November 5, And who is my neighbor?

Ethan Espeset

Who is my neighbor?

 

I don’t know where I learned this but I’ve always heard you start a speech with a joke.

This may not be technically a speech, more of a sermon (which in some way feels like the joke is on me) but it feels right to start this with one.

But first an introduction.  My name is Ethan, Ethan Espeset, you may not know me, and I may not really know all of you that well, but I think we’re neighbors.  And until you stand right here, in this place, in front of all of you, who knew I had this many neighbors in one place.

Our Jr. High Sunday theme is, “Who is my neighbor?” so I’ll confess it’s been just the last few weeks that I’ve begun thinking of you as my neighbor.  When thinking of the word neighbor, I usually think of the persons next door, like Ron Finney who invited us to swing in his back yard, or Jim Baker, who gave us popsicles and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups every week which stacked up in our frig.  And then there is our neighbor to the east called Taco Bell where I like to get my Quesadillas – even if I have to wait an hour for them.  Despite the slow service and often not getting my order right, I keep going back, trusting one of these days, they’ll get it just right.  Trusting Taco Bell is getting to be hard work, and I want to, because I really like Quesadillas.

And I think that’s at the heart of being a good neighbor too.  What does being a good neighbor look like?  I think it has something to do with trust; developing trust.  And that takes a lot of time; and it takes a lot of effort.

And that seemed to be missing in the lawyer’s question for Jesus.  His first question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” was a personal question, more of a private question.  In typical Jesus fashion he asks him a couple of questions right back.

“What is written in the law?  What do you read there?”  And the lawyer is no dummy; he knows; he’s educated.  So he replies, “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 wouldn’t ya’ know it, Jesus says “you’re right.  You have answered correctly.”  And if the lawyer was really wise, he would have left it alone.

But he couldn’t help himself.  He just had to ask another question.  “Who is my neighbor?”  And now this is where the story gets real.

Jesus tells him a story about just who this neighbor includes.  It wasn’t the Priest;  it wasn’t the Levite even though they were the expected suspects.  Instead it was the Samaritan, who was the last person anyone hearing the story would expect to actually stop, and the take the time to help both in the moment and in the future.  It’s an act of trust to say to the innkeeper, whatever the bill, I’ll be back to pay it.

Being a neighbor is more than the people next door;  it’s more than the people I like;

It’s more than relating to the people I agree with.  It may even be trusting, or at least learning to trust the people I’m different or even uncomfortable being with.  And yet, that is what this story, and Jesus, asks of us.

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The neighbor next door

Kambree Cashdollar

Jr. High Sunday, 2017

Thank you Ethan for setting up this theme for us, or maybe what I should say it feels like a set-up, like I’ve been set-up.  Either way, trust is at the heart of our being a good neighbor.  And trust takes time – a lot of time…….a lot of time.

Sometimes trust is easily given and received and sometimes it takes effort.

But I believe it is at the heart of this idea of neighborliness.

We just put a basketball court in our backyard.  Now I don’t mean a whole WNBA-type court, more of a three-point line court.  We’ve been wanting one for a while.

We like basketball; we like playing basketball.

And it’s a convenient place to sharpen my skills for the coming season which starts after Thanksgiving.  I like to shoot around play games, practice dribbling, layups, jump shots and 3-pointers.  And so far, it’s been effective.

Yet I have this neighbor.  And he just sits on his little lawn chair and watches me play.

And I can always tell he really wants to come over and play some basketball with me.

Now he’s about 5 years old.  And I can tell, he really wants to come over; he says things like, “oh that shot was so close; or, something like, “that’s a good looking court.”

And so, each time he’s there, watching, I have this decision to make.  Do I invite him over, play some ball with him, or just keep practicing.  Because I know if I invite him over, I know I’m not going to practice as much;  I’m just going to end up playing a game, or guarding him, or helping him.  And that’s ok….. but….. sometimes it’s hard, or at least inconvenient.  I really am out there to work on my skills.  But there he is, with that look on his face; which is just a little irresistible.

But like the lawyer’s question in the scripture, there’s always more to the story.  Over time we’ve learned that he has brothers, twins.  One of the twins got into a car accident with his step-father, they ran into a tree, and both passed away.  Now this neighbor boy and his younger brother now live with their great-grandparents.  The boys are with the great-grandparents while the mother is in jail for neglect of a dependent.

That changes things for me; it changes my perspective.  It’s still an inconvenience, I’m gonna be honest; I like practicing.  I want to improve my skills.  But I also value being a good neighbor.  I want to improve that skill as well.  When I see him happy, it makes me happy.

When I remember the difficult life he’s already had, I can rethink this being an inconvenience.  I may not know exactly the whole dynamic of the Samaritan but I am learning a little about neighborliness.  I am learning something about who I am and who I might become.  Even when it’s inconvenient…… especially when it’s inconvenient.

Our group recently sent 20 cleanup buckets to CWS; and we’re going to work on even more.  It’s kinda’ easy to do that; to be a neighbor in that way;  we don’t see them face to face.  It’s a little harder; it takes a little more trust to be neighborly to the person right next door, especially when it’s a bit inconvenient.  But it’s worth the practice and the time, and eventually, hopefully, trust.