Monthly Archives

August 2022

The Guest List (8/28/22)

By Sermons

Meadowbrook Congregational Church

August 28, 2022

The Guest List, by the Rev. Joel K. Boyd


On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely. ⁷When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. ⁸“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; ⁹and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. ¹⁰But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. ¹¹For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” ¹² He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. ¹³But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. ¹⁴And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Lk 14: 1, 7-14; JANT).1


Making a guest list can be a both fun and stressful experience. Depending on what type of event you’re planning you could have a lot of people or a smaller, more intimate group. You could have a guest list for anything from a retirement party to a baby shower, but one of the biggest ones that come to mind is a wedding. Beyond the big, exciting questions of thinking about who will be in the wedding party for the ceremony, you have the order in which that party enters and stands and anything they do during the ceremony itself. (You also have the reception.)

[I am] not sure when ideas [began] changing around the different ways couples and people would be seated during a wedding reception, but Heidi and I had received some cool recommendations from people in the months leading up to our [2008 wedding]. Many people have a head table at [their] reception. That’s when you have the [newlywed] couple seated in the middle of a long table with their party seated next to them spread on down to the end of the table. The table is usually raised a bit, too, so people can see the couple [and] maybe have a place to look directly at when clinking their glasses for that special kiss the couple is traditionally obliged to share. (Although we know how many folks just love to get that clinking going when the couple is otherwise occupied greeting guests on opposite sides of the room.)

We had someone [give] us a bit of advice about the wedding day itself, encouraging Heidi and me to take mental pictures of the day to help us remember. The idea was to try to slow down just enough to glance over and see [one’s] grandparents and parents talking and smiling, or to see a cousin ask a college friend to dance. Heidi and I liked the idea of the mental picture, and we ended up going with what [is called] a “sweethearts’ table.” It’s a small table [for only the couple] to sit at. The hope was to be able to take mental pictures of everything, including listening to the live band comprised of our music friends; tasting a piece of the amazing cake, [and] opening [one’s] eyes to see the look on one another’s face afterward.

So, there we are enjoying our food, just feeling great that everyone could be there with us for this special day, when my colleague, the drummer, walks right up to our sweetheart table. He’s holding a plate of the food meant for other guests (which as you can understand are made and priced out at an exact count). Chewing and talking at the same time, he quickly looks back and forth, back, and forth, and says, “So, uh, where does the band sit, guys?” We almost fell out of our chairs laughing. As we pointed him back to where our other friends in the band were eating the food specifically labeledfor the band,” he kind of just shrugged his shoulders and returned to the band. Part of my mental picture of that moment will always be: “Was he going to sit with us at the sweethearts’ table?” Maybe you have some wacky guest list stories of your own.

In today’s reading, from the Gospel of Luke, we hear about two things that we might see as being related: humility and hospitality. We first learn that Jesus is eating a meal at the house of one of the Pharisees. Not just any Pharisee, though: [the author of Luke’s gospel] shows that Jesus is at the house of one of the leaders. After healing a sick man outside, we witness Jesus’s response to what he sees at this meal (which is taking place on the Sabbath.) He notices guests choosing places of honor, and this prompts him to tell them all a parable. Jesus offers a story to help them gain insight into what is spiritually at stake. He says: “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host, and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Lk 14:8-11). In so doing, Jesus [teaches] the guests there about humility.

[Whereas] what Jesus says about honor and disgrace certainly makes sense to us, this particular example might be a bit harder to grasp considering our own everyday experiences in the 21st century. We might ask ourselves if we even remember a time someone honored us well beyond our station [by asking us] to move our seat higher to a place of distinction. This may have occurred in ancient Israel, but it can be tricky for us to fully relate to in the same way today (despite my wacky wedding story before.) We have also seen [repeatedly] how the modest person does not get ahead; how the person who keeps a low profile might often be picked last. So, could there be more to this parable for us than this? I think so.

