(Week 1 of a 16 week “Who is My Neighbor?” faith formation series at St. Thomas Episcopal Church)
The Master Story: The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Lectionary Gospel Reading: Luke 10:25-37
The Gospel reading for this week provides us with one answer to this question of who is my neighbor: “the one who showed him [the traveler] mercy”.
Unexpected mercy does happen in today’s world, too. This week’s first media link gives us a glimpse into a photo memory. Through this image, we see a bystander’s reflection on viewing unexpected mercy in the midst of racial conflict:
Who has offered unexpected mercy to you? Did that change your relationship with that person, or with others?
Our challenge this week is to hear the parable of the Good Samaritan through today’s eyes. Here is another lens to consider, helping us to ponder how we can be good…or perhaps great…neighbors in today’s diverse and sometimes challenging world:
How do we show mercy to our neighbors in the world…and community…we live in?
As for me, I had selected these media links and framed these questions several weeks ago. But, as I prepare to post this discussion on this particular Sunday morning, I can only reflect on the vast difference in being a “Good Samaritan” as described in the gospel (and illustrated in the media links) and our public discourse around a current “neighborhood conflict” which resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman. What I hear in the news media and last night’s verdict is not anything to do with being a good neighbor. Nor is it about showing mercy. What I hear is “how much violence can we legally get away with in the name of self-defense?” Unfortunately, the verdict may have acquitted Zimmerman, but it simultaneously indicts us…the American public…and our tolerance for violence and fear over mercy and tolerance. I have a strong opinion that this verdict was tragic, and I am upset about the verdict because of its implications for both racial and social injustice. But, like everything, there is a lesson within even this tragic story that needs to come forward so we learn. So, I have another question to pose:
What would be different about our interactions with our neighbors if we demonstrated mercy over fear, indifference, or even hatred?
Would being the great neighbor…the one who shows mercy…inspire us to make different choices in our neighborhoods and community? To promote and actively seek out the dignity and worth of every human being? To tolerate difference more and tolerate violence less? To trust instead of fear? To initiate conversations and really get to know those whose paths cross our own? Would being a great neighbor mean that Trayvon would still be alive today? We can’t know for sure of course. But, I suspect, choosing to show mercy in the face of fear would have saved at least one life. And it can possibly save many, many more.
Feel free to comment and share your own thoughts…