We are all Neighbors

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Luke 10:25-37, “We are All Neighbors” Sermon
The Reverend Gena Davis, Pentecost 8, July 10, 2016, Grace Houston
Let us pray. Loving Jesus, fill us with your Spirit, fill us with your love, show us how to
serve the neighbors we have from you, how to serve the neighbors you have placed before
us. In your precious name we pray. Amen.
Good morning on this beautiful Lord’s Day. We are having a cookout after church today
and many of you are dressed for the fun. I hope you will all stay for the fun and fellowship.
I would be remiss today to not address what is going on in our country, so at the risk of
introducing heaviness on this fun day, I feel I must speak on the issues at hand. I will begin
by saying that I am walking in faith.
Many young men in our country fit this description: father, son, husband — a person with a
story. Our faith stands on a story, a meta-narrative, that speaks to how God has moved in
our lives and over the lives of the faithful. The story is key: the story of the people of God,
including our stories. The men we are mourning this week have something in common,
and it’s not just that they have died an untimely and tragic death. It’s that they all had
families, lives, stories.
The “Black Lives Matter” movement is trying to teach Americans (and the global village)
that there is a voice from the African Americans and other Black people that wants to be
heard, that needs to be heard. My response has been Yes, Black Lives Matter, but also that
All Lives Matter. For me, there is a commonality – a common humanity – that underlies all.
I also recognize that saying All Lives Matter may seem to others to say that I am not
listening. That is not my intent, as I do hear the voices of the protesters. I understand and
agree that Black Lives Matter too. Black Lives Matter also.
I do not wish to minimize anyone’s voice. The Movement is calling to be heard, and let’s
face it, until we (the community, the country) engage in active listening with all parties, we
will not really understand the depth of the complexities of the issues at hand. Listening is
the path to resolution, to reconciliation. We need to hear them, to be willing to “walk in
their shoes.” That includes Black people, south of the border people, undocumented
immigrant people, Palestinian people, Syrian refugees, Pakistani people, GLBTQ people, and
many more.
This is such a time when all voices must be heard. We can no longer do nothing and hope
the issue will go away. We turn to the Psalmist today: “He guides the humble in doing
right.” (Psalm 25:8). We the Church must pray for and do what is right. We as a country
are angry, scared, and sad. We as a church can easily become divided on these issues if we
are not careful.
Eric Law, an immigrant from Hong Kong who moved to the U.S. many years ago and
received his seminary education at Virginia Theological Seminary, also the brilliant
Episcopal priest who teaches reconciliation and respect for marginalized people, offers us a
process for reconciliation: to take the opposite role of where we usually stand. If we are
usually the group in power, he teaches that we must listen to the other voice. Really listen,
really hear their stories, really try to understand. If we are usually the marginalized group,
he teaches that we must learn to speak up. To speak out, to be heard. To ask for what we
need. To hope and dream and ask for what we need.
Strangely, when I encountered his work, I discovered that sometimes I am of those in
power, and at other times, I am those who are marginalized. So this is not an either/or
issue. It is complicated. When are you in power, when are you marginalized?
The complex issues we are facing in this country do not offer an easy fix. It seems easier
sometimes to throw up our hands and walk away. But what would that solve?
What comes to mind is, “We reap what we sow.” We reap violence when weapons become
a multi-billion dollar industry. We reap sorrow when we forget that every human being
has a story, is a unique individual. There are always two sides to every story, and it seems
we as a country have forgotten that we truly are all in this together. If my neighbor has
little access to education and jobs, then my neighbor does not have the same possibilities as
me. If my neighbor is suffering, then my life is impacted, even if I don’t recognize the larger
loss. If my neighbor is angry, and has a weapon, regardless on which side of the law he is
on, then my life, my community is impacted.
I wonder: what if we all came together, first with the putting down of any and all weapons
and had a constructive conversation? What if taught our children and worked with adults
to engage in active listening rather than active shooting?
It’s hard work to change the human and systemic problems of proliferation of handguns
and assault weapons, violence, anger, prejudice, denial, and economic injustice. It’s hard
work to regain trust in the police force that sometimes wrongly uses excessive force on the
black community. It’s hard to work to overcome fear when someone points a gun at you. It
may even be the hardest of all to truly walk in someone else’s shoes, to see them as a fellow
human being, to “respect the dignity of every human being,” as we so beautifully say in our
Book of Common Prayer Baptismal Rite.
But we have hope, a role model in this hard work, and his name is Jesus. He told a story of a
man who was willing to treat the wounds of a man who was robbed and left for dead along
the road. This man was from another community – and the two communities didn’t mingle
– a different race and religion. Some say they were even enemies. But in this story, the
Luke 10:25-37, “We are All Neighbors”
The Reverend Gena Davis, Pentecost 8, July 10, 2016, Grace Houston
Let us pray. Loving Jesus, fill us with your Spirit, fill us with your love, show us how to
serve the neighbors we have from you, how to serve the neighbors you have placed before
us. In your precious name we pray. Amen.
Good morning on this beautiful Lord’s Day. We are having a cookout after church today
and many of you are dressed for the fun. I hope you will all stay for the fun and fellowship.
I would be remiss today to not address what is going on in our country, so at the risk of
introducing heaviness on this fun day, I feel I must speak on the issues at hand. I will begin
by saying that I am walking in faith.