Jesus may be appealing to the understanding of honor and shame which was so culturally prevalent in the society of that time. We remind ourselves that this was in the days of the Roman Empire. Roman influence loomed largely, but Jesus shows that while we may live in one culture or another, we are invited to see it with the lens God provides us within scripture. Perhaps then the Pharisees present at that meal may have responded to something that [spoke] into the surrounding culture of honor and shame of their own time. In other words, Jesus is speaking the way people in that specific context could relate to. [Or], maybe we can see it in ways that relate to us today—in a different time and culture. Picture the way we glorify those who are popular on social media or who keep themselves before everyone in the news cycle. It’s like someone using all the air in the room: There’s not much space for other people. Jesus goes on to encourage us to serve those who cannot reciprocate and perhaps [need help most]. Yet, we do not do this for our glory in this life but rather we know that nothing is lost on God and that God will reward [anyone] who blesses people in such need in this life with eternal reward in the next.

In what ways do humility and hospitality challenge us in today’s culture? Why is it so difficult to lower ourselves and welcome others without feeling the need to draw attention to ourselves? We may be tripped up by all the pressure to excel or to look better than everyone around us in our culture. And this bleeds over into the way we treat one another as individuals and as groups of people. But what happens when we try to see things the way Jesus invites us to? What about when we approach the idea of the guest list through the lens that Jesus offers us in this parable? When we see it through Jesus’s lens, we begin to see that this list is not simply about who we invite to a party, over to our house, or to grab a meal with. No, this is about much more. Jesus is encouraging us to see others before if not above ourselves and calls on us to welcome people in the greatest need into the realm of our care. And friends, while he makes mention of the great spiritual reward the faithful receive in the afterlife, Jesus does not say that our reward is the primary reason for us to live as he calls us to here; to be humble and hospitable to those in need especially.

Sisters and brothers, we can see how Jesus is not only talking about seats at a table or the wealthy local businessperson being invited to the celebration at our house. Jesus is calling on his followers to lower themselves and to serve and welcome those in need as he calls us to. We are not hostage to the world’s expectations of the past, present, or future. Rather, we are called to serve to the glory of God in any time or place God puts us in. May we take great heart in knowing that God is with us in all the love we’re called to share. Amen.

[1] Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, editors. The Jewish Annotated New Testament: New Revised Standard Version Bible Translation. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.

Planter (8/21/22)

By Sermons

Meadowbrook Congregational Christian Church

Planter, by the Rev. Joel K. Boyd

August 21, 2022



The word of the LORD came to me: Before I created you in the womb, I selected you; Before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations. I replied: Ah, Lord GOD! I don’t know how to speak, For I am still a boy. And the LORD said to me: Do not say, “I am still a boy,” But go wherever I send you and speak whatever I command you. Have no fear of them, For I am with you to deliver you—declares the LORD. The LORD put out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: Herewith I put My words into your mouth. See, I appoint you this day over nations and kingdoms: To uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant (Jer 1:4-10, JPS).

For countless years, God has called on people of faith to live out the divine charge on their life. We see this stretching back in the Bible and we see it today. In Genesis 12, we see that God called on Abram, not yet known as Abraham, to leave his home and go to the land God was to show him. In Exodus 4, God called to Moses from the burning bush and charged him with the task of leading the enslaved people of Israel out of Egypt. In Jonah 1, God called the prophet Jonah to prophesy to the people of Nineveh. In Luke 2, God’s angel Gabriel calls on the Virgin Mary to give birth and be the mother to the Son of God, who she would name Jesus just as the angel had said. In Acts 8, an angel of the Lord calls the Apostle Philip to head south on a wilderness road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza, and Philip encounters an Ethiopian eunuch reading aloud from Isaiah. The Holy Spirit calls Philip to engage the Ethiopian and he soon teaches about the connection of the prophecy to Jesus, following which the Ethiopian asks to be and is baptized by Philip. In Acts 9, the risen and ascended Jesus appeared to Saul, when he was still persecuting the church and before he was known as Paul, and Jesus both confronted and called Saul, telling him that he must go to the city where he will be told what to do next. Abram and Sarai would go on to serve as Abraham and Sarah, God’s devoted keepers of the covenant and parents to an amazing lineage of leaders in the faith. God called them and provided for them and their descendants. Moses would, at first, express some doubt about his fitness for the unbelievably difficult job of leading the Israelites to freedom, citing his unease about speaking as a leader. Yet God provided for Moses through the gifts of his brother Aaron and was at work through the liberation of the Israelites from their bondage.

