It’s been quite a while since I’ve watched Seasame Street…I was actually more of an Electric Company boy because they periodically had a Spider Man adventure in it. But I remember clearly among all the Muppet snippets was a varying sketch of the mailman who would sing “Who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neigh–bor–hoooOOOD…” As I prepare a message for our college students on the Good Samaritan from Luke 10, the question is begged “And WHO is my neighbor?”
The passage talks about people who TAKE, illustrated by bandits who rob a young Jewish man. Then the Levite and priest demonstrate those who KEEP, as they ignore the dying victim laying on the side of the road. Lastly, a despised Samaritan, who in every way was an enemy to the Jew (religion, race, culture) stops his journey to bring comfort and healing because he wanted to GIVE.
Sometimes as followers of Christ, we forget we share this planet with 5.5 billion other people who don’t believe the same way we do. This is quite apparent with the current battle over property in close proximity to Ground Zero in New York, the threat to burn copies of the Muslim holy book, and the apparent inability for folks to discern the difference between normal everyday people who want to practice their religion and fanatics who seek to cruelly destroy lives.
Hmmm…about a month ago, I received a phone call from a friend of mine who helps to lead a student organization whose purpose it is to build awareness and understanding between different religions and cultures. They asked if we wanted to celebrate with them over dinner. Food? But of course. I gathered up a diverse group of people from my church: teens, college students, young adults, married, single, white, black, Asian, middle-aged, housewives, engineers, etc.
So we all gathered together in the HUB, 15 of US and 35 of THEM. They had accents. Different skin tones. Different clothing styles. Different beliefs. Different customs and cultures. Different food. We had a great time of talking, learning, growing, and making new friends. They shared a little about their beliefs, I shared a little about ours. Then we went our separate ways wanting to meet again…and again.
There are those more politically savvy than I, more spiritual, more theologically sound who would challenge what we did. Words like compromise, spiritual treason, lukewarm Christianity, consorting with the enemy. But I want to be in the category of those who GIVE. Who minister love not hate. Somehow I believe that Jesus would have rather been having dinner with us than holding bigoted picket signs in New York.
Our 35 new friends are Muslims. The celebration was breaking their fast at sunset during Ramadan. Many of them pray regularly at the CI Mosque just around the corner from the HUB. No longer acquaintances but friends…you know…NEIGHBORS.