Our congregation is celebrating a summer of favorite things, and I’m preaching each week about a favorite thing of mine, inspired by the lectionary gospel text.  This week’s favorite thing: “Neighbors”!  What’s not to like about having good neighbors? What are the challenges of being a good neighbor?
I offer you this true-story illustration:  
One Sunday, 25+ years ago, I had a minor, yet debilitating, vehicle malfunction as I was passing a restaurant where many of my fellow church members went after church for dinner.  I had a six year old daughter in the car with me, and I was eight months pregnant. In July. In Dallas, Texas.  
In the mid-1980s, there were no cellphones.  So, I took the six year old and went into the restaurant to look for a pay phone to call for help.  I made several phone calls to some phone numbers I could remember.  I could not find anyone who could come and help us out.  
One such futile phone call was to my own church, where I was a layperson, and where I had just worshipped minutes before.  There was a mission committee meeting in progress. The committee member I spoke with said no one could come until after the meeting ended!
I was holding back tears — and hungry — with no money.  During this whole time, I thought I could see church members eating at tables in the restaurant.   Without staring, I couldn’t be certain. And I didn’t want to interrupt their meal with my woes.  Several of them — days later — asked me if I was having some trouble there that day. They had wondered if maybe something was wrong. 
While I stood in the restaurant lobby — in full view of concerned church members — trying to figure out what to do, a stranger approached and asked if we needed help.  After a short conversation, he offered to give us a ride back to church.  We gratefully accepted his offer.  
Who’s been a good Samaritan to you?  
How will you make this story relevant to your world in 2013?  
Or are you using a different story/text altogether?
Welcome to the Preacher Party!  
Gather ’round, cyber-neighbors and preacher-friends!
Let’s work out sermons and worship elements and to have some fun.  
There’s always plenty of Fair-Trade coffee — hot or iced — or share your own summer beverage of choice.  
This is a great place to meet new friends, ask tech questions, share an idea, ask for prayer, &/or just check in with an anecdote or some inspiration.  
Ready . . . Set . . . Write on!

102 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Who’s Your Neighbor? Edition

  1. It's Saturday lunchtime here, and time to really settle into writing. My husband and co-pastor leaves tomorrow morning at 7am for an eight day silent retreat in a neighbouring territory. He is busy leaving things ready for me to try and make the week as easy as possible.I am thinking about neighbours as a relationship that doesn't go one way. That the point of the story isn't that we go around helping people, but that being a neighbour also opens us to the possibility of receiving help (self-sufficiency is not a Gospel value!). And that neighbourliness isn't all about the helping either. I was struck when listening to a podcast of an interview with Father Gregory Boyle when he talked about service as the hallway – but ultimately we belong in the ballroom together celebrating as equals. So clearly I need to move beyond random thoughts and into some writing that might help this all become a bit more coherent. Current plan is to listen to that part of the podcast again while making some paper houses for the children's talk tomorrow (who are the red house's neighbours? We don't just have neighbours etc).It's peach season here – help yourself – there's some with very pretty rose pink flesh in the bowl right now.

    Like

  2. We have guests coming tomorrow to speak about a Presbyterian school in Liberia recently founded by a church in OH smaller than ours! So I get to read the gospel and say something about neighborliness as relationship a la Jemma and sit down.I've got black raspberries to share this morning 🙂

    Like

  3. Sharon, you are such a gift.Thanks to your example (and Martha retelling it to me) I think I'm going to read the Luke text up to where Jesus is about to tell the story and then tell modern day illustrations over and over again, then end with the Gospel.It's summer. Why not?We'll see how it reads after I piece it together.Fresh fruit and bagels to share…

    Like

  4. I'm at a continuing ed event but still preaching on Sunday. (sometimes you 'save' a Sunday for something else and that is the case here). This week in #6…six stone jars a la John 2. I told a wedding story, a reading from an Iona book, and ended another wedding story from Fiddler on the Roof. It needs a little editing but mostly good to go. I am trying to walk every morning at this event…the chef and his staff prepare the most amazing buffets and then there is the dessert table. I am sure there is still some of the 7 layer chocolate cake left over from last night if anyone wants an early morning chocolate fix.

    Like

  5. Good morning all! Sharon, such a powerful story. Kzj- true story- car full of seminarians slightly late for a conference, passed a woman whose car had stopped at the intersection of a busy road. We had enough people to have pushed her to a safer place. But we were late and she had a cell phone… I still remember we didn't stop to help though we made " good Sam" jokes the rest of the drive.

