July 14, 2019: Neighbors

 Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

I would define “neighbor” as someone who lived near where I lived. During my growing-up years I always knew my neighbors. Through college and seminary, I knew those who lived close to me. Every call I have served, I knew those in the “neighborhood.”

Today it is more difficult to define who our neighbors are, as we can reach out through social media and technology across thousands of miles to keep in contact with people. We can video chat, instant message, text message, send photos. We keep in touch, and yet we are not really touching anything except a keyboard or screen. Am I trying to say we can be “neighbors” only to those physically near us? No. There is a multitude of ways to reach out over the miles to touch people’s lives in a positive way.

When this man asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” he is seeking an answer that makes the neighbor an object to love, not a subject needing love. It would have been much easier if Jesus had said, “A neighbor is anyone who needs your help.” But he didn’t. The real center of this story is not the man who is hurt, but the actions of those who pass by. The first two feel they have legitimate religious reasons to pass by the man. They are looking out for their own interests and well-being, however. The Samaritan first looks out for the interests and well-being of the hurt man.

Recently a friend who is a fellow firefighter stopped to lend aid to a young lady who had crashed her car on a snow-covered highway. Chris had done this act many times before, telling his girlfriend, “It’s who I am.” He gave it no second thought. As he was in the act of helping, he was struck by another car and fatally injured. Some people might view this as a reason not to stop to help a neighbor in need. Had Chris survived, he would have gone right back to helping people. All people were his neighbors. There were just some he hadn’t met yet.

Neighbors are not only the people who look like us, act like us, vote like us, or love like us. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” “Do this, and you will live.”

Dave Sobek, pastor, Lake Mills Moravian Church
Lake Mills, Wisconsin