Epiphany 7A: The Shadow of Ideal

magical-art-of-shadow-photography-01OLD TESTAMENT:  Leviticus 19: 1-2, 9-18

Read the passage from Leviticus

Leviticus appears just this once in the entire Revised Common Lectionary cycle—and in most years, Lent begins before seven Sundays after Epiphany elapses.  This passage sounds a lot like the Ten Commandments.  There’s a good reason.  These are the Ten Commandments plus some additional guidelines as to how the people live as a holy people.  The laws of Leviticus as we know them come out of the story of the exodus.  Freed from slavery, the people have not yet entered the Promised Land.  But this looks ahead to that time when they will return home and how they should conduct their lives as residents in that land that was promised to them.

These are not really “laws”, per se, the way we think of laws.  They are not prescriptions for right behavior that includes the promise of punishment for those who fail to follow them.  They are rather a description of an ideal community, a people of faith, who are devoted first and foremost to God.  The beginning directive to “…be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” brings to mind the story of Creation in Genesis and the fact that we are “created in God’s image”.  As people of God, then, there is a calling to be a reminder of who God is, an image that brings God into people’s lives.  A holy people can remind people of the holiness of the ever-present God who created them.  Thomas Merton said that “your life is shaped by the end you live for.  You are made in the image of what you desire.” (in In the Beginning, God:  Creation, Culture, and the Spiritual Life, by Marva J. Dawn, p. 36)

But this holiness thing is often uncomfortable for us.  We tend to fault on the side of modesty and reserve the description of “holy” for the likes of Jesus, Mother Teresa, or the Dalai Lama.  Kimberly Clayton, in Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol. 4 (p. 365), says that “as appropriately modest as this may be, it is also a way of letting ourselves off the holiness hook.  This is not biblical.”  Essentially, we are called to be holy.  That’s it.  We are called to be holy, rather than overly modest. (OK, I for one apparently have some work to do!)

Many times in this passage, we read the words, “I am the Lord.”  It is not a threat, but a reminder that God is always and forever present in our lives.  The law of God is not a list of rules; rather, it is connected with the character of God.  It is a depiction of who God is in the world.  And it is evident that God is first and foremost about relationships.  Part of the way that a people becomes a holy people is by dealing with others in the way that God would—with justice and mercy and love.  So, these “laws” call the people to be honest in their dealings with each other—financially, in the ways we deal with the earth that we share, and in the way we treat the poor.  As the passage goes on, you’ll notice that the “other”—the “poor”, the “alien”, or “another”—becomes your “neighbor”.  It is a reminder that we are all neighbors.  There is no one outside that definition.

And as neighbors, we are all part of one family, one “kin”, as the Scripture points out.  Our neighbor (whoever that may be) is one of us, one of “our people”, one who we are called to love just as we love ourselves.  We are marked as the people of God.  We are claimed by God.  We are one in God.

It is a reminder that we have been loved more than we can possibly imagine and that is the way we are called to love.  In The Quotidian Mysteries, Kathleen Norris writes “God speaks to us…reminding us that by meeting the daily needs of the poor and vulnerable, characterized in the scriptures as the widows and the orphans, we prepare the way of the Lord and make our own hearts ready for the day of salvation.”


  1. What does this passage mean for you?
  2. What is hard for us to hear?
  3. What does it mean to be holy?  What do you think of the notion of our possibly being overly modest?
  4. So, who are our neighbors? 
    1. Who are those to which we’re called to be a neighbor? 
    2. Who are we called to allow to be a neighbor toward us?
    3. Which of these is more difficult?



NEW TESTAMENT:  1 Corinthians 3: 10-11, 16-23

Read the passage from 1 Corinthians

Just as in the readings over the last couple of weeks, this week’s Epistle passage is Paul’s way of continuing to try to unify the members of the church at Corinth who are distracted because of some misplaced priorities.  The community here is being torn apart by arguments and competing authority.  (In the chapters that follow, the heated discussions will escalate to the subjects of sexual morality and marriage, lawsuits, and behavior at The Lord’s Supper.)  So Paul is trying to guide them back to what is important, to their focus on God and their unity with each other as one body.