    Like

  6. Good morning preachers. Thinking about Amos here…partly because I like Amos and we've been talking prophets this summer and partly because I don't think I can say anything fresh about the Good Samaritan right now. Not sure where I'm headed with Amos though…felt more inspired earlier in the week so hoping that comes back.Woke up feeling sluggish. I need to go run but I feel entirely unmotivated. But it is a reasonable temp outside now and this may the last day for a while when that happens….

    Like

  7. Yeah. I haven't ever told it in a sermon. I will tuck in here the additional pain that the chair of that mission committee was my (now) ex and the father of that unborn child. (sigh)Big fear: Now I am a pastor and "The Good Samaritan" is as well-known as any gospel story. I have preached on it a few times over 20 years.What if we still don't get it? What if I still don't get it? How many ways do we revere the idea of neighbor and still not do being the neighbor?What if the highest expectation that people have of church life — and their own discipleship — is that they will get s "feel good fix" on Sunday so they can make through another week?Better stop there . . . for now . . .I actually have a GOOD story about a church that did get it. Blog story calling!

    Like

  8. Thanks for receiving. Your kindness means a lot, Kathryn. I don't often put that story out there.I love your sermon idea! If Jesus did it with a story, there might be something to that way of teaching. =)

    Like

  9. Good morning friends!My espresso is brewed and I am working on the sermon before I pack for the Presbyterian Youth Triennium. Will leave after worship to head to Purdue for that. I'm preaching Good Samaritan, somehow for the first time. And am focusing on the verb aspect of being the neighbor, rather than the geography of where would my neighbor live. It is not just a physical proximity, but is sacrificial action. I'm going to reference this story. http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/9454322/why-stayedIt is about an ESPN producer who met some inner city kids doing a story and couldn't walk away after the story was aired. Get out your kleenex.

    Like

  10. Good morning! Today is Dairy Days – the biggest event in one of the small communities I serve. So I will spend the day going to rummage sales, a community meal, an ice cream social, a street dance, capped off by the best fireworks! What a sacrifice! Seriously though, it's a full day of being on call for pastoral care. There's fun to be had, but it's work too. I had hoped to have my sermon done before now, but I feel like the robbers have beaten me up and stolen my sermon-mojo. The Good Samaritan is really kicking my butt! I do have a sermon I could use, but I really wanted to do more storytelling. I like kathyrnzj's idea of telling a series of stories – can I consider the stories shared here fair game?In the meantime, I'm still searching my faulty memory archives for an example from my own life.

    Like

  11. Celeste, I have those stories, too, about missed opportunities to be the neighbor. Interesting how hard they are to forget when linked to a Jesus story.There must be something about this story that makes it show up in Sunday School from the time we were toddlers. I wonder if that's still the case today?

    Like

  12. Hi there, Marci! I hope you will bring back, and share, some stories from the Triennium."Sacrificial action": yes! Taking tissues to go watch the video.

    Like

  13. Ramona, the stories shared here are fair game. Go for it!Wishing you a a speedy and potent return of your sermon-mojo.Let us know how it's going.

    Like

  14. Thank you, Robin.This (apparently) is what it looks like to be facing the big 6-0 birthday. I spend more time lately wondering what has been accomplished, what is left to accomplish, what really matters, and what (if anything) works.

    Like

  15. Here are some links that might help if you're looking for sermon illustrations:First, a story Diane Roth shared three years ago – Chris Hedges and How to Save a Life;Second, on a lighter note, a story some used for the Children's message then about some softball players – On Sportsmanship;And one more, this time from me, and who knew when I wrote it that the Boston Bomber would be in the news again this week? One Name at a Time – I think the story works even without the bomber angle.Can you tell I wish I were preaching this week? I've got a whole set of other thoughts I may blog later in the day, but right now it's time to build a fort with The Boy.

