Summary: This sermon asks - "Who are you a neighbor to?" instead of "Who is my neighbor?"
What to do when you hear the cries…
NOTE: Children’s message used "Horton Hears a Who" by Dr. Seuss
The children’s message this morning gave us one literary vision of being “neighborly”. Horton, the elephant heard a cry for help and did all in his power (even amid the teasing of his friends) to protect the small people, affirming his belief that A person’s a person, no matter how small. But now, hear these immortal words:
…The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
’Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ’Good fences make good neighbors’…
Good fences make good neighbors? Well, at least that’s what the neighbor believes in this poem by Robert Frost. Some people in the United States think that a good fence will make us good neighbors with Mexico. In Israel, a good fence will make good neighbors with the Palestinians. In post-World War 2 in Germany – a good fence made good neighbors of East and West Berlin. For a fence is a barrier that separates one from another. A fence is a barrier to keep in what you want and to keep out what you don’t want.
As Josh and I stand on the deck on the back of our house, we can look out and see fence after fence – some chain link, some wooden privacy fences, some a combination – all with the intent to mark out our own territory.
But fences aren’t just physical barriers that we put up around our house and property. We also build emotional fences (or walls) to guard our selves. Just as a person must enter your physical property through the gate, our emotional fences also have gates. We choose who to let into our lives and who too keep at arms length and who to bar for eternity.
The Jews of Jesus’ time had barred the Samaritans from entrance into their world. At that time the Jews would pass through Samaria if only it was absolutely necessary – but mostly, if they could, they would by-pass Samaria. Why? Well, the Samaritans were not considered pure. They had been left in the land during the exile and had intermarried and assimilated some of the culture of the enemies into their lives. By Jesus’ time, they had built their own Temple and didn’t see the need to go to Jerusalem to worship God (not that they would have been welcomed at the Jerusalem Temple anyway).
The Jews of Jesus time believed the Samaritans to be unclean, impure and unworthy of giving and receiving God’s love. The Samaritans were merely tolerated only because neither the Jews nor the Samaritans were going to move.