Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
In our parable today, the lawyer asks the question, “And who is my neighbor?” This seems like a pretty logical and relevant question. The idea of neighbor could be pretty vast. If you think about it too much you might start to really get overwhelmed about this question. So I understand the lawyer wanting to get to the specifics. If we can define neighbor, than we can really make sure we know what we are doing with people.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a neighbor is defined as, “one living or located near another.” For the dictionary a neighbor is all about location. We usually identify a neighbor as one who lives in the home next door. Can a neighbor be a neighbor without a home? We can love those around us for this definition.
Mr. Rogers asks to be our neighbor in the opening sequence of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.” “Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?” Well, that seems like a choice to me. We could choose who to love.
But Jesus flips all definitions again. Jesus answers with a parable. If this parable were just a morality lesson, we would get rid of the Samaritan stuff. But the Samaritan stuff is there and so is the other stuff about other folks passing the guy in the ditch by. What this parable really does is tell us that anyone, everyone, any person, can be and is our neighbor. We don’t get to pick and choose. And by doing something in this scenario, the Samaritan has redefined that anyone in need is our neighbor. From the Samaritan’s point of view, the guy in the ditch becomes the neighbor.
What does this do for us today? It means that anyone in need or wandering is our neighbor. Those just outside of our doors transform what neighborhood does for us. Those without homes are not just neighbors but in our neighborhood and they don’t even need a home to become such. Every one of us is called to be neighbor. This Sunday we are talking about God in the midst of being homeless. God is not a stranger to the homeless. God has been homeless, in a ditch, and has come by to make sure everyone is ok and getting needs fulfilled. God resonates with the wandering, the homeless, and the marginalized. God is not confined to the home but bridges the gaps in the neighborhood. In return, we are called to co mingle, to get our hands dirty, to check in and relate to our neighbor, with our without home.
This week in Hands on Theology we will be connecting with our brothers and sisters without homes. What would it be like to find God without a home? What would it be like to serve this population spiritually as well as with basic needs met? What would it be like to connect with the other as neighbor?
Quotes for the Week
“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” ― Maya Angelou
“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.” ― Wallace Stegner
“What we would like to do is change the world–make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, the poor, of the destitute–the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor, in other words–we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world.” ― Dorothy Day
“If you walk down the street and see someone in a box, you have a choice. That person is either the other and you’re fearful of them, or that person is an extension of your family.” – Susan Sarandon
“It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” – Irish proverb
Psalm 25: 1-10 (NRSV)
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord! Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
Luke 10: 25-37 (NRSV) Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “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.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him .The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 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.”
Questions for the Week
Do you have homeless friends? Have you been homeless?
How do you interpret being a neighbor?
How can we serve our homeless brothers and sisters better?