in the Coalition for Justice rally tomorrow evening at Red Arrow Park. To love everyone to be the neighbor is to put up a Blue Lives Matter and welcome, feed, support the police. This is simple, and it is complicated. Might we offend someone? Most likely. That is the cross that Jesus calls us to carry today. Because we are witnessing to the call to love God and love our neighbor. This is what we need. This is what our neighbors need. This is what our friends and family need. This is what our country needs. It needs for us to, in our complicated lives, simply love God and love others, show mercy, go and do likewise. Amen.