WHAT KIND OF NEIGHBOR ARE YOU?
EPHESIANS 1: 3-14
Forty five years … it’s truly amazing to consider even 5 years or 10 years or 25 years but this week I paused in my life to weave together 45 years with some very special people. These were people whom I graduated high school with on a warm June Monday night so many years ago. Some in that gathering have been my friends for more than 55 years.
What struck me as I gathered with my friends back home in Buffalo were the words repeated over and over again … THIS CLASS … THE CLASS of ’73 … We have each other’s backs. No matter who you were back then … no matter who you have become today … we have each other’s backs regardless of the place or the cause.
In this morning’s last verse from Ephesians, Paul writes “The Spirit also makes us sure that we will be given what God has stored up for God’s people. Then we will be set free.”
I often think about God’s Holy Spirit … I call on God’s Holy Spirit … and I hope that I am open to the Spirit’s direction for my life because many in the world around us want us to conform or to be silent or to just fit in but God’s call is so much different. “God had Christ choose us to live with Him and to be His Holy and innocent and loving people. By what Christ has done … God has shown us God’s own mysterious ways. YOU put your faith in Christ and you were given the promised Holy Spirit to show that you belong to God.”
As I drove across New York State late last night and then down through Pennsylvania’s mountains until finally the Walt Whitman bridge was in sight leading me back here to West Deptford I thought about all of the neighborhoods I was passing through. Because of the late hours many towns, villages and even cities were darkened …. much of what I saw were shadowed buildings with no lights on but then there were locations where little spots of brightness indicated someone was awake or at least working. Who were these people? What did they look like and sound like? But, God knows … each individual is part of God’s community and therefore my neighbor. Neighbors for whom the Holy Spirit is nudging people of faith to have “their backs” just like my friends for the ages, from around the world, restated that they loved me and had mine. If I knew a single one of those faceless people in houses and buildings I drove past during the night I’d be surprised but the call from Jesus … the ongoing never ending nudging of God’s Holy Spirit is to love all of my neighbors as much as I love those classmates of mine.
There’s a movie out right now that many of my friends are telling me is a MUST SEE. Not a maybe but a must. The critics and the responders on the Tomato list give it reviews in the high 90 percentile. It’s a movie that in a way follows my life just as my school days have. It’s about a TV show but it’s about one way to live life. Although I was not a regular viewer I was always aware of the show and its call … to live as a good neighbor. A Presbyterian pastor with a singular vision of kindness and love with no plans on becoming a television icon … Fred Rogers gave us a neighborhood where he just wanted you to be his neighbor. “The greatest thing any of us can do,” he said, “is to let the children know they are loved and capable of loving.” So, this morning as I think about neighbors familiar and strange … I am ready to declare to those I meet … won’t you be my neighbor.
I remember one episode featuring a young boy using a wheelchair showing Mr. Rogers how his chair worked. The young man, Jeff Erlanger, introduces Fred Rogers at this awards program is the grown up who was that little boy. Let’s hear from Fred Rogers.<<AT THIS POINT IN THE MESSAGE we played the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcNxY4TudXo
Fred Rogers talked about the responsibility for living life using television personalities as his example but this morning what kind of neighbor are you and how are you living out your life? Are you making goodness attractive?
Are we treating our neighbors at least as well as we are treating ourselves? He silences his audience to consider who impacted their lives but this morning can you think of a person who would answer with your name if asked, ‘Who would think of you when you consider who has impacted and molded your life the most? Whose life have you touched this week? Last week? Or who is waiting for you this coming week?
Fred said, “We all have only one life to live on earth … to encourage others to demean this life or to cherish it.”
I find that is my challenge in life … that is a reason I constantly am asking God to allow me to open up to the Holy Spirit’s directions. Like many of you, I fail more than I succeed … I struggle more than I admit … I choose me more than the other but as I consider Mr. Rogers’ ministry of love … when I think about those classmates who travelled from literally around the world to spend two evenings with men and women they shared a common space with in Williamsville New York I know I need to do better.
“The earth” my friends “and everything on it belong to the Lord. The world and its people belong to Him. Who may climb the Lord’s hill or stand in His Holy temples? Only those who do right for the right reasons … don’t worship idols … The Lord God saves them and will bless them because they worship and serve the God of Jacob.”
<<We played VIDEO 2 at this point in the sermon >>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYVu3cPNuXQ
Good neighbors; loving neighbors … people of God … God calls us; God loves us; “God appointed Christ to choose us so that we would bring honor to Him and to be ones to have hope because of Him. Christ has brought you the truth.” AMEN?
I stand here with Paul in declaring “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for the spiritual blessings that Christ has brought from heaven.” And, I call on each of us to “open our personal gates so that the glorious king may come in” transforming us through the Spirit who shows that we belong to God. Then we … you and I … can be set free … to take on God’s work … and God; the Lord; the All Powerful will be honored and praised.”
Watch a video of today’s worship service: