Dear Parish Family,
Our family loves to tease, "kid around," and be "jokesters." Part of the reason is that I have always been this way as far back as I can remember; and, am often told by my children that I laugh the hardest at my own jokes. One of the more recent "one liners" that we joke about is "being neighborly." When watching one of the "updates" given by Governor Henry McMaster, he used the term when talking about how we should treat one another during the Coronavirus pandemic. I know that some of you are tired of hearing about the Coronavirus, and I have had a few people say that they don't watch the news anymore because they are tired of hearing about the virus and all the other "bad news" in the news. And, I know that some are not Governor McMaster “fans.” Even if you don't agree with how our Governor is handling the current pandemic, you should know that he is a good and godly man. I have had the privilege of being with our Governor on more than one occasion over the last four years. I met him through an organization that I have been involved with, "The Nehemiah Project" (which has been “on hold” since the virus and a transition in leadership). In the fall of 2017, I was privileged to be in the Governor's Mansion with about 50 or 60 Christian pastors and leaders from the state, including our Bishop, Mark Lawrence, and our Canon, Jim Lewis (two great friends). As we spent time together, I had a brief opportunity to greet the Governor (who amazingly remembered me) and all those gathered prayed together and prayed for our Governor.
Meredith and I will tease one another about "being neighborly" and our daughter has even gotten in on the teasing when we suggested that to her, when joking about how we might treat one another...all in fun and love. This week, I was reading my "Christianity Today" magazine, and there was an article that caught my eye. If you are unfamiliar with Christianity Today, let me give you just a little background. The founder was Billy Graham in the mid 1950's and was meant to parallel magazines like Time or Newsweek, to give a picture and some thoughts on how we might know what is going on in the world from a Christian perspective. I have been reading Christianity Today since the early 1980's and, about 30 years ago, met one of the writers, Mark Galli, who would serve as Senior Editor from 2010 until this year. The article that caught my eye was "Being a Covid-19 Neighbor" and it caused me to reflect a bit on what that means for St. Luke's.
It seems that in our current situation with the Covid-19 pandemic, along with all the other challenges we face: racial tensions, political unrest, the economic fears, and the strong feelings that accompany much of these challenges; people are more at odds, tense, anxious, and defensive than usual. And, probably many of you have personal concerns with health, family, friends, or your own situation due to all of the tensions and fears surrounding the above. What tends to happen during times like this is what we are seeing in our media: attacks on one another, rioting and looting, broken relationships and broken families, businesses closing, along with angry people due to their own economic fears and failures. Much of this is "bigger than us!" We didn't cause the situation, but we do live in the situation.
Jesus lived in a day of tension as well! With the Roman occupation of Israel, the tension and disagreements among the various sects of Judaism; the differences and tensions that existed between Jews and Samaritans, just to name a few. And, Jesus was attacked personally because of His teaching, preaching, and basically because of who He was (and is). And yet, amidst all the turmoil of His day and all the turmoil of His life, and the fact that people hated Jesus and sought to kill Him, Jesus would talk about the “Two Great Commandments,” centered around love! First, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and the second, to love your neighbor as yourself. In Luke's Gospel, Chapter 10, a lawyer asked Jesus how one might inherit eternal life. The "summation" was to live the two Great Commandments. The lawyer asked for clarification about who might be one's neighbor and Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan; similar to the question in the Christianity Today article about how to be a neighbor, and who might be our neighbor during this time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Without recounting the article, I would just like to pose the question to you about how you might, in these challenging days, "love your neighbor as yourself;" or, how you might love as Jesus loved: self sacrificially? One example I saw on the news this week on the heels of the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic being broken into recently. Someone broke into the VIM clinic and as best they could tell, ended up stealing about $10; but caused about $900 in damage! The staff person from the clinic that they interviewed said that people were hand delivering gifts to pay for the damage!! The person who broke in was obviously not being a good neighbor; but, there were a few good neighbors who responded to the need!
It would be worth some prayer time to ask the Lord to bring to your mind and heart: "Who is my neighbor?" especially in the context of Luke 10 and the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews were enemies; they were not in agreement "religiously" or socially. In fact, all who heard the Parable were surprised by Jesus' lesson in the Parable! Being a good neighbor can be done through reaching out with kind words, a kind act, a warm smile, a gesture, a financial gift. Any one of these might require self sacrifice, time, resources. If you study the Parable of the Good Samaritan, you will see all of these, and more: he was willing to risk!
In a time when complacency and malaise is rampant, along with self-centeredness and apathy, we as Christians could change the tide of what we see in our culture: one loving act at a time; one kind word at a time; reaching one person with the Gospel that will help change them and possibly their family. Everyone's situation and opportunities may be different; but we can all make a concerted effort to be a good neighbor; to act "neighborly."
One further thought: not all will respond positively to your loving act or service. In Paul's letter to the Romans, following his presentation of the Gospel (Romans 1-8), Paul "applies" the Gospel in Romans 12 in wonderful ways (take a moment in the next few days to read Luke 10 and Romans 12). In verses 9-21 Paul writes: "let love be genuine" (vs. 9); and reading further on "live peaceably with all, as much as it depends on you" (verse 18). Not everyone in our day wants to "live peaceably." We cannot control how people will respond to our loving acts, words, or sacrifice; we can only be Christ's servants and live as He lived and "overcome evil with good" (verse 21).
Let us commit together as His Church at St. Luke's to "love our neighbor as ourselves" and do so proactively and creatively in these challenging days. Let's "be neighborly!"
With love, in Christ,