Many young men in our country fit this description: father, son, husband — a person with a
story. Our faith stands on a story, a meta-narrative, that speaks to how God has moved in
our lives and over the lives of the faithful. The story is key: the story of the people of God,
including our stories. The men we are mourning this week have something in common,
and it’s not just that they have died an untimely and tragic death. It’s that they all had
families, lives, stories.
The “Black Lives Matter” movement is trying to teach Americans (and the global village)
that there is a voice from the African Americans and other Black people that wants to be
heard, that needs to be heard. My response has been Yes, Black Lives Matter, but also that
All Lives Matter. For me, there is a commonality – a common humanity – that underlies all.
I also recognize that saying All Lives Matter may seem to others to say that I am not
listening. That is not my intent, as I do hear the voices of the protesters. I understand and
agree that Black Lives Matter too. Black Lives Matter also.
I do not wish to minimize anyone’s voice. The Movement is calling to be heard, and let’s
face it, until we (the community, the country) engage in active listening with all parties, we
will not really understand the depth of the complexities of the issues at hand. Listening is
the path to resolution, to reconciliation. We need to hear them, to be willing to “walk in
their shoes.” That includes Black people, south of the border people, undocumented
immigrant people, Palestinian people, Syrian refugees, Pakistani people, GLBTQ people, and
many more.
This is such a time when all voices must be heard. We can no longer do nothing and hope
the issue will go away. We turn to the Psalmist today: “He guides the humble in doing
right.” (Psalm 25:8). We the Church must pray for and do what is right. We as a country
are angry, scared, and sad. We as a church can easily become divided on these issues if we
are not careful.
Eric Law, an immigrant from Hong Kong who moved to the U.S. many years ago and
received his seminary education at Virginia Theological Seminary, also the brilliant
Episcopal priest who teaches reconciliation and respect for marginalized people, offers us a
process for reconciliation: to take the opposite role of where we usually stand. If we are
usually the group in power, he teaches that we must listen to the other voice. Really listen,
really hear their stories, really try to understand. If we are usually the marginalized group,
he teaches that we must learn to speak up. To speak out, to be heard. To ask for what we
need. To hope and dream and ask for what we need.
Strangely, when I encountered his work, I discovered that sometimes I am of those in
power, and at other times, I am those who are marginalized. So this is not an either/or
issue. It is complicated. When are you in power, when are you marginalized?
The complex issues we are facing in this country do not offer an easy fix. It seems easier
sometimes to throw up our hands and walk away. But what would that solve?
What comes to mind is, “We reap what we sow.” We reap violence when weapons become
a multi-billion dollar industry. We reap sorrow when we forget that every human being
has a story, is a unique individual. There are always two sides to every story, and it seems
we as a country have forgotten that we truly are all in this together. If my neighbor has
little access to education and jobs, then my neighbor does not have the same possibilities as
me. If my neighbor is suffering, then my life is impacted, even if I don’t recognize the larger
loss. If my neighbor is angry, and has a weapon, regardless on which side of the law he is
on, then my life, my community is impacted.
I wonder: what if we all came together, first with the putting down of any and all weapons
and had a constructive conversation? What if taught our children and worked with adults
to engage in active listening rather than active shooting?
It’s hard work to change the human and systemic problems of proliferation of handguns
and assault weapons, violence, anger, prejudice, denial, and economic injustice. It’s hard
work to regain trust in the police force that sometimes wrongly uses excessive force on the
black community. It’s hard to work to overcome fear when someone points a gun at you. It
may even be the hardest of all to truly walk in someone else’s shoes, to see them as a fellow
human being, to “respect the dignity of every human being,” as we so beautifully say in our
Book of Common Prayer Baptismal Rite.
But we have hope, a role model in this hard work, and his name is Jesus. He told a story of a
man who was willing to treat the wounds of a man who was robbed and left for dead along
the road. This man was from another community – and the two communities didn’t mingle
– a different race and religion. Some say they were even enemies. But in this story, the
“Good man from Samaria” bandaged the man’s wounds, took him to an inn for rest and
healing, and took care of him. He paid his own money to be sure the man had the care he
needed. He desired healing and restoration. He desired this man to live. He even risked his
life to care for the wounded “enemy” man. He too could have been robbed, shot at, left for
dead, but he stood merciful in the face of fear.
Friends, no matter how we feel or analyze the situation before us, we have been given a
message in this Scripture to care for our neighbor and not to seek retaliation. It is nonnegotiable:
Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself. Show mercy.” Granted we may feel
angry, scared, and defensive. We may feel overwhelmed, depressed, and wounded
ourselves. We may be afraid for our lives, and the lives of our children. To my black friends
who are parents, believe me, I understand you, because I am also afraid for my son’s life,
Officer Davis. I know my story is not your story, but that’s why we need to hear each other.
I am afraid also. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid,” and Lord, I’m trying. But that doesn’t mean I
succeed 100% of the time.
When a man or woman is killed, we must mourn. This is a time for working toward new
reconciliations, new beginnings, new ways of being community, new peace, creating space
for new ways to engage in active listening. We the Church are called to “love and show
mercy to our neighbor” as the man in the story did – “to Go and Do Likewise.” Let us pray
for God’s grace, to be merciful, to listen, and to trust that justice will prevail. The outcome
of the parable is now up to us. Amen.

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