Paul reminds us that the foundation is none other than Jesus Christ.  The metaphor of a foundation is an interesting one.  If you think about it, there are a lot of things that can be changed and updated in a house.  Houses can look different from each other and individual houses can change over time.  But if the foundation is not solid, the house will not stand.  I don’t think this was Paul’s way of depicting our understanding of faith as inflexible or limited.  Far from it.  In our world of religious and denominational pluralism, perhaps the foundation becomes even MORE important.  It’s our starting point; it’s our unity.  As Christians, Christ is not merely the “way” we build the house, but is indeed the solid foundation on which our faith rests.  Christ is the center.

It should also be noted here that Paul is asking these first-century hearers to see the temple and to see themselves in a radically new way.  The temple had, for them, been the center of religion and the center of their very lives.  Following the return from Babylon, the temple had been rebuilt as the center of Israel’s worship and the center of their society.  The belief was that the inner sanctum, the holy of holies, contained the very presence of God.  In fact, only on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, was the high priest (and the high priest only) allowed to enter the inner sanctum to make sacrifices for the sin of the nation.  But here, Paul is saying that the church, the people, the Body of Christ, is now the temple.  This discombobulated, dysfunctional, and “disunified” group of people are now called to be one, are now called to be the Body of Christ, the very embodiment of the Presence of God in our midst. The temple exists where God’s holiness exists, in the people that are called the people of God.

So, once again, Paul is compelling them to be one, to let go of all of the arguments and the competition for “who’s on top”.  Again, have the humility of holiness.  Be the people of God.  This congregation, this people, this holiness of God, this good news of Jesus Christ, are not things to fight over.  No one owns or has a direct line to what is right and to the way that the church should work.  That belongs to God.  That belongs to the foundation that we find in Jesus Christ.


One of the joys of being a grandfather is getting to take your grandchildren to do special and wonderful things. Not long ago, I was called upon to take my two grandsons to their swimming lessons. I thought this would be the routine trip, but I was wrong. The pool was enclosed in a rather large building, and the sounds of all those excited children of different ages and abilities were deafening.

Upon further observation, I noticed something unusual. All the noise was coming from the shallow end of the pool. The only sound coming from the deep end was the sound of experienced swimmers swimming with discipline and confidence. There was no yelling, no crying, no complaining, no evidence of fear or frustration. They were following the instructions of their leader.

After a lifetime of parish ministry, I have concluded that all the noise comes from the shallow end of the pool from those who haven’t learned to swim with confidence or are not secure enough to venture into the deep water. Churches reflect that clearly. The noise comes from the shallow end, not the deep end. Look at current statistics. Church attendance is up. Excitement is up. We have gone into show business, but if you dig deep into those statistics, you don’t find discipleship being up, nor do you find godliness up. We find a lot of people who are attending but few people who are swimming in the deep end. There is not much Christlikeness or commitment. It’s easy to draw a crowd. The people of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus have taught us how to draw a crowd. But it’s tough to build a congregation. One pastor said to me with tongue in cheek, “Our people are deeply committed in every area except three: lifestyle, mindset, and values. Other than that, they are deeply committed to the Gospel.”…


In any city there are churches saying in like manner:

“Come to our church. Our preacher doesn’t wear a tie. Our preacher wears golf shirts and jogging shoes.”
“Come to our church! We wear shorts and sandals.”
“We’re fundamental.”
“We’re liturgical.”
“We’re liberal.”
“We’re moderate.”
“We’re denominational.”
“We’re mainline.”
“We’re dispensational.”
“We have video.”
“We have snare drums and screens.”
“We’re into political reform.”
“We have a religious superstar preaching today.”

Everyone is out front, just like the carnival barkers were, pushing their style, their religious product, but when we get inside we find-just like the carnival-that no one knocks out the balloons or knocks down the bottles. No one wins the prize. No lives are changed. The church of the big idea, the church of the big action, and the church of the big deal somehow leave us empty. Something is missing.

That is the issue Paul was addressing in this letter. Churches that are built only on ideas or actions or style are doomed to die. Paul said, and I paraphrase, “I gave you a good foundation, Jesus Christ. You build on Jesus Christ. And if you build with gold and silver or straw, it will fade. You must build on Jesus Christ.” Jesus earlier said in Matthew 16, “On this rock (the confession of Peter) I will build my church.” During his last week, he said to his disciples, “I am the vine. Ye are the branches.” In other words, stay connected to me, and you will bear fruit. If you get severed from me, you won’t bear fruit. (From “Swimming to the Deep End of the Pool”, by Rev. Dr. William L. Self, available at http://day1.org/808-swimming_to_the_deep_end_of_the_pool, accessed 16 February, 2011)


  1. What does this passage mean for you?
  2. How can this be applied to our own cultural context?
  3. What does this image of the temple mean for you?