While Jonah tried to run away from a challenging call, God provided and worked through the prophet, turning many Ninevite hearts toward the love of God, perhaps even despite Jonah’s resistance. God’s angel Gabriel encouraged the young, unmarried Mary, but amazingly she didn’t appear to need much encouragement, for she professed her devotion to God in living out her call, and the Gospels and Book of Acts show she did so throughout her life, even after losing her cherished child. God provided and was present in her great strength and witness. God worked through an angel and the Spirit in establishing a cross-cultural connection between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. God worked through God’s scripture in the heart of the Ethiopian, who was moved by Philip’s testimony and sought to be baptized as a follower of Jesus. And following this, Philip is somehow transported by the Holy Spirit, almost as if teleported away, leaving the newly baptized Christian rejoicing. And then we have Saul; note, not Saul the first king of Israel in the Hebrew Bible, but the Saul who would become the Apostle Paul of the New Testament. We always need to remind ourselves that Saul was persecuting the earliest church before his conversion. Granted he no doubt felt he was acting righteously by the law of Moses, but Acts shows us an amazing thing as we witness that it was the resurrected and ascended Jesus who appeared to Saul. Saul literally saw the light and fell. God the Father provided through the Son and the heart of Saul was changed from persecutor of the faith to proclaimer and teacher of the faith in Christ. It is also worth noting how God provided through Paul in blessing many churches into existence and in writing much of the New Testament scriptures by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now, of course, these are only some of the many examples we could identify of how God is present in and provides for, and through God’s people. We should highlight how God works through all kinds of people, too. God provides for and through women, children, men, people of different understandings of gender, the young and old, people of different races and cultures, people within the faith as well as those not yet inside it, the powerful and the disenfranchised; God provides through any who God so desires. In other words, God is not limited in achieving God’s plans. Yet, it’s interesting to point out that God doesn’t necessarily call those who are ready and prepared or those who have special experience or a highlighted talent for the task at hand. As many have witnessed, God does not call the equipped; God equips the called. But that may not be all that clear to us when we’re discerning our next steps in faith daily.

Take Jeremiah. In today’s passage, we meet the young Jeremiah at the very beginning of this book of prophecy. The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Wow! That is some serious stuff to say, right? Just imagine yourself hearing something along these lines. How would you reply, at first? Well, Jeremiah is a bit overwhelmed, he says “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” Jeremiah tries to downplay the whole deal. He cites his youth as an excuse for his not being up for the task. It’s like he’s trying to bow out—a “thanks but no thanks” type of thing. Or not. Maybe he is just trying to process the information quickly and this is the best he’s got. And he doesn’t appear to have that much time to dwell on it, because God continues “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” God doesn’t leave much room for the young Jeremiah to object. It’s not like he can say he’s too busy or has a conflict on that night or try to schedule a Zoom meeting to explore the idea maybe next month or so. No, God provides even during God’s reply here. God removes the concern about age and/or experience, and rather than leave him high and dry, God tells Jeremiah that God will be with the young prophet. Yeah, he’s gotta go wherever and say whatever God asks him to but God will be with Jeremiah, the whole time. “Do not be afraid of them,” God tells Jeremiah. And not only will God be present, but God will also deliver him. God will provide.