    Like

  16. The classic Princeton seminary study where seminarians walked past, even stepped over, a person in pain to hurry to preach their sermons on the Good Samaritan, is an interesting way in. One place to read about it is http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2011/06/from-jerusalem-to-jericho-on-hurry.html. Dr Tom Long talks about the impossibility of living up to that story, using a couple of heroic examples as well as that research at http://day1.org/1051-meeting_the_good_samaritan

    Like

  17. Ramona, here's another one I'm playing with…Elizabeth Smart was taken from her home on June 5, 2002 by a mentally challenged drifter who had spent time working on the family’s home. For nine months she was marched around the area where she was taken and even though her pictures were everywhere – taped to light posts, in every storefront window and she was on the news every day for months – non one saw her. From August to October they walked through the neighborhood. They wore white robes, and the women had their heads covered and veils across their faces so that only their eyes showed. People saw them… they were used to seeing him – a known homeless man, or maybe a crazy fundamentalist, definitely a loser – better to avert their eyes.Just months after Elizabeth was abducted a police officer approached her in the public library and asked to unveil her face. Her abductor informed the detective that it was against his religion to allow anyone to see his wife’s face… the detective walked away.In February they had made their way to California and her abductor was arrested… for robbing a church. He was released.In March, nine months after her abduction, a biker drives past the party of three and calls the authorities who make an arrest and set Elizabeth free.What do you think? Which one of these… was a neighbor?

    Like

  18. Good Sermon-Writing Saturday, RevGals and Pals!Thank you for receiving the above story so graciously and compassionately. As hard as that was that day, what remains mostly is how real is the possibility that, somewhere/sometime, I have been the "star" (villain) of someone else's painful story of being passed by or passed over. There was a death in the church Thursday night, so I have a family meeting with them this afternoon regarding arrangements. The "way" here is so different from anywhere I've ever lived that I rely heavily on the Diaconate to help. One of them is meeting me at the house today.Getting hot here, so I'm switching from coffee to iced tea. Any variety with any add-ins — help yourselves!

    Like

  19. Sharon, I may have overused that phrase as I have young adults who tell me their woes and then say, with a sigh, and a roll of their eyes before I even say much of anything, "I know, I know, self-sufficiency is not a Gospel virtue!" I guess it has to be held in tension with their need for individuation, but I also like to tell them that appropriately asking for help is an important adult skill (even if many adults have not yet developed it fully!)

    Like

  20. They key to that research is that the factor that caused them to hustle over – or not see – the person in need the most, was their busyness. If they were told they were running late, they were most likely to skip over the hurt person or claim they hadn't seen them at all.My original sermon title was 'slow down' and I was going to use that illustration as an opening.

    Like

  21. Here's another possible piece to the story pie…On April 18, 2010, Guatemalan immigrant Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax came to the aid of a woman being threatened by a man wielding a knife. Tale-Yax struggled with the attacker, but was eventually stabbed and left to die on a Jamaica, Queens (NY) street. The woman and the attacker fled in different directions while he lay bleeding. Video surveillance filmed portions of the attack and its disgusting aftermath.Cameras showed that one man photographed Tale-Yax with a cell phone. Eighteen others saw or walked right past him. All refused to render aid or contact authorities. The closest anyone came to helping was a man who shook the body vigorously, but walked away after seeing the pool of blood. Firefighters arrived fifteen minutes later, but by then it was too late. Police are still looking for the suspect, described as a 5’6” male with a medium build, wearing a green short sleeve shirt and dark pants.

    Like

  22. That is helpful, Sharon. I'm sure there are many more times I've walked by someone in need than there are times I've stopped to help. Actually, I have more experience being the person left for dead on the side of the road, and receiving grace and life from strangers. Only rarely am I cast as the Samaritan.

    Like

  23. Another story – I found this at Lectionary Tales "Mr. Lyle, a Division I college athlete in New Hampshire, decided to shorten his athletic career for a chance to save a life. The University of New Hampshire senior was told that he was a perfect match for a 28-year-old suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Cameron was told that the patient had only 6 months to live without the transplant. The hope is that the bone marrow donation will extend his life by at least two more years. The young man who needs the transplant was told that chances of finding a non-family match for bone marrow were one in five million!For me this gets right up there with miracle status! Asked about giving up his career when he had a shot at national honors Lyle said, “It’s just a sport. Just because it’s Division I college level doesn’t make it any more important. Life is a lot more important than that, so it was pretty easy. It was kind of a no-brainer. You can’t measure life against anything. When you have an opportunity to save someone, you gotta go for it.” The procedure at Massachusetts General Hospital is no easy thing. Lyle reported, “Basically they’re putting needles in my pelvis between one and two hundred times, taking all the bone marrow out. So I can’t lift more than 20 pounds for three to four weeks. It took the whole second half of the season out of play for the championships.” In the final throws of his career, last weekend at Stony Brook University in New York, Lyle had a personal best in the hammer and his best toss of the season in the shot put. He cleared out his locker Monday, calling it a “sad” experience. He slept at a hotel in Boston the night before heading to the hospital for an 8 a.m. procedure on Wednesday, April 24, 2013." http://lectionarytales.org/2013/04/26/july-14-2013-luke-1025-37/

