Howdy, Neighbor.

Monday.

Beginning of the week.

Opportunity to put yesterday’s message into practice out where I work and associate with others.

Do I even remember yesterday’s message?

Yes.  Asking the wrong question.

Who is my neighbor?

I have heard, and even said myself, that there are no stupid questions.  Yesterday the speaker at my corporate worship service reminded me of that as he brought a message about “The Good Samaritan.”  He pointed out that the teacher of the law who approached Jesus to check out whether he was on track with his doctrine and teaching asked a wrong question.  Put more clearly, he asked a question with a wrong motive.  While asking “who is my neighbor” might seem an innocent and obvious question, it is more likely that he was really wanting to know: who isn’t my neighbor?  Who don’t I have to care about?  Is there anyone that I can cross off my list?  Anyone I can ignore?  Anyone I am not responsible for?  Anyone I don’t have to love?  Anyone I don’t have to forgive?

And I believe Jesus would say, “No.”  I believe that Jesus would wish that we would look out over the multitudes and be moved with compassion, just as he was.

I just recently began a study of the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew records that when Jesus saw the crowds he went up the mountain with his disciples, he sat down, and he began to teach.  The teaching that follows begins with what we commonly refer to as The Beatitudes.  Reading through this list of unusual attributes and their promised blessing and grace, it occurred to me that quite possibly Jesus came up with each of these as his eyes scanned the crowd.  He saw a clearly destitute family, devoid of earthly treasures eagerly seeking to hear his teaching.  He saw the tears of a woman recently widowed and alone.  He saw the kindness of men as they helped a cripple move closer so he could hear and not be trampled on by the crowd.  He saw a man seeking to settle a dispute between two others.  He looked out at the earnest and eager ones who had left so much behind to follow him unreservedly.  And his heart ached because he knew the road they chose in following him would not be easy but would be fraught with chastisement, persecution, and for many death.

When we walk through Walmart do we see our neighbors or just people out to steal our bargain or place in the shortest and fastest checkout lane?  How quickly do we judge the driver who cuts us off without considering what tragedy he or she may be facing?  As we’re checking out at the grocery do we click our tongues when the woman in front of us with four stair-step children pulls out her WIC card or foodstamps?  When we see someone with a different skin tone, speaking a different language, wearing foreign garb or head coverings do we give them a wide berth and hold tighter to our purses and children?

Really, who isn’t my neighbor?

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let this same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,  (Philippians 2:1-5, NRSV)

Make Every Effort

This week I led a midweek Bible study at church.  My text was 2 Peter 1:3-11:

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The eleven of us gathered had a good time looking at the verses and discussing their meaning, and how to apply them to our lives.  Early in our conversation one of the men present made a reference to the older portion of the population in the congregation.  He referred them to the “experienced” members.  I liked it.

So there I was, surrounded by several of the “experienced” members of the congregation, talking to them about “making every effort.”  How crazy was that?  I’m not sure I would be able to add up all their combined years of following the Lord.  They were at a phase in their lives when perhaps they could rest in their walk.  And then it hit me: being there was part of their making every effort.  One woman had a walker and two others came in with canes, but there was no place they would rather be.  They are living proof that the pursuit of knowledge and a deeper relationship with God is life-long, and the process is well-worth it.

Being there with them really started me thinking about what I am doing.  I found myself taking stock of my effort level.  I have a lot of room for improvement.  Some of the holiness people I used to know made reference to how we are “saved, sanctified, and on our way to heaven,” but their lives appeared to be more “saved, sanctified, and satisfied.”  I pray that God never lets me get satisfied.  Like Paul, I want to press on (Phil. 3: 13).  How about you?

I’m Here!

(Now that kind of entrance should be sort of sing-songy, and since it’s me, probably accompianied by a kind of Dick VanDyke entrance-picture the Mary Tyler Moore show…hopefully you’re old enough to remember or get oldy reruns on one of your cable networks.)

I feel like a little kid with a brand new box of crayons: overwhelmed by all the possibilities.  What shall I draw?  What colors shall I use?  Will it be a good picture?  What happens if no one sees it?  Or worse, no one likes it?

I’m a simple writer.  I tend to see God in the ordinary, and point him out to others.  I’m not very deep.  I’ve been told I’m pretty naïve.  Oddly, I’m really okay with that.  I don’t pontificate.  I ponder.  Sometimes I wonder.  And true to my ADD, I think out loud–or in this case through my fingers.

Hopefully as we journey together we’ll into new areas of understanding, but also into the big expanse of awe!