Friday, August 12, 2016

How do I neighbor?

Prayer: Holy One: you have called us to fulfill all the commandments by Love.
Teach us to love as you love, and More fully, live as you lived. 

How do you Neighbor?  Used in this way Neighbor, this becomes a verb. A verb shows action, and Jesus is seeking action from each of us.
            Over the next few weeks you will hear several versions of how to enact “being a neighbor.”  Just Like several people who witness the same accident, the story will be different, but the basic message will be the same.
            We are to love God with all our hearts, our souls and our intent; and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
            Several things become apparent to me as I read these verses. I have some awareness of loving God, but where do I see my neighbor in order to express love, and finally how to I express love to myself?

            Jesus says “:Love god with all of you and Love your Neighbor as you love yourself. What kind of love am I supposed to conjure up for people and lands; I have never seen?

And why is something so simply stated, so difficult to truly comprehend? 

            It appears to me that the question is not so much Who is my neighbor but rather Who …my neighbor is not. That is the deeper question and deserves an answer.
            Who am I but all of these. Christian, Pagan Muslim, Buddhist, Black, Gay, straight Transsexual? People I agree with? People I strongly disagree with?  I am to love each of these places within myself if I am to fully embrace Jesus words.

            Sometimes it is more difficult to love myself because I know myself so well. I know the good, the bad and the ugly and I pass judgment on what is lovable in me.
                    I grew up in a small town in Washington state, that wasn’t segregated by neighborhoods like New York City- Italian, Irish, German, African American or Polish. It did have neighborhoods where you should feel safe because people were like “you” There were wealthy neighborhood and uptown neighborhoods. And then, there was my neighborhood.
             Across the bridge, down by the railroad tracks with more taverns than churches. Slum neighborhoods. Gratefully, there were some churches!

            I was aware of the difference in how neighbors were defined, because when I tried to make friends with the rich kids they were told I wasn’t from their neighborhood. Often, I wasn’t allowed to play with those kids. It left a strong impression in my heart that I wasn’t good enough and didn’t fit in.

            So, most of my life has been spent trying to “fix” that and change my history.

             I started attending Sunday School at the small church next door. One of the first songs I learned in SS was “Jesus loved the little children, All the children of the world. Red and Yellow, Black and white…We are precious in His sight.” Just a moment here. Back in the 40’s  My town had no Indians, Asian or Black people. Only white. But the song said we were all loved.
               My journey began. When I moved to Seattle to attend college. It was a Christian college, but I was different because I was from an un-churched home that was shattered by divorce and addictions, alcoholism and drugs. I didn’t feel Ike their neighbor at all and they didn’t want to be my neighbor

            When I read the verse in Matthew 22 about two commandments that fulfill all the others. Love God with all your heart: and Love your neighbor as yourself. I was perplexed. I didn’t really love myself because I didn’t think I was worth loving. The history of my childhood neighborhood lived in me. The song of everyone was precious in Jesus sight continued to roll through my thoughts. Am I really precious to Jesus?

             So I focused on loving my neighbor. The Big problem was how to love people who didn’t love me. I began to notice lots of people in my world who were different from other people. I went to work for a street ministry called Teen Challenge and we found lots of people needing help:  alcoholics and drug addicts: prostitutes: homosexuals, homeless to name a few. They needed God’s love and I identified with their pain. Was this who Jesus was talking about?

            I WENT BACK TO COLLEGE to my safe environment and tried to understand myself as I was inside.
             Jesus showed that my neighbor does not mean someone from the church or faith to which I belong. It has no reference to race, color, or class distinction. I determined that My neighbor is every person I meet or know about whether I have ever met them. My neighbor is every soul who is wounded and bruised, who is educated, wealthy or homeless My neighbor is everyone. We all belong to God. And are loved by Jesus
            I believe as I walk this journey I have companions’ unseen by human eyes. I believe Angels were beside the Samaritan who cared for the wounded traveler. Angels who stand by all who do God's service in ministering love to their fellow travelers.

            If our neighbors were only those who are beaten and left along the road, it would be easy to identify them. Wherever there is an impulse of love and sympathy, wherever the heart reaches out to bless and uplift others, there the working of God's Holy Spirit is revealed

            The question I started with, how do you and I ,neighbor? I think it is only as we see Jesus in one another.  As I see myself in every person regardless of language or skin color or faith.

             I believe The Holy Spirit has implanted the loving grace of Christ into our hearts. The "Light which lights every man that comes into the world" (John 1:9), is shining in our souls; and this light, if heeded, will guide our feet to love our neighbor!

            If I am to love neighbor as myself, it is imperative that I know that I am known by the one who created me.  I am precious in God’s sight!

            I am wholeness just as I am, and held in Spirit’s embrace. I am the one in the many. We are all one in God.

            I am perfection, In God’s sight. I am worthy of love.. which means that I know my true nature as my Creator- called me into being.

            I am loved enough to neighbor to myself. Regardless of any flaws I see.

            Loving God, neighbor and self are single commands by the Divine. Thou shalt…love God wholly. With all that I am because I am one with God, and my neighbor is one with me, and I am one with my neighbor regardless of gender, nationally, education, spirituality path or personal history.

             The neighborhood I carry within doesn’t minimize or segregate me, it bonds me with those with whom I share this planet. I continue to learn that we are all one people and we are all precious in God’s sight. Sometimes I feel that I still have a long way to grow into that understanding. Sometimes the hurtful pains of my past rise to the surface and I have to stop and listen to the childhood song inside.
“All are precious In Christ’s sight.”

            Only as I own this truth, can I truly live in Love, who is the Living Christ, and begin again. to love God, my neighbor and myself.
            It also stands to reason, if I love God totally, I will love the creation that has been given to us, and if I love my neighbor I will do all within my power to build them up through prayer and kindness. If I love myself it is not blasphemy to say that I am at the heart of the living, eternal Spirit that created us all. I am one with the eternal heart of love.

How do I neighbor? With respect, acceptance and an extravagant welcome that oozes love.

I encourage each of us to remember as a worldwide community of faith, we are stronger together, and each of us are one in the many.

I pray you will go out this week and look for opportunities to Love God, your neighbor and  especially, yourself.