    Like

  24. I love these stories. I preached the good samaritan earlier this year as part of another event at church and used the princeton study as an illustration–it can be very powerful. This week in the hymn series is "Eternal Father Strong to Save" and "On Eagle's Wings" so I'm using psalms to talk about how God is our rock/fortress/strength/protector/comforter/etc. Main difficulty I have is how to talk about that stuff when there's so much crap going on–a couple new cancer diagnoses, the Trayvon Martin trial, the Boston marathon bomber indictment, the fires in AZ, the oil train explosion in Canada, a long-term job lost, 70 people shot in Chicago over the holiday weekend….and on an on. I don't want this to become a theodicy sermon, so I have to figure out how to just preach straight-up-grace. More challenging for me than it probably should be. I'm off to djembe class–leaving early today because I have no idea how I'm going to get there since there is a street festival happening in front of the school, and in their parking lot! Hoping I can find some parking within a reasonable distance to carry an almost-heavy instrument, sans case (the case costs as much as the class, so one thing at a time). I'll be back at dinner time to write something and to serve up delicious kale-based dishes to all who ask. I have an abundance of the leafy greens just now!

    Like

  25. Malcolm Gladwell (either in The Tipping Point or in an interview he did at the same time–or both) talks about a study which showed that the sense of being in a rush has a large impact on whether we stop to help or not. I referenced that study on my blog this week and will talk about it in my sermon tomorrow examining why we don't stop…You can read about the study here. It used seminary students

    Like

  26. Here's another one for you KJ.Heidi Neumark (ELCA pastor) shared this story today. Take and read. "I remember one cold, snowy, winter’s morning– a fond memory in this heat. I was trudging through the snow to church realizing that no one was going to be there to shovel the piles of snow on the sidewalks around our church. The person who usually did it could not get there and there was no plan B. Or rather, I was the plan B. It was a lot of shoveling because our corner building meant two blocks. As I neared the church I saw unbelievably that the job was almost all done. And who was my helper? It was my neighbor- the Pentecostal pastor next door. The pastor who opposed the ordination of women. The pastor who preached hellfire and brimstone. The pastor who refused to join with other clergy in the community to work on social issues because he believed that this earthly city was run by the devil and there was no point in wasting time and energy on that when souls needed saving for the world to come. The pastor I felt theologically superior to. This pastor of the storefront next-door who only would have had to shovel about 10 feet of snow in front of his building had instead chosen to shovel 10 times that amount—for my sake. Which of these do you think was a neighbor?"

    Like

  27. Teri, it is challenging to preach straight-up-grace. Theodicy vs. Grace: The difference between a solving the life (evil happens) problem and living fully and freely in the midst, perhaps?Kale, how many ways? Looking forward to the leafy greens buffet for dinner!

    Like

  28. Forgive me for interrupting the sermon-writing flow, but here's a brief announcement…Prayer Vigil for Ken & Dorcas George: Sunday, July 14, 6 pm CSTJoin family and friends of Ken and Dorcas George in a virtual prayer vigil for his healing, strength, and courage, and for those who love and support him.Many of you know that Ken has been very ill for a very long time with a series of still-undiagnosed ailments. Their church family will be gathering at their Wisconsin home on Sunday evening, and you are invited to join in wherever you are, for as long as you are able. The actual event will be at 6 pm Central time, so please adjust to your local time zone.Dorcas is a long-time RevGal and has been through so much in supporting her husband and partner in ministry. Please join me in lifting them both up to the healing love of God. Please share this as you feel appropriate.***Now, back your regularly scheduled writing, partying, coffee drinking…etc. xo

    Like

  29. I have a rare Sunday off from pulpit supplying–it's my busy season. Enjoying the day by cleaning the kitchen top to bottom and refereeing toy custody arrangements.

    Like

We hope you'll join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.