Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?
“Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day.”
At social events, doctors and nurses and Lawyers and Accountants and other professionals like auto mechanics are often pulled aside by people who have health-related, legal, bookkeeping, money investment and car repair questions.
Likewise, building contractors, electricians and carpenters are often asked for free simple inexpensive FIY advice about people’s home improvement projects.
In a similar way, pastors and laity are drawn into spiritual conversations at sporting events, on airplanes, in marketplaces, in restaurants, and around campfires in summer, or at the ends of freshly shoveled driveways in winter.
Reading and studying the Bible shows that Jesus used every time and place as an opportunity to witness to his faith, his hope, his love in His Father in Heaven.
Sometimes his conversations happened at night, as with Nicodemus (John 3).
In today’s verses from Dr. Luke’s Narrative, the Pharisees and teachers of the law criticized Jesus for mingling and talking with Tax Collectors and hanging out with “sinners” too unclean to even associate with. Jesus sternly reminded them just as doctors tend to the sick, he came to call ‘broken’ sinners to repent.
Some of us would much rather leave spiritual conversations to pastors. As laity we would rather “remain anonymous on vacation” “fly under the radar” about being a Christian who is always supposed to be ready to share of their hope in God. (1 Peter 1:13-14, 1 Peter 3:14-16)
A Christian tradesman cringed when a fellow contractor walked up to him from behind and then asked if he was “one of those ridiculous “bible thumpers.”
The contractor was teasing, and testing and his tone was very disrespectful.
Standing up straight, the tradesman looked into the eyes of the contractor, took the opportunity to smile and say, “Yes, I’m a Christian, thank you for asking!”
And then later over their lunch breaks a meaningful conversation followed.
Let us all remember that we are sacred space, in the Holy Presence of God.
In the name of God, the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
To whom will God show himself through you today? The Spirit of Christ calls us to be ready to give an answer anytime, anywhere (1 Peter 3:15). Are you ready?
Luke 5:27-32Amplified Bible
Call of Levi (Matthew)
27 After this Jesus went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi (Matthew) sitting at the tax booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me [as My disciple, accepting Me as your Master and Teacher and walking the same path of life that I walk].” 28 And he left everything behind and got up and began to follow Jesus [as His disciple].
29 Levi (Matthew) gave a great banquet for Him at his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others who were reclining at the table with them. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes [seeing those with whom He was associating] began murmuring in discontent to His disciples, asking, “Why are you eating and drinking with the tax collectors and sinners [including non-observant Jews]?” 31 And Jesus replied to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but [only] those who are sick. 32 I did not come to call the [self-proclaimed] righteous [who see no need to repent], but sinners to repentance [to change their old way of thinking, to turn from sin and to seek God and His righteousness].”
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
The gospel teaches us to help those who are suffering especially from sin and ignorance. Instead of blaming and shaming others for their shortcomings and weaknesses, we are challenged to lead them to the way, the truth and the life.
Imitating and Modeling Jesus, our lifting their spirits up by acknowledging, teaching and showing good deeds is one of the teachings of today’s gospel.
With these acts, the one who stumbles and gets up and the one who teaches and helps both receive blessings from our Heavenly Father.
Matthew 10:40-42Amplified Bible
The Reward of Service
40 “He who receives and welcomes you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 He who receives and welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous (honorable) man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever gives to one of these little ones [these who are humble in rank or influence] even a cup of cold water to drink because he is my disciple, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.”
By our Baptism, with all of who we are, we freely enter into God Neighborhood.
By our Baptism, with all of who we are in our Savior Jesus Christ, we reluctantly, begrudgingly, enter into our own neighborhoods, into our own communities.
By our Baptismal Covenant, as Christians, we are challenged to actively express our faith, hope and love in the gospel which depicts possessing zeal for service.
With “cups and bottles of Living Water” in hand, we are expected, we are each covenanted to God to impart our knowledge especially regarding our mission to those who are incapable and unfortunate, even “while we are on our vacations.”
In addition, through serving and witnessing, leading others with and towards excellence should be one of our main goals. With this, we are able to share the blessings we have received and at the same time express our gratitude to God.
Matthew 9:36-38Amplified Bible
36 When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion and pity for them, because they were dispirited and distressed, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is [indeed] plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
Rabbi Jesus’ religious adversaries frequently criticized him for deliberately associating with people who were suspect in their eyes.
The man, Rabbi Jesus, however, had a reason for this behavior.
He wasn’t associating with sinners to be popular, weird, bizarre, or hip.
The Lord associated with all kinds of people because he acknowledged and loved all kinds of people! He came to redeem the enslaved, find the lost, mend the broken, and reclaim the sinner. Can we, as Jesus’ bodily presence today, strive for anything less than this and still call ourselves Jesus’ Church?
Every single day we look out into the great expanse of God’s own neighborhood.
How much time and effort do we make and take to look into the great expanse, length, depth, height, and width, of our own neighborhoods and communities?
How can we come alongside and engage and help even one of our neighbors who are, or might be, greatly suffering from a lack of faith and hope and love?
Shall we remain “on spiritual vacation” physically silent, let our consciences create its noise or shall we provide ‘presence’ amongst ourselves and others?
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Forgive me, God, my Father, when I opt for security in my acquaintances, and I avoid potentially messy entanglements between my Baptismal Covenant and in my relationships. Please open my eyes to see the lost, the lonely, the forgotten, and the needy all around me. Please use me to lead them to your grace and to help them find their family with your people. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.