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Luke 10:25 - 37 “But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘and who is my neighbor?’” Who is my neighbor? As the world appears to get smaller in many way, as technology beams us instantly around the nation and globe, as we can watch, horrified, a live steam video as a man dies at the side of his girlfriend and in front of a 4-year-old child, we must ask ourselves, who is my neighbor? It seems as technology has the ability to break the boundaries of time and space, we are more and more unknown to even our closest neighbors and friends. Who is my neighbor? One again this past week has shown us unspeakable violence. Almost 300 dead in a car bombing attack in Bagdad. Many others have been killed in attacks in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other nations around this world. In our nation, two police shootings have been videoed and shown instantly while a peaceful protest ended in unspeakable violence as five police officers died in a vicious attack meant to murder those police as they worked to protect those who protested against their actions. This is the paradox we find ourselves in and it draws me more and more to the letter from Bishop Eaton I read a few weeks ago in the wake of the Orlando shootings: we are killing ourselves…we are killing our neighbors. President Obama captured it well: this is not a black problem or a white problem, this is an American problem. The story of the Good Samaritan, as we know it anyway, is one of the most familiar and powerful parables of Jesus. As we mentioned in Bible Study the other night, this is both good and bad! For instance, neither Jesus nor the Bible actually call this the story of the Good Samaritan. That title has become a part of our interpretation. Our familiarity is good because the story has a good moral tale to it and we can remember it, apply it to our lives, and work on being better Christians and people because of our understanding and interpretation of this tale. It is bad, however, because we often overlook the details packed within as there may actually be a little more to this story than first meets the eyes and ears! This is a test. A test by a lawyer and an attempt to trap Jesus. He asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This is the wrong question…there is nothing any of us can do to inherit eternal life. Yet, Jesus plays along for a moment, perhaps wondering where this conversation is going. “That is written in the law? What do you read there?” The lawyer was prepared for this question and immediately gives the best possible answer: “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.” In response to this all Jesus can say is: “do this and you will live.” This is where I want to jump in and claim: hold on a minute…I’m not sure I can do these things. In fact, I know I can’t! I know I still, despite all my attempts, I know I cannot love the Lord with all my heart, soul, strength and mind. I try. I want to, but other things keep getting in the way. My feeble mind wonders. My attention span is too short to focus on these things for very long. My life is too busy. Perhaps you have better or worse excuses than me. Do this and live. Jesus tells this powerful parable to highlight who is truly our neighbor. Notice the man who falls into the hands of the robber is never identified. It could be a Jewish person, a Gentile, or perhaps it could be this lawyer or maybe even you or me. Whoever he is, imagine the devastation he feels when he watches or perhaps hears two people, a priest and a Levite walk by on the other side of the road. Obviously they saw him. In fact, the text clearly states they saw him and moved to pass by on the other wide. Finally, a Samaritan comes walking up, sees this mean in need, stops, cares for him, and places him on his own animal and takes him to an inn where he can be cared for. This Samaritan did not worry about the religious purity laws that would have prevented him from touching this beaten, bloody body. The Samaritan did not wonder if this person was a friend or an enemy…in fact he was in enemy country so certainly I was an enemy. This Samaritan did not worry about the costs to him, his religious purity or to his pocket book. Instead he simply bent down to perform the services asked of a neighbor. A Samaritan. The enemy, the hated enemy, the enemy who worships in the wrong space and place. The enemy who refused to even welcome Jesus a few verses back. The enemy helps in a time of need. The enemy put a side all enmity and reaches across the divisions of hatred, separation and fear and comes to help the one in need. This is the definition of a neighbor. The one who shows mercy to the one in need. Who then is my neighbor? I am faced with the reality that despite the fact that I want to be neighborly to everyone, my heart refuses to go there. Despite the fact that I have sympathy and empathy for those who are different than me, I still fear them for their differences. Despite the fact that I was raised, taught and believe that we should all be color blind, I still notice the different skin colors, the different nationalities, the different people around me and in this world. I do not want to fear our differences, yet at times, the fear comes before I can stop it. I still struggle with the question of who is my neighbor? My neighbor, your neighbor is the African American shot for no reason. My neighbor, your neighbor is the police officers shot for no reason. My neighbors, your neighbors are those whose lives have been shattered by car bombs, café attacks, and terror killings perpetrated to bring about fear, highlight differences, and drive a wedge, a deeper wedge between us and them. And who is my neighbor? In our neighborhood there should no longer be us and them. In our neighborhood, racial divides that have long confounded us need to come down. In our neighborhood, Christina who applaud the death of others because they disagree with their lifestyles, choices or even service in the military, need to be challenged. In our neighborhood, we need to be a place, a beacon of hope for those who are wearied by the challenges, by the judgments, by the wrong labeling that constantly happens. We need to be, not just more neighborly, but less silent in the face of others who paint a picture that we cannot live with any longer. This good news, this gospel that has come to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – who shares this parable on his way to the cross where he goes to offer forgiveness to those of us, to all of us who realize that we are unable to keep the commandments and be good neighbors. Perhaps our next hymn captures this best: “will you let me be your servant (and neighbor), let me be as Christ to you? Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant (and neighbor) too.” In a prayer service to honor the fallen officers, Mayor Rawlings of Dallas, captured the biblical witness and call of Christians as well by quoting St. Paul: “In the end, three things remain ― faith, hope and love. We need all three today. We must have faith in each other, in our institutions, we must have hope that tomorrow will be better, and it will. And we must love one another.” -