A Reminder about our neighbors, From Mr. Rogers

My husband,

Going about his normal weekly routine,

Includes time to work out

And recently has joined a local Anytime Fitness in Highland

As he was beginning his routine,

A young man,

Of African Descent

Also immersed in his own workout regime

Stopped my husband

Stopped him with a question

“Is it going to get any better?”

My husband recounted he could see the fear etched on his face

“Has it always been this bad,

And we just didn’t know it?”

What words of comfort could my husband give to this young man?

What comfort could I give to my husband?

(pause)

This past week,

My entire being

Has felt as if its caught in the throes

Of a migraine

The tension spreading,

Tightening muscles

To the point of torturous pain.

Over and over,

The exclamation professed throughout social media

This has been,

The week from hell.

My proclamation

Is that I have been emotionally drained

By the callousness of those

Who judge an entire People

BASED ON THIS (skin)

And yet,

Spiritually healed

By messages of love,

By their public witness

From my best friend,

To colleagues

And fellow pastors

Who have reached out to me,

Just to check in.

(pause)

I’ve been conflicted

In my multicultural identity and understanding

But yet,

Concretely rooted with my People

In this Exile

(pause)

I’ve been saddened

That we as humanity

Have yet to grasp the lesson

That violence begets violence

But hopeful in that

People

As broken as we are

Are TRYING

To be,

To live out

What it means to be

Sisters and brothers in Christ, in Faith, in Peace.

(pause)

I am frightened

That there are those

Who refuse to see people such as me

As their neighbor

Rather I am perceived to be a threat

Because I live and breathe

And they would rather see me

Exterminated

But,

I am comforted

That this Church,

This ELCA

That our Presiding Bishop is SPEAKING OUT

Through Worship and through the Gospel

Speaking out for the least of these

Publicly going into that ditch

Cradling shattered bodies,

Cast aside

Willing to be identified as an outcast

Right along with us

(pause)

A Samaritan

We once more revisit the Samaritan

In our Gospel Text this morning

Oppressed and castaway

Reduced to a second and third class existence

Corralled to live in ghettos

Subjected to scorn

Because they did not worship,

As the Jews though they should

Fearful, and frustrated

Of being in the shadows

Of those who had established

Privilege and Power

(pause)

The Samaritan is reflected

In many numbers

Of modern peoples today

The Samaritan is the one,

Who regardless of the boundaries

Or social taboos

Or Westernized thinking

Or waves of injustice

The Samaritan comes to the aid

Of those lying in those ditches

Of deportation centers

And ill staffed public health clinics

And cramped prison cells

And polluted communities

When the poor neighborhoods

Of Flint, Michigan

Were suffering

With decades of lead poisioning

It was not the city of Flint

Who attempted to right these wrongs

It was local Muslim mosques

Who came bringing clean water,

And a word of comfort.

(pause)

The Samaritans have nothing to lose

They are already despised

Ignored

Have experienced distressed

Routinely ostracized

Robbed of everything that cements their humanity

And yet,

They give what they have

For their neighbor

(pause)

“Who is my neighbor?”

Ironically,

I had been looking forward to this well known passage

The subject of being a good neighbor,

Always brings me back to my childhood

And to Mr. Rogers.

The Gospel according to Mr. Rogers,

We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility.

 It’s easy to say “It’s not my child,

not my community,

 not my world,

not my problem.”

Then there are those who see the need and respond.

I consider those people my heroes.”

(pause)

It’s so easy,

For us to hear these words

And smile, nodding in agreement

But quick to forget

Who is our neighbor

(pause)

It’s so easy,

To walk away

From that man laying in a ditch

As the priest

And the Levite

Did

And assume that he brought it upon himself

And that he was not important enough

For them to see him

As their brother

(pause)

It’s too easy,

To judge that nobody in the ditch

Because they deserved it

Better them than me

That ex-felon now lying in the street

Well they broke the law,

They aren’t any good

They’ll just do it again,

They deserved it

Those people repeatedly pushed off their sacred,

Holy lands

Well, they don’t accept Jesus

They started the fight

That land really isn’t theirs

And they deserved it!

(pause)

Its too easy,

For us to justify ourselves

For not acting on our faith,

But as theologian Justo Gonzalez states,

“postponing obedience

By seeking further clarification

Even though we know

What Jesus requires

What makes us pause,

Stall

Is the COST of discipleship

(pause)

Maybe perhaps

We find it so easy,

Because we have never been the one

In the ditch.

We have never experienced being out of the status quo

We have lived a privileged life

I have.

Raised in a middle class neighborhood

A sheltered childhood

Where I had tennis, ballet, flute lessons

Vacations,

A comfortable home.

The knowledge that if I did everything

Obeyed authority

Looked the part,

NO ONE could touch me.

And then,

Sandra Bland happened

And I realized with FEAR

I COULD BE IN THAT DITCH

(pause)

“Which of these three, do you think,

was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

(pause)

The Good News is,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Is that we are hearing

This call from Jesus Christ

To be good neighbors

When there is communal violence

Infecting a neighborhood,

The Good News is,

We have people

Such as my friend Tamar,

A woman of African Descent

A student Rabbi

Who comes in with her organization

M.A.S.K

And just sets up shop

And feeds people in the community,

No cost

No obligation

And not only shares a meal

But shares fellowship

With music, and games

And conversation

To hear their fears,

Their worries

Their pleas of a better life!

(pause)

The Good News is,

We have people

Who see the waste of food day in and out

By restaurants and grocery stores

Who are bound by restrictive laws

That can’t give away excess produce

And must throw it all away.

So organizations like Food not Bombs

Comes in to rescue that food

And sets up shop on the street

To feed those who don’t have a dime

To treat them as a part of humanity,

And not something that should be seen as rubbish

(pause)

The Good News is

That when we were suffering,

In danger of being separated from the Creator forever

Jesus Christ,

Our Risen Savior and Lord,

Who was both revered

And feared

Gave of Himself

For Us,

The example of a Good Neighbor

Jesus Christ,

Teaches US

To DO

JUSTICE

Show

MERCY

And

LOVE

For ANYONE

To ANYONE

Because THIS,

This is how we obtain eternal LIFE!

When a man came,

Demented

Shooting up a schoolroom

Full of Amish children

The Amish never retaliated

They came to the home of that man’s widow

To break bread

To pray and comfort her

What an example of being a Good Neighbor

(pause)

When a peaceful protest

A comradery that already existed between

Those who serve

And

Those who were concerned

And exercised their rights to voice such

Turned horrific

Those,

Who are a part of the movement

Of African Descent

Lined up,

To give hugs

To have conversation

To bring flowers

To those police officers

Who take their vow seriously

To serve and protect.

(pause)

“It’s very dramatic when two people come together to work something out.

It’s easy to take a gun and annihilate your opposition,

 but what is really exciting to me

 is to see people with differing views come together

 and finally respect each other.”

Mr. Rogers again,

A man of Faith

Trying to teach us,

What it means to be a good neighbor.

Thanks be to God

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