GOSPEL:  Matthew 5: 38-48

Read the passage from The Gospel According to Matthew

More Sermon on the Mount…In this section, Jesus tells the disciples to turn the other cheek, not seek revenge, give more than what is required by law, give to all who ask things of you, lend without limits, love enemies, pray for persecutors, and welcome the stranger.  Well sure…Jesus once again frames his discourse in light of the accepted laws that were in place in that society.  For instance, the law allowed the notion of lex talionis, or fair retaliation.  If someone practiced wrong against you, you would be authorized to fairly and legally retaliate but only to the extent of your loss.  (i.e, “an eye for an eye”.)  As harsh as that may sound to us, the whole point was that that was the MOST you could do.  You could not retaliate against someone who had injured your eye by murdering them and get away with it.  But Jesus takes that accepted and acceptable way of thinking and remodels it completely.  If someone had injured your eye, the only thing acceptable is to walk away, to not seek revenge.  Essentially, retaliation and anger are not Scriptural.  Rather, we are called to overcome evil with good—to pray for those who harm us, to love those who threaten us, to welcome those we do not know.

Now, I don’t think Jesus expected us to just close our eyes to the threatening of weak and vulnerable members of our society.  We ARE called to speak out, to do something.  But maybe it will give us pause to ask if there’s another way to handle something.

Once again, we are asked to give more than what is asked, more than what is expected within the bounds of “acceptable” societal standards.  “Are you kidding me?” you’re probably asking at this point.  Don’t you think Jesus’ first century hearers were asking the same question?  Jesus’ words compel his hearers to love their neighbor—ALL their neighbors—the ones they did not know, the ones they mistrusted, the ones who did not practice the faith, the Samaritans, the Babylonians, the Egyptians.  For us, the message is the same.  We are called to love our neighbors—ALL our neighbors—the ones we do not know, the ones we mistrust, the ones who do not practice our faith, the ones who, in the name of Christ, choose to place themselves above others as moral or social superiors, the drunk driver who hit our mailbox, ISIS terrorists, and those persons who, because of a misguided sense of who God is and what God is calling them to do, flew planes into the World Trade Center years ago and killed so many of our neighbors.  It is not easy.  I’m pretty clear Jesus never promised that it would be.

The Greek word teleios is often used for this type of faith.  It means to be “perfect”.  (That’s also a notion that we United Methodists hold so dear as we pursue that elusive Wesleyan notion of “going onto perfection”.)  It does not mean perfect the way we think.  It does not mean without blemish; it means a maturity such that one gets it, a desire to be what God calls us to be—something completely different than what is “acceptable” or even “normal” in our society.  Now don’t get me wrong, Scriptural words are nothing if they are not relevant for today’s hearers.  We are called to a faithful reading of them in light of our own experience, reason, and historical tradition.  We are not in this alone.  Our lives and our faith are shaped by the wisdom and influence of others.  But if we don’t at least try to get it, why are we here at all?

This passage tells us to do some of the most difficult things imaginable.  They are things that don’t make sense.  They are things that sometimes get people hurt.  They are things that sometime get people killed. (Hmmm!  You kind of have to think about that one, don’t you?)  The truth is that the Sermon on the Mount is nothing less than a radical call for resistance—peaceful, non-violent resistance against the ways of the world, against the powers that we have allowed to become “acceptable”, against those things that we have allowed to sneak into our very lives and move between who we are and who we really are.  If you want to put this passage into a nutshell, perhaps the writer’s words might say, “Grow up.  You are bigger than that.  God is bigger than that.  You are kingdom people.  Live like it.  Be perfect. (or, for goodness sakes, at least try!).” St. Augustine said to congregants while presiding at the Eucharist: “Receive who you are. Become what you’ve received.”   


  1. What does this passage mean for you?
  2. What is the hardest part of this passage for you?
  3. Is this even reasonable in today’s time?
  4. Is this even possible to do?
  5. What gets in the way of us being “kingdom people”?



Some Quotes for Further Reflection:


The noblest prayer is when [one] who prays is inwardly transformed into what [one] kneels before. (Anglus Silesius, 17th century)

To be an acorn is to have a taste for being an oak tree.  (Thomas Merton)

Peace does not come rolling in on the wheels of inevitability.  We can’t just wish for peace.  We are to will it, fight for it, suffer for it, demand it from our governments as if peace were God’s most cherished hope for humanity, as indeed it is.  (William Sloan Coffin, Credo, p. 93)





The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class…Father, forgive.

