Celebrating the Fifth of July
Pointing Toward Sunday - 7/10/16, Pentecost 8C
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" 27 He answered, "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." 28 And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30 Jesus 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. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He 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. 35 The 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.' 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" 37 He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
The Fourth of July celebrations reminded me that our boys won’t be raised in a neighborhood with many children around.
Our busy avenue doesn’t have the Cul-de-sacs and block parties my own childhood homes featured. After bedtime stories last night, we spied out the window for fireworks launching above the tree-tops of other neighborhoods. Mostly we just listened to mortar shots.
As a father I think about this lack in my sons’ childhood experiences, but they will not know the difference. There will be many friendships and communities formed over their young lives. I’m the one with the daydreams about what I used to know.
Today I read Sunday’s Gospel lesson and find “Who is my neighbor?” is asking the right question from the wrong perspective. Jesus had already judged in the eager lawyer’s favor: Love God and neighbor, and you will live. But the lawyer knew his own heart and therefore sought a legal loophole. “Who is my neighbor?” Perhaps “neighbor” means only those people who are most like me. Love your like like you love yourself.
Jesus will have none of this parsing of the parish. And so he speaks in parable.
Two men avoid a roadside victim, their minds no doubt offering the legal and ceremonial reasons for crossing the road. A third man, a foreign traveler, is moved by pity and sees to the poor man’s wellbeing. Who is the neighbor? The only one who doesn’t live in the neighborhood.
The local Levite and priest may have lamented what their neighborhood was coming to, what with roadside bandits having their way. I’ve been lamenting all the criminal activity around our church and park. The Samaritan did not worry about what sort of neighborhood he was traveling through. He was more concerned with being a neighbor than having one.
On the Fourth of July I lamented the lack of a neighborhood. On the Fifth of July I’m challenged to be a neighbor. When was the last time the widower across the street lit fireworks with children? I wouldn’t know, because in looking for a neighbor, I haven’t exactly been one.