Who is your neighbor?

Here is my sermon this last week working out the spiritual discipline of service.  Who knew it had way more to do than simple charity.  God longs to mold and shape us, as we grow in companion, extend mercy, and to do justly to those around us and throughout the world!

ENCOUNTER:  Read Leviticus 19:33-34

I love the golden rule, the second of the greatest commandments.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  But the way I read that, I assume that it means that people want to be left alone.  I usually don't want people invading my space, so I will return the favor.  

However, that is the weakest reading and understanding of that rule.  This commandment comes straight out of the Torah, and clarified in Leviticus 19.  The assumption is that there will be people different from you and me living in and around us.  Foreigners, who are "other" who don't speak the language, who don't know our customs, how are on the fringes of society, should not be mistreated.

The call is for us to remember our own history.  For the Jewish people, they were once slaves.  For all of us, we were all, once slaves to sin.  We are all 2 bad choices away from totally devastating our lives and the lives of those closest to us.  Empathy is what is needed if we are going to love others well.

We love others like we love ourselves, because we all naturally put ourselves in the center of every situation.  The invitation from Jesus is to love others that way, to put others in the center of the story.

As we practice the spiritual discipline of service, may we move past doing charitable things for others and jump into the skin of those around us. Then we can truly love our neighbors as we love ourself.  

BE REFLECTIVE:

Who are the people in your world who inhabit the fringes and margins?  Who are the people who have little to no social standing, access to power and who's voices are not heard?  Who is that person in your work place, at school, in your home, in our community?  Imagine putting their concerns and needs on an equal footing as you place your concerns and needs.  How would that change your interactions with them?

BE A BLESSING:

Too often we replace the giving of ourselves with the giving of gifts.  Don't get me wrong, I love receiving gifts just as much as the next guy, but this week, what would it look like to give yourself away.  This week, in order to be a blessing, consider simply showing up and being present.  Be present in your meetings, in your home, with people you interact with at lunch and on the street.  Consider how you can actually bless the people God puts in front of you this week.  

BE TOGETHER:
I hate doing hard things by myself.  So maybe this challenge can be one you invite someone else to partner with you in.  Find a friend, a co-worker, someone in your family, or from your small group that you can come up with plan of action.  And even better, someone who will help you put that plan into motion.