What does it feel like to be given a big responsibility? How do we try to get out of it? What happens when we live up to it and own it? Sometimes we’re confident that we got this. We feel up to the job. Maybe we’ve had experience doing this before or it just seems intuitive to us, so we don’t have many hang-ups on agreeing to go forward. But other times this can be different. We may be worried for that we are not qualified or that others have more natural talent than we do in this area. Perhaps we’re swamped and just feel that we don’t have the time to commit to anything additional at the moment. Maybe that’s the way we feel our entire lives. Or we might just be afraid. We might fear failure, embarrassment, judgment, or possibly even punishment or more serious repercussions should the whole thing go south or be a direct challenge to authority and power. And you know what, these concerns all make sense. Just as do the ones we hear from different people in the Bible. Sometimes we’re a bit shocked that they have to follow through with such challenging tasks. We might wonder why God puts them all through it.

Now at this point, you’ll have to forgive me, because I am not an expert gardener. No doubt, others in our congregation could speak more about what goes on in appropriately preparing soil, planting seeds, transferring a plant or flowers, and caring for them so that they flourish, maximizing their beauty and many benefits. So rather than attempt to convey a false sense of gardening expertise, I’d like to simply talk about what God says to Jeremiah about his job to do here at the start and what this might speak into the ways we are all called to be planters of various kinds in our own lives as individuals and as the church together. Jeremiah continues in our passage sharing “Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” This is an especially cool passage in the way it depicts God placing the word in the mouth of the prophet. Scholars often refer to prophets as being the mouthpieces of God; not to suggest that they have no freedom or agency, but that they are in direct relationship with God. The Book of Jeremiah is the largest book of prophecy in the entire Bible. All kinds of amazing and tragic things take place in its verses.

Jeremiah himself served as a prophet from the time of the good king Josiah through the next four kings of Judah when the region would be mired in war and destruction. Jeremiah is often considered the weeping prophets, but some suggest that given the rejection of God’s word by the people during this time Jeremiah might more accurately be called the persecuted prophet. Jeremiah would go on to prophesy relentlessly for the hearts of the people to change, for them to praise God and not idols. But they persisted in their brokenness and Israel fell to Assyria and Judah to Egypt. In time, they all fell to Babylon. But here, at the start, we see how God assures Jeremiah that God will be with him. And God gives him a job to do. Jeremiah is charged to actively engage in the world around him “to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” How much of this would one person be able to achieve, we might wonder? Nevertheless, this was God’s charge to the prophet. While the pulling down and destroying bit may sound harsh yet a tad clearer: get rid of false practices and systems that may be deemed unfaithful to God, the building and planting could be maybe a bit more challenging to grasp, let alone to achieve. Even if you can determine what to dismantle and get broad enough support to do so, you still have to plan what actually should be built and adopted in its place. Have you ever noticed how easy it can be to criticize something without having even a shred of a helpful thing to suggest in its place?

Jeremiah descended from a family of priests and was called to proclaim God’s sovereignty to a world bent on praising the idols they liked. He had an extremely difficult time of it and would witness the great downfall of his people. And yet, Jeremiah’s prophecy would come true. God’s word did come to fruition. We might wonder what it was that Jeremiah was hoping to build. What he aimed to plant. And yet, the truth that we stand today as a church speaks into the seeds that this tragic prophet planted. And of course, the people of Israel would return to faithfulness in time, just as they would fall time and time again. Jeremiah did not live to see the seeds of faith he planted grow into all they have blessed. But Jeremiah planted them anyway because the glory is God’s not his own. Sisters and brothers, what seeds of faith might we be called to plant in our relationships, homes, schools, and careers, and what might we be called to address together as the church? What unjust systems may need to be pulled out by the roots and what gentle encouragement might need to be planted in the hearts of God’s people? May we listen closely to the call of the Spirit for the ways we may make the most of what we’ve been given and plant the seeds of faith that will bloom tomorrow. May it be so to the glory of God. AMEN.

Jesus is Our Neighbor (8/7/22)

By Sermons

Meadowbrook Congregational Christian Church

Jesus is Our Neighbor, by the Rev. Joel Boyd

August 7, 2022


30Jesus 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. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He 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. 35The 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.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Lk 10:30-37, NRSV).


It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, A beautiful day for a neighbor.

