“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Leviticus 19:18

Since my arrival at St. Paul’s I have emphasized a teaching lesson from both the Old Testament and New—one that Jesus qualifies as one of the two commandments on which all the other laws and commandments fall upon. The lesson is loving one’s neighbor as you love yourself, or even more specifically, love your neighbors as Jesus loved ALL people.

Right before Christmas my hometown, Buffalo NY, experienced the “Blizzard of the Century” resulting in more than   30 deaths. It was a powerful storm with near hurricane strength winds. This glimpse out my friends Gale and Mike’s front window merely gives a hint of what it was like, but it’s out their front window that I want to share a reminder of who we are called to be.

We are called to be loving to all our neighbors. In good times and in bad times. We are taught not to hate nor to carry animosities but to forgive those who have caused us harm or discomfort. We pray regularly asking God to forgive us as we forgive those who have harmed us. So it’s pretty clear that people of faith get the message.

A storm erases political divisions … devastation causes people to rush to rescue those who might be overwhelmed based solely on their membership in the human race. That’s what happened again in Buffalo in December throughout this storm.

The neighbors across the street from Gale and Mike’s home have never stepped out of their homes to say hi, but suddenly they had no food. Gale’s daughter Kiera offered to make lasagna and suddenly strangers were eating together and playing board games when there was no place else to go.

A Buffalo police officer had traded his scheduled vacation day for December 23 weeks ago and now found himself rescuing an intergenerational family from their snow-covered car. Only one member of the family spoke English and told him that they had driven from North Carolina to see Niagara Falls and did not know about the storm. He saved their lives. Ironically, he was the police officer who rushed to the scene of the terrible terrorist shooting in Buffalo last May and was the one who handcuffed the terrorist. His comment to the Buffalo News reflected that amidst the storms and awful realities of the world, people still come together out of love for their neighbors and community.

There are stories of individuals coming with their snowmobiles to rescue strangers buried in their cars or isolated in their homes. Ordinary people stepped up to provide meals and showcased love to people they may never see again.

And so that brings me back to all of us safely ensconced in New Jersey, where we will never see snowfalls of 7 feet nor have drifts of more than 4 feet like my friend Dale had to shovel out from.

Do we have to wait for a storm to love all our neighbors? I don’t think so! What do we have that some of our neighbors are missing out on? Yes, it might just be love or understanding, but even more tragically some of our neighbors might be missing out on the love of God and God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ.

Do you have enough love for your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers, and your family to help them out of the storm of the unfaithful, leading them to the rescuing arms of Jesus Christ? Invite them to church … join a Bible study with them … invite them to join you on our July mission to Kentucky!

I am thankful that it appears that    all my friends in the Buffalo and Western New York community have survived this storm. Some, like Gale and Mike, have stepped up and helped strangers. But please keep my “home” community in your prayers over these next few weeks as people mourn and recover from the storm.

Pastor Dave

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