The covetous desires of [humans] and nations to possess what is not their own…Father, forgive.

The greed which exploits the labors of [persons], and lays waste the earth…Father, forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others…Father, forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the homeless and the refugee…Father, forgive.

The lust which uses for ignoble ends the bodies of men and women…Father, forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves, and not in God…Father, forgive.


Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.


Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.


                                    (The Prayer of Coventry Cathedral]

Proper 10C: WHO, then, IS my neighbor?

Good Samaritan Showing MercyFIRST LESSON:  Amos 7: 7-17

To read the passage from Amos

The Book of Amos is included among the twelve minor prophets, called “minor” not because they are less significant but because the writings are shorter than Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.  In ancient Judaism, these shorter prophetic writings were part of one scroll in the Temple.

Supposedly, Amos was called from his life as a shepherd in Judah to speak the word of the Lord to the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  He was probably more likely a person of some standing who traded sheep and goats in the agricultural market. During this time, the Northern Kingdom was experiencing a time of great prosperity under King Jeroboam, and they assumed that their power and privilege was a blessing from God to them as the chosen people.  But in their prosperity, they had forgotten the poor and the suffering and neglected to share their fruits with those in need.  Their religious observance had become rule-driven and devoid of social justice.  This is what prompted Amos’ message.

This passage from Amos is actually a depiction of Amos’ third vision in the midst of a total of five visions.  The vision is of God, the Divine Builder, standing beside a wall with a plumb line.  A plumb line is part of an ancient bit of construction technology, not really necessary with today’s advanced building methods.  The plumb bob is a heavy piece of lead in the shape of an inverted raindrop.  The point of the plumb bob, in perfect line with the plumb line, marks a perfect vertical drop between where the line begins and the ground below.  Used by stonemasons and builders for centuries, it would provide a measure for a perfectly straight wall.  So if something is “out of plumb”, so to speak, it is crooked, imperfect, unsightly, and may even be potentially dangerous.  The point is, sloppiness can skew or distort the entire picture.

So, the vision is of the Lord standing by a perfectly-constructed wall with a divine plumb line that will measure how “plumb” the people are.  According to the prophet, what is out of “plumb”, what is not the way it should be, will fall away.  Amos spells out a dire vision for the future of Israel:  the queen would become a prostitute, the royal children dying by sword, and the people of Israel taken into exile by foreigners.

So Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, reports to King Jeroboam II that Amos is conspiring the king’s death and Israel’s fall.  In doing this, the center of Israel is misunderstood as Jeroboam, and the sanctuary as the king’s.  There is a failure to recognize here that everything is really God’s.  Israel has forgotten its builder.

Amaziah tells Amos to leave and return to Judah and not bother the “status quo” in Israel.  He assumes that Amos is a “professional prophet” that can return and get his bread in Judah.  But Amos was not part of the religious establishment.  His legitimacy as a prophet comes from the fact that he IS an outsider (a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees).  Amos’ power is to disturb the status quo with his prophecy.  And in 721 BCE, the Northern Kingdom would fall into the hands of Assyria.

Amos’ words do not deny God’s Presence but rather the people’s (us?) unwillingness to live lives that reflect that presence of justice and mercy.  But God does not close a Divine eye to injustice.  Because, you see, it just doesn’t fit with the vision that God holds for the world and for us.  Amos just had the courage to speak the truth.


1)      What is your response to this passage?

2)      What does that image of the “plumb line” mean for you?

3)      How would our own society or our own church or even our own lives fare with this “plumb line” standard of measurement?  How does this speak to our culture today?

4)      Why is it so hard for us to hear and heed prophetic warnings?

5)      What is the difference between a question of perfection and a question of justice?



NEW TESTAMENT:  Colossians 1: 1-14

To read the passage from Colossians

Colossians is one of those letters that is attributed to Paul but that there are some doubts as to whether or not Paul actually penned the epistle.  It is one of those that is considered a “disputed” letter of Paul.  The practice was not uncommon to attach a teacher or mentor’s name to a work out of respect or reverence.