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?…

Won’t you be my neighbor?

That, of course, is a brief excerpt from the famous introductory song to the PBS TV series, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I know a few of you had hoped to hear it. These last couple of weeks we’ve been taking a bit of a walk alongside Mister Rogers and his modern-day friend Daniel Tiger, with our Bible in hand and our eyes wide open. We’ve been exploring not only what it means to be neighbors to one another, but what happens when we call and treat certain neighborhoods differently from one another, especially when we consider some good and others bad. It’s been amazing, really, hasn’t it, to see how much has changed in our world since Mister Rogers first appeared in the 1960s; and, as we see so clearly both in scripture and in our own present-day lives, other things have changed so shockingly little and that’s not necessarily a positive thing.

We’ve explored what happens when people call a neighborhood ‘bad;’ and how our avoidance and disparaging comments lead to a lack of the neighborly solidarity we are called to even as far back as Leviticus 19, from which Jesus himself quotes in teaching the people about their priorities. Friends, we have also explored the siren song of extravagance in the way affluence and luxury can be blinding to our vocation, as well as to our identity, to the way we understand who we really are as a people. Like Fred Rogers, I, too, am a classically trained musician and composer and an ordained minister.[1] But, I’m afraid, that’s where our similarities cease (at least on a personal level). I’ve always admired the man and his work. I have no doubt that he felt his true calling—his vocation—as a Christian was to engage people through the then-emerging medium of television. And boy did he ever achieve that. The stories and conversations Fred Rogers had on his show were always respectful and insightful, leaning into the welcome of the other person. The focus was primarily on children, literally millions of children, and the message was as direct as it was heartfelt: you matter.

I was swept away when the show shifted off into the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, usually, the place where important questions were asked and loving, affirming answers were given. Who wouldn’t want to live in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe? It always seems so far away, doesn’t it? And yet, the truth of the matter is that the dreams of yesterday may become the everyday reality of today and the hope for tomorrow. Right before our passage from Luke this morning, the lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Feeling as if he gave a satisfactory answer to Jesus’ reply regarding the commandments, the lawyer now asks, “and who is my neighbor?” Some scholars think the lawyer was a showoff, trying to make himself look good, acting as if he knows as much as the teacher.

But there’s a much more serious, disturbing backdrop to this question. Inquiring who one’s neighbor is implies that some are not. In essence, the lawyer is asking who he really needs to be bothered to worry about. Once he’s got that down, perhaps he figures he can just ignore everyone else. He’s done what’s required of him. But Jesus changes the focus of the lawyer’s question. Rather than answer who our neighbor is, Jesus shows how we are a true neighbor to others. Biblical scholars tell us that the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was dangerous then. It would have been a common location for robberies and not a very safe place to travel. When we first look at this famous passage, we always find ourselves kind of dismissing the priest and Levite; almost like saying “What’s with those guys? Don’t they care about people?” And then, likely, we remember how many homeless, unhoused, people we have walked by ourselves, and we feel guilty. But there’s a bit more to why these guys respond the way they do. The dead would have been considered unclean, so those who encountered a dead body would want to avoid it so it wouldn’t compromise their ability to be at the Temple (ha-Beit Mikdash). This was likely more so for a priest, someone highly important to Temple worship, or a Levite, someone a little lower in stature than a priest but still someone who’d be concerned about being unclean. This is the reason the two passed by the injured Israelite. Note how Luke refers to the man as being half-dead as opposed to dead. The man may have been in such rough shape that the priest and Levite couldn’t tell the difference and may have assumed he was dead.

