A simple question that has become a famous one, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Fred Rogers, an ordained minister who was disturbed about the way television was portrayed for children decided to make a change, and in doing so invited us all to be his neighbor. From 1968 to 2001 the gentle voice, the friendly song, and puppets of all sorts invited us to be in community together with Mr. Rogers and his “neighborhood”. No matter who you are, or where you were, you were invited to be a neighbor.
The world is different today than it was in 1968, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t need neighbors and less today than we did then. We have AAA and Roadside assistance for when our cars get in a jam. We have cell phones to call for help when we lock our keys in the car or get lost. We have services like Google who can find whatever information we want. We have services like Amazon that allow us to get what we want without ever having to leave home. We can even get our groceries delivered to our home without going to the store! Yet despite all of this technology there is nothing that can replace a friend or a neighbor, well at least not yet.
As the people of God it is our role in the world to be neighbors to everyone. Jesus told a story (in Luke 10) about a man who was attacked on the road. This man lay there bruised and bleeding while the righteous men passed by giving their “thoughts and prayers” for the healing of the man. A third man came along and picked up the wounded and took him to a place where he could heal and recover. This third man even paid for all the expenses of the wounded so that he wouldn’t be burdened by a debt for his recovery. This third man was a Samaritan. Someone outside of Jewish “good” society. He would have been descended from the people who were left behind while the Jews were taken to Babylon in exile. Those people mixed and mingled with other groups and families and thus polluted their pure Jewish heritage. Yet this man who was ostracized in society was a more faithful neighbor to the wounded than the upright and faithful Jews in the story.
We as a church will spend some time reflecting upon our story with God. I invite you to think on the questions Jesus asks at the end, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Your answer will be the same as the one recorded in Luke 10:37 most likely. I ask you then to think about this, whom in our society do you see that is beaten down, bruised, battered, ignored, and in need? What would it mean for you to be their neighbor? Then, go and do that.