It begins with the author giving thanks for the faith of the people at Colossae.  The letter is complimentary of them, for they have shown love to others and it goes on by urging them to see themselves as part of something bigger that is expanding as time goes on.  The mention of Epaphras might even indicate that this person is the author of the letter and that he is using it to connect himself to Paul, but that is just speculation by some commentators.

The latter part of the passage that we read begins to reveal a key theme in the entire letter.  Against the claims of intruders who confuse this newfound faith with new theories and demands, the writer prays that the Colossians might have wisdom and knowledge and strength to hold fast in their faith.  He wants them to not get stressed over the intrusion of these other views, but to have peace in their own convictions in God who makes a place of belonging for each of us.

Colossians is written to Gentile Christians and the author is claiming that there is a place for them among the holy and chosen ones of Israel.  They, too, will share in the inheritance of a relationship with God that faith brings.  Here, coming to faith means moving from a system of authority and power into the realm and kingdom of Christ, which is characterized by love.  Here, believers will find redemption and forgiveness of sins.

Some are saying that God’s love is not so free, but depends on religious rites and achievements which must be performed if we are to be sure of getting past the powers which hold sway in this universe. The result can be religious preoccupation with our own destiny. We can become busy trying to justify ourselves and lose our perspective of what faith really is. We can do that by performing religious rites or doing many other things “religiously”. We can even make ourselves busy with overwork (even with church work!) to achieve that sense of being valued and ultimately coming through and finding a place of worth. Colossians is proclaiming a generous love which says: stop all this and believe in grace! You don’t have to become religious in this way. On the contrary, you can be liberated from such religion to be free to respond to God and others and yourselves with joy!  For the writer of this letter, hope in the present is grounded in our hope for the future.

Essentially, the writer is calling the Colossian believers to look at themselves.  What is it that they are known for—being “religious” or being “faithful”, being “good” or being “loving”?  It’s an interesting question.  How is your church described by those on the streets outside?


1)      What meaning does this passage hold for you?

2)      What, then, does this passage claim that faith is and what does it claim faith is not?

3)      What does the notion of “inheritance” mean for you?

4)      Why is it so difficult for us to not fall into the presumption that we need to somehow “earn” our place with God by being religious or being good?

5)      For what do you think our church would be known?  How would others characterize us?



GOSPEL: Luke 10: 25-37

To read the passage from the Gospel According to Luke

This is, of course, a familiar text.  So familiar, in fact, that we may or may not hear it completely.  We know what happens:  a man gets beat up and left for dead; a priest sees him and passes by; a Levite sees him and passes by; a Samaritan sees him and helps him.  The Samaritan wins the contest.

We read that it begins with a test of Jesus, perhaps a way of trying to catch Jesus up in his own words.  Because this well-learned person, this lawyer, this expert in the Law of Moses, already knew the answer to the question before he asked, these words so much a part of the Jewish faith.  “So, then, Jesus, (he asks smugly) what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “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.”  Indeed, you shall love God with everything that you are.  And, just as importantly, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

But just having the right answer does not necessarily mean that we know God.  And when the man is told by Jesus to “Go and do,” he responds with his own tripping question.  “And who is my neighbor?”  Because in the learned man’s mind and in the society in which he lived his righteous and good life, some were considered acceptable neighbors and others were not.  Some were considered clean and righteous and worthy of respect according to religious law and some were not.  So, he thought, it is important for Jesus to of course clarify the directive to love your neighbor.  Well, of course, the expected reply would be something like “your relatives and friends; those who live their lives the way you do in respectable and acceptable ways; those who think like you and believe like you—THOSE are your neighbors.

But Jesus, in true Jesus-fashion, turned the assumed law upside down.  Because it is not about laws; it is about love.  And so Jesus tells what is now for us a familiar story.

The road that goes down from Jerusalem to Jericho is 17 miles long, dropping about 3,000 feet.  It is hazardous and filled with thieves and robbers, who beat and strip this man and leave him for dead.  Now note that Jesus leaves the man undescribed.  Jewish listeners would probably have assumed that he was one of them.  But, in all honesty, he could be anyone—no ethnicity, no particular religion, no certain economic status.  All we know about him is that he is just our neighbor.  In essence, Jesus is saying “I do not know his name because it doesn’t matter.  He is anyone who lies in need at life’s roadside.”

