As I've reflected on the unexpected turns of the last months and thought on how different my "ministry" context has been with Pilgrim House closed, Jesus' parable on the Good Samaritan has been fresh in my mind. Documented by Luke in his gospel account, this particular story is initiated by an expert in the law asking Jesus what is required to inherit eternal life - what are the expectations of living in the way of God? Upon determining that these expectations are encompassed herin:
"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 love your neighbor as yourself."
the man asks - "And who is my neighbor?"
In reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I was hit by a striking challenge. Bonhoeffer submits that "we have literally no time to ask ourselves whether so-and-so is our neighbor or not. We must get into action and obey - we must behave like a neighbor to [them]," and be willing to admit that perhaps "[we ourselves] are the neighbor" being asked to recieve love from an enemy. (Bonhoeffer, 78)
In this time, where our systems and plans for ministry have been disrupted and rendered inaccesible to us, I find myself reminded of the simplicity and universality of Jesus' call. As I sit in the window and make eye contact and brief conversation with the passerby, as I step into the bread shop or the grocery store, as I walk or jog around the city and through the parks - these people here are my neighbors. Some are richer, some are poorer; some are fearful, some are confident; some are friendly, some are aloof; some are native here, some are travelers or immigrants; some care deeply to follow Covid restrictions, some couldn't care less; some are actively seeking God, many are not. But each one is my neighbor, and I am their's. Whether or not we are comfortable around each other, whether or not we agree - we are equals before God and obedience to Christ compels us into love. No matter where we are, who we are with, what we perceive our "ministry" to be - our common invitation and admonition remains the same:
Love God with everything we are [heart, soul, mind & body] and everything we have [time, money, talent, etc.] - and love our neighbors as ourselves.
Tangibly, I recognize that this is hard to define, but increasingly I find that the moments of love that are least premeditated can have the most transformational impact both for us who receive and for us who give. And so, I pray:
Teach us to remember that the person in the line in front of us delaying our agenda is our neighbor, that the stranger passing beneath the window is a child of God carrying his image and dignity, that our families, coworkers and literal neighbors all around us are the very ones God has invited us to love and be loved by at any given moment.
In these tumoltuous times, give us open hands, ears, and eyes to see and participate in sharing love like Jesus, right where we are, regardless of how neatly it fits within the paradigm of our ministry roles.
Teach us, even now in the time of our disruption, in the tension of our waiting, in the reality of our fears, how to love each other - seeking justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with you along the way. In the name of Jesus.
1. Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. SCM Press, 1959.