Now the big shift takes place when Jesus mentions a Samaritan in this story. Some may remember that Samaritans and Israelites were not on friendly terms with one another. They have had a long history of conflict and would not have understood one another to be good neighbors. So, the fact that Jesus shows a Samaritan to be the one caring for and helping the injured Israelite it’s a bit of a scandal. He’s essentially saying that the outsider, the one you don’t like, is the guy who is helping your buddy here in this story. Bandaging wounds and treating the man with oil and wine show that the Samaritan was not as concerned about being unclean, even though ritual cleanness would have also been a concern of Samaritans as they followed the law of Moses, too. Oil and wine would act as disinfectants, but it’s also interesting to consider for a moment what associations there may be here to anointing and to communion. The Samaritan proceeds to put the man on his own animal. Since Luke doesn’t write about a second animal, we assume the Samaritan is not someone of great means, but is, in fact, someone who places himself in the lowly position of walking with the animal while the injured man rides on it.

Rather than do everything himself, and perhaps botch things, the Samaritan takes the injured Israelite to an inn to be cared for appropriately, essentially getting him what he needs. He gives just enough money to the innkeeper for the care and says that if anything further is really needed, he will pay for that, too, when he returns. This all shows that the Samaritan was giving the injured Israelite precisely what he needed. The Samaritan bridged the gap that was needed to bring the injured man to health. Jesus asked the lawyer, “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.” Some translations say “mercy,” and others “compassion.” Note what they don’t say is to have pity. While pity has to do with our feeling bad that someone must endure suffering, having mercy on them is characterized by action, and being compassionate colors that action to show perhaps a greater sense of intentionality and love for the person being cared for. By having compassion for one who is in need, we acknowledge our responsibility to act, and we do so with purpose. In doing so, we bear witness to the dreams of the past and how they have, at this moment, encouraged and empowered us to make an intentional decision to actively help another person. We can dream into the action of today, and we do so because of the great hope we have that we are not alone, that there is great purpose in our dreams, in our actions, and in our hoping. We can be that neighbor who sacrifices because Jesus has shown us how, not only in this story, but in the way he crosses barriers, welcomes, truly heals, raises up the lowly above the kings, and in the way, he defeated all brokenness for us and for all humankind when he died on the cross for our sake that we may be reconciled, that we may love, hope, that we may dream anew.

Sisters and brothers, our dreams are important because we are important. And we mean everybody. Each one of us is important, not only to our families and friends, our jobs, schools, and the neighborhoods we live in, or the beautiful changes we make into a beautiful tomorrow, but we, all of us, are important to God. And I’d like to suggest here that this is the primary reason for the urgent need for solidarity. For it is by living out our calls by the power of the Holy Spirit as followers of Jesus Christ that we may give glory to God the Father, and today we witness the powerful way we may give glory to God by living in solidarity with one another as God calls us to. No doubt any one of us could be the priest or Levite of Jesus’ story today. We could find that suffering neighbor to be unclean and pass them by. We could think they’re half dead, that perhaps, it’s just not worth our time, our effort, or even a small amount of our energy, to try and help them. We could simply not identify with them, considering them to be other, wholly different from ourselves. We could do that. Or we could hear what Jesus is really calling us to see in the suffering neighbor: we can answer the call to be the neighbor to this person in need. Jesus shows us that a neighborhood is not comprised of people who live across the street from our house. No, Jesus shows us that a neighborhood is made up of real flesh and blood people who are neighbors to one another. We are neighbors because we act like we are together in the same neighborhood. What need is there to call one place bad and another good when we live, love, worship, and dream together?

I don’t know, maybe like some of you, I just got all excited about zipping up that sweater after coming inside to get cozy, sitting down to switch over into those comfy shoes, just like Fred Rogers did. But maybe we’re called to more than that than to just be comfy. Sure, Mister Rogers did all that, but he also lived a life of neighborliness in each show for over 30 years. And just think of all the faithful in Scripture and the everyday saints in the life of the Church Universal, who have devoted their lives to bless others, to bridge the gap if not entirely erase the false barrier between people. Friends, when the call to be neighbor to God’s people in need cries out, even in silent proximity, when it sings to us “won’t you be my neighbor?” may we answer in our faith, in our hope, and in our love; the love of Christ Jesus. May we answer yes! May we be neighbors; just as Jesus is our neighbor. May we be neighbors to the glory of God.

[1] Rogers was an ordained minister in the PCUSA.