The first person that happens by is a priest.  He saw the poor man, but he passed by on the other side.  Now, in defense of the priest, religious law dictated that he could only touch those who were clean unless he washed again before he went to the Temple (but of course, we could beg the question of “How hard would that really have been?”).  Then a Levite passes by, also on the other side of the road.  As one who assisted the priest, perhaps he saw the priest pass by and assumed that he needed to do the same. (But then, that too, is really just an excuse.  If the priest had jumped off the cliff, would the Levite have done that?)

And then a Samaritan approached the wounded man.  Now you have to understand that the relationship between the Samaritans and the Jews was anything but friendly.  Both believed in God and both had a monotheistic understanding of the one true God, the YHWH of their shared belief.  But where the temple of YHWH for the Jews existed on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the Samaritans instead worshipped God on Mount Gerazim near the ancient city of Shechem.  Though both were bound by the Law of Moses, each believed that their line of priests and their way of religious understanding was the right one.  What began as an argument in semantics some 1,000 years before the birth of Christ had escalated into a relationship based on hatred and violence and the perceived notion that the other was unacceptable.

But here is this Samaritan—an outsider, an undesirable—treating and bandaging the man’s wounds, risking defilement (probably even risking infection).  He then picked up the man and took him to a place of shelter, giving the innkeeper money out of his own pocket for the man’s lodging.  He did more than just supply band-aids, though.  He entered the man’s life and shared his own life with him.  Go and do likewise.

The point is that it is no longer enough just to be nice.  It means that it is not enough to give out the time and money and love that we can spare.  It means that this story is no longer about figuring out who your neighbor is.  It means, rather, that we are called to enter our neighbor’s life and allow them to enter ours.  It means that we realize that, as this passage says, love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable.  It means that we can become “fully human”, “fully made in the image of God” only by allowing ourselves to enter each others’ lives.

There is an African proverb that says, “I am human only because you are human.”  We need to see one another as neighbors in order to experience the community that God created for us.  We are all part of the neighborhood.    We are all called to be a part of each others’ lives.  Go and do likewise.

So, who, then, IS my neighbor?  Whose life am I called to enter and invite to enter mine?  Well, what this parable says is that the question is essentially moot.  Turn and look at the person next to you.  That is your neighbor.  Do you see the woman crossing the street looking for the food pantry?  She is your neighbor.  Do you see the person with whose lifestyle you do not understand, possibly do not condone?  Do you see the child in Africa, hungry with no safe water to drink and no real shelter?  That child is your neighbor.  Turn and look at the person on the other side of you.  Each and every one of God’s children is your neighbor.  Maya Angelou said that “I note the obvious differences between each sort and type.  But we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”  This parable defines everyone—friend, enemy, foreigner, threat—as “neighbor”.  And then tells us, that we shall love our neighbor as ourselves.

And by loving our neighbors with the same intensity and fervor that we love ourselves, there is no longer room for greed, self-promoting egoism, or violence.  There is no longer room for the prioritizing of our resources.  There is no longer room to value one life over another.  The road is no longer wide enough to simply pass by on the other side.  There is no person who is anything less than a neighbor.

Yes, sometimes, being a true neighbor is controversial and even dangerous business.  Sometimes being a neighbor means risking or even giving up part of yourself.  Henri Nouwen said, though, that “only when we have the courage to cross the road and look into one another’s eyes can we see that we are children of the same God and members of the same human family.”


1)      What meaning does this passage hold for you?

2)      What preconceived perceptions are usually attached to this story?

3)      With what character do you most identify in this story?

4)      So, who, then, is your neighbor?



Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

There can be little growth in holiness without growth in a sense of social justice. (Edward Hays)


To believe you can approach transcendence without drawing nearer in compassion to suffering humanity is to fool yourself.  There can be no genuine personal religious conversion without a change in social attitude. (William Sloane Coffin, Credo)


I note the obvious differences between each sort and type.  But we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike. (Maya Angelou)




O God of every nation, of every race and land, redeem your whole creation with your almighty hand; where hate and fear divide us, and bitter threats are hurled, in love and mercy guide us, and heal our strife-torn world.


From search for wealth and power and scorn of truth and right, from trust in bombs that shower destruction through the night, from pride of race and station and blindness to your way, deliver every nation, eternal God, we pray.


Keep bright in us the vision of days when war shall cease, when hatred and division give way to love and peace, till dawns the morning glorious when truth and justice reign, and Christ shall rule victorious o’er all the world’s domain.



(William W. Reid, Jr., “O God of Every Nation”, 1958, UMH # 435)