We just got done with Vacation Bible School, and I am one of those sick and twisted people who LOVE VBS!!! You’ve got themed snacks and crafts and games. Then there’s the music which, whether you like it or not, seeps under your skin and etches itself onto your brain so that when it is quiet at night and you are beginning to doze off, you hear it and your body involuntarily begins to do the choreographed motions that everyone’s been working on all week long. What’s not to love?!?!
Our theme this year had to do with what it means to be a neighbor. There was an international festival flair since in God’s kingdom, neighbors are found near and far. At the end of the week, the kids could eloquently recite at the top of their lungs that neighbors are friendly, giving, bold, forgiving, and welcoming.
As I was driving my daughters home, singing along with the VBS CD in the car, the car in front of me had their turning signal to go left. I slowed down because there was a left-turning lane that they would be getting into, but all of a sudden they slowed and started turning right. I slammed my breaks and began waving my fists while saying things in spanish that would not make my momma proud as I drove around them. I asked the girls if they were OK. “Yeah,” my youngest replies, “but mom, wasn’t that our neighbor?”
Great…another “Mother of the Year” award lost due to road rage and no where in the running for “Neighborly Neighbor.”
At first I wasn’t sure she was right. How would I know if that was my neighbor’s car? They get home and drive right into their garage, not to be seen again until they leave for work the next day. I don’t know what they do. I don’t know their names. I’m not even sure how many people live there. How I wish I could tell you that we live out in the country and that their house is a mile away. But their window is about 12 feet from mine, so no such excuse.
The central VBS scripture was the story of the Good Samaritan (found in Luke 10:25-37, if you need a refresher). In this parable, Christ expanded the definition of the word “neighbor”. A neighbor is someone whose wellbeing is also our responsibility. Most people limit this circle to family and close friends. However, by using the Samaritan as the caregiver in the parable, Jesus is pretty clear that the circle needs to expand to include those we least want to expect.
It is a lot easier for me to think about being a neighbor to someone in Zimbabwe because right now that pretty much adds up to praying for them. But be a neighbor to my geographical neighbor?! …
That means I have get up the courage to get off the couch and go over there. What if they have a rabid dog? … Loli, neighbors are friendly and bold.
They were not neighborly to us when we moved in nor have they made an effort to be neighborly since then! … Loli, neighbors are forgiving.
Alright. Maybe I’ll make some cookies and take them over there… since neighbors are giving. Oooh, and I’ll make sure I include the girls in the cookie making so I can make up some “Mother of the Year” Award points … neighbors can be a little self-interested.
But, what if they’re not welcoming? What if they don’t come to the door? What if they slam the door in my face because they remembered my waving fists and angry face from the traffic incident? What if they don’t want to be a neighbor to me?
Well, that’s their problem…and their loss because my cookies are not half bad. Don’t share this with the kids the next time this story comes up in Sunday School, but in the story of the Good Samaritan, we don’t know if the guy makes it. We don’t know if the guy recovers from his wounds. The Samaritan got the guy to the inn and assured the man compensation for any expenses the injured man incurred, but he wasn’t able to stick around to make sure the guy was going to make it. Maybe he was on the way to an important business meeting or to a family wedding. Whatever the reason, he couldn’t stay. But he did what he could and trusted God with the rest.
We need to stop making excuses. We need to do what we can, and we need to trust God with the rest.
I will crank up the VBS tunes while we make our “neighborly cookies”…wish me luck!
Gracious God, help us to be friendly and giving to those living in our own home; help us to be bold in caring for those we don’t know and forgiving to those we think we know too well; help us to be welcoming to those who don’t know You. Help us to be good neighbors. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
Lolimarta Ros Reiter, or as most of her friends know her, Loli, ministers alongside the fine folks at The Presbyterian Church of Seffner outside of Tampa, FL. She was born in Puerto Rico but has lived on the mainland since she was 9. Her daughter Isabel (9 years old) wants you to know her mom is funny; Olivia (6 years old) wants you to know she likes to talk about God…a lot; and John, her husband, wants you to know that she is the best wife, ever…Such a smart man! She looks forward to being in cyber-community with you.