The Rev. Andy Anderson
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘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; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ (NRSV Luke 10:25-29)
Each time I preside on Sunday, I read aloud the lawyer’s answer prior to the Confession. For me, it is akin to a warm-up for an individual preparing to participate in physical activity. A warm-up prepares oneself mentally and physically to be at one’s best for participation. Mentally, I am asking myself did I live up to loving God with my entire being since my last confession? Did I act as the Good Samaritan this past week or did I cross over to the other side to avoid “loving my neighbor as myself”?
Who is my neighbor?
That was an easy question for me as a youngster. I grew up in rural Nebraska. Many small farms, some only 160 acres, dotted the landscape. Corn, sugar beets, grains, alfalfa, and beans were the main crops and for a small farmer it was financially irresponsible to try to own the many different forms of equipment necessary to harvest these crops. Neighbors, that was the answer. Each farmer could afford some of the equipment. At harvest time they swapped equipment or joined together and would assist in harvesting one another’s crop. It was a common site to see several farmers working fields of beets on one farm then move on to the next. Also, common were the truck drivers, wives of the farmers, hauling the beets to the nearby sugar factory. Harvest time was community time when I was a kid. I remember one particular time when a farmer several miles from us had had a fatal accident in the field. At harvest time, without a second thought, this man’s crops were harvested first. His wife and family were in need.
Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ (NRSV Luke 10:37-38)
As I grew up so did my understanding of who is my neighbor. I began to realize that those who needed mercy were my neighbors regardless of the distance that might separate us. Natural disasters create havoc for neighbors worldwide – hurricanes, tsunamis, drought, horrific snow storms, and floods. And we all know that the needs of those communities could stretch on for years.
I am a veteran. Our government does a great job of training our young men and women to serve our country and often in countries from which many do not return. The failure of our government is that we do not offer enough deprogramming programs for our men and women who are returning broken in spirit and health. The VA falls short of helping our veterans and many fall through the cracks and end up on the streets, contributing to the already swollen ranks of the homeless and hopeless.
Most recently, the Caravan, has consumed much of the daily news. I listened to the Webinar chaired by Canon Anne with Sean Hawkey who has intimate knowledge of this phenomenon. He shared with the panel some of the reasons for this movement that traversed some 3000 miles. Global Warming is raising its ugly head forcing those who depended on the soil for sustenance to move towards the cities where they occupied the “slum” areas. No means of support, no way to provide for the necessities of life, children being forced into gangs, and young girls whose bleak future includes the very high possibility of rape before they even reach their teens. What option did these people have? According to Sean, there will be millions around the globe moving because to stay in their present situation would be to face brutality, starvation, and death.
One comment Sean made was very disconcerting to me and I was glad that Deacon Nancy was on the panel and voiced her dismay at hearing this. He explained that these people were at the border with no reason to have hope. Why hopeless? Sean believes that their plight and the plights of the world no longer matter to the many who can help.
He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; (NRSV Luke 10:2)
My thoughts continue to return to the farms of Nebraska of my childhood. Alone, they realized they could not survive but in community there was strength. Isn’t that what we in the Diocese of San Joaquin continue to believe. We have overcome much to get to where we are today but so much more needs to be accomplished outside of our community. I know I only scratched the surface of our neighbors who need mercy. Canon Anne’s mention of our valley being the corridor for human and drug trafficking highlighted one more challenging problem we are faced with. We cannot fall into an attitude that Sean says exists everywhere – that attitude of ‘what does it matter’. We must be that beacon of hope that erases the hopelessness from the eyes of our neighbors. Through prayer, led by the Holy Spirit, we must actively confront the problems our neighbors face. Whether God calls you to where you live, to the border, or to send aid overseas to places such as Yemen where children are starving to death, be willing to answer his call.