And Who is My Neighbor?

The Parable of the Good Neighbor
Luke 10:25-29  (NIV)

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jan Wijnants - Parable of the Good Neighbor.jpgI have always believed the message Jesus was trying to get across is that everyone is our neighbor, not just those with whom we live beside, look like and agree with. Unfortunately not everyone seems to agree with me. A 2016 poll by Public Religion Research Institute shows that 53 percent of white evangelical Protestants believe immigrants weaken America. The current attitude against immigrants and others considered to be outsiders is troubling. In this article however I would like to explore an aspect of the parable that is often overlooked; the shame factor.

Trees. A poem by Joyce Kilmer – Photography by Charlene Monk

I don’t see the poem as just about trees, it’s about us. From early childhood, a tree whose hungry mouth is prest, through the struggles of life. We look to God in prayer and supplication (looking at God all day), whether in the summer of our life (with a nest of robins in our hair), the dreariness of rain (intimately living with rain) or as we grow old (snow upon our bosom). But the final summary is we belong to God and are his creatures, woven together in God’s creation, dependant upon the Earth, the air around us and God.

Some of the criticisms directed at Mr. Kilmer were that much of his poetry was too simple and overly sentimental. But often that is exactly what we need instead of spending the day wondering what a phrase means.

Joyce Kilmer died way too early from a snipers bullet in the First World War He was thirty one years old and had barely taken root. He accomplished a lot in his short life and I hope his poem and my wife’s poetry will inspire you.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
1st verse

Religion and the free exercise thereof

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution begins with the line, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. A concept which has been under attack since the nineteen eighties but has come under intensified assault since the election of Donald Trump.

Establishment of Religion

Books have been written on what the founders meant but the religious freedom clause is easier to understand broken into two sections. The first part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” is there to prohibit a state religion. The founders were very aware of the Church of England’s influence over Great Britain.

Bishops and ministers in the Church of England swore an oath to remain faithful to the King. at the time of the revolution there wasn’t a bishop in the Colonies but the Anglican Church was attempting to establish one. For many this was not just an issue of religion but one of individual liberty. Many who had fled religious persecution were afraid it had followed them to the new land.

Works and Faith go together like

Works and faith, you can’t have one without the other. Not quite as catchy as ‘Love and Marriage’ but the concept is the same and perhaps more fundamentally true. Marriage is the public visible expression of love while works are the public visible expression of faith.

Faith made manifest in Works

The  second chapter of James is an excellent study in works and faith. My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? James 2:1 (NLT).  I could write an entire article on favoring one group of people over another (and I have) but that is not the point being made here. The concept is that faith driven works are as much attitude as action.

Faith - Where is the love.jpg
Photo By Tatoli ba Kultura

Racism, sexism, homophobia; these are some of the most obvious examples of favoring one group over another. The truth is we tend to put people into groups and align ourselves within one or more of those groups. It is not a new concept. Many years ago people banded together into tribes, tribes grew into countries. Most countries however have divided themselves into a multitude of groups. Very often those groups divide themselves even further. Sometimes with disastrous results.

Arguing about Evolution is a waste of time

I know patience is one of the fruits of the spirit but I have to confess to I lose mine whenever I hear the Creation/Evolution argument. Why? Because it’s the wrong argument. It’s not important how God created the universe – only that He did. A truth that is lost as soon as the debate starts.

Evolution Editorial cartoon depicting Charles Darwin as an ape If we are honest with ourselves we have to admit we don’t have the facts to prove the world is 7,000 years old. We are not going to convince someone who wants to argue the ‘facts’. All the scientific evidence available say the Earth is 5 billion years old and the universe 15 billion.  The sad truth is we will lose if we try to argue creation against evolution based upon available data – things we can see, measure and test.

The only evidence we have of God is our faith.  Whenever I hear people debating Creation vs. Evolution Hebrews 11:1 immediately comes to mind

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Twas the Night Before Christmas – updated for the 21st Century

Twas the night before Christmas and all though the land
not a heart was stirring for the true Son on Man.
The presents were all bought and stashed neath the tree
to be ripped open and discarded for a moment of glee.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Ipads danced in their heads.
And mamma in her guccis, and I in my sweats,
had just settled down with our credit card debt.

When out on the lawn there shown a bright light,
I sprang from my bed knowing something’s not right.
Get back from the windows I yelled with alarm
get the kids into the basement and bring me my guns

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But an Angel of God with a message so clear.

With a gaze so lovely, a vision so clear
“Behold”, he said, “I bring you tidings of great cheer”!
“Your savior was born in a manger this day
but it is not his birth but His death shows the way”.

The Knots Prayer

Dear God:
Please untie the knots
that are in my mind,
my heart and my life.
Remove the have nots,
the can nots and the do nots
that I have in my mind.

Erase the will nots,
may nots,
might nots that may find
a home in my heart.

Release me from the could nots,
would nots and
should nots that obstruct my life.

And most of all,
Dear God,
I ask that you remove from my mind,
my heart and my life all the am nots’
that I have allowed to hold me back,
especially the thought
that I am not good enough.
Amen

Author unknown (but blest)

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Thought for the day

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple.

But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas. - George Bernard Shaw

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