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21
Apr

Conversations Among Neighbours

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Who is my neighbour? a young lawyer asked Jesus.  What the lawyer wanted was a definitive definition.  Give me the exact description of who a neighbour is and then I’ll know who I have to love, since you tell me, Jesus, that I am to love my neighbour as I love myself.  Give me the specifics, Jesus, and then I’ll know who I have to love, and I can avoid spending energy on those I don’t have to love.  The young lawyer (a student in Jewish law) thought he had it all figured out. 

 

That is until Jesus told the story we know as “The Good Samaritan.”  We casually use that title without understanding what this story meant to those who first heard it.  Samaritan doesn’t really mean anything to us, but for those around Jesus, it was like saying the enemy, the foreigner, the one who is so different than us that we aren’t sure we can welcome or love them. 

 

Jesus answered the young lawyer’s question by turning it around.  The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?”  The question Jesus answered was, “What does it mean to be the neighbour?”  Jesus told the story of three people who had an opportunity to be a good neighbour (you can read the whole story in Luke 10:25-27).  The first two didn’t take the opportunity to be the good neighbour.  The third person did.  And who was the third person – a Samaritan – someone who was an outsider, different, an enemy, if you will.  If we thought of examples of outsiders, those considered different or threatening or even enemies today, then Jesus might have made it a story about “The Good Muslim” or “The Good Transgendered Person.”  Do you get the point?

 

Jesus is saying BE the neighbour.  Your job isn’t to decide who you have to be neighbourly to; your job is to get about being the neighbour to everyone!  Who was the good neighbour, the Samaritan (or the Muslim or the LGBTQ person) – now Go and do likewise!  Follow their example.  Not the answer that the young lawyer wanted or expected.  I imagine he spent days thinking about Jesus’ answer. 

 

This story is the inspiration for “Conversations among Neighbours” we are having (just started) at High River United Church.  Inspired by a process called scriptural reasoning (www.scripturalreasoning.org & www.srnetwork.org).  In High River, we have Muslim neighbours, Baha’i neighbours, Latter Day Saints neighbours & more.  While, for their own reasons, some of the other Christian churches are not wanting to have conversations with these neighbours, we decided that we needed to.  After all, we live together in this community. 

 

So we gathered one evening (and will gather again soon).  One or two people were invited from each faith group (we wanted a small group to build trust) and they were asked to bring a piece of scripture from their holy writings to share – on the theme of “Neighbours.”  We figured that was a good place to start.  Each one had time to read their scripture and share some thoughts on it.  Questions could be asked that were for clarification and understanding.  The ground rules were that we weren’t there to debate each other’s scriptures or to try to convert.  We were there to listen and to learn.  

 

And learn we did.  Did you know that Muslims too are commanded to love their neighbours?  Here is the scripture from the Quran that was shared:

Worship God and join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet)...  Verily, God does not like such as are proud and boastful.                  Quran 4:36

  

A person of the Islamic faith expects that when they get to heaven’s gate, they will be asked about how well they cared for their neighbours!  That is not the impression we get from what is broadcast on the news, but it is very much the impression we get when we sit down together around the table and talk together.  That’s what Conversations Among Neighbours is all about.

 

For the coming Sundays in church (and I’ll share some of it online as well), we are going to use the theme “Guess Who is Coming to Dinner!”  Each Sunday we will share some background information about another faith group, with the main purpose of helping us understand how we can BE good neighbours to those around us.  For example, if I was going to invite the Muslim family living next door over for a meal, what things might be helpful to know so that I can make it a great experience for all of us?  How can we get by the awkwardness and enjoy being neighbours?

 

Our Mormon neighbour at the table that night quoted Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”  How true!!  In my mind, there is too much judgement these days and not enough being neighbours.

 

So, join us in the spiritual practice of conversations among neighbours. I invite you to take time to get to know a neighbour with whom you haven’t really ever had a conversation before.  Invite them for dessert or for a meal.  Let’s BE the neighbours as Jesus asked.  Let’s love our neighbours as Jesus asked!  We will create a better world, the world God dreams of, by doing so.

 

April 21, 2017                                      ©Susan Lukey 2017

 

 

 

 

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