All Things New…
notes from Pastor Katie ~ August, 2018
Won't you be my neighbor?
I was standing in an evening worship circle at Annual Conference in a hallway. It was a circle of folks who had been building community together around shared values over decades. It was a circle full of love and hope.
Yet, in making the circle with each other in that hallway we inadvertently were turning our backs toward all the other folks who streamed through the conference center. For some reason this bothered me. So, I decided to stand with one foot in the circle and one foot out, so that I could both experience worship inside the circle and so that I could smile at passersby.
Some passersby returned my smile and waved. Some of them quite pointedly stared at the ground and shuffled past. Then I noticed one tall man about my age lingering outside the circle trying to check out what was going on at a distance.
I wondered if he shared the values of the people inside that circle or if he abhorred them. I couldn't tell by the way he stood there. He wore the little pink flag on his name tag which said, "My First Annual Conference."
I decided to take a chance. So, I left the circle, turned on my biggest smile, and walked right up to him to introduce myself. He thanked me and asked what we were up to in that circle. When I told him who we were and invited him to join us, he looked relieved and stepped right in to his place in the circle just like it had always been waiting for him.
Later it turned out he was a Mennonite pastor and on the inside of his own Menno-flavored circles, now serving a church that shares a Menno-Brethren affiliation. We talked about how hard it can be as an outsider to break into new circles and the risk it takes to welcome new people into our already cozily-formed circles.
Later that week I was sitting in the back at a dinner waiting for the speaker to begin. I didn't even know my new friend was in the room but he must have seen me. And seeing that a colleague at my table and I were sitting alone with no dessert, he arrived with two plates of towering chocolate cake.
What does it mean to be a neighbor? What does it take to risk acts of neighborliness? How do we welcome new and old neighbors alike? Do our neighbors have to look and act like us? What do our neighbors have to teach us? How does Jesus call us to build beloved neighborhoods in our own flesh and blood communities?
In August, our three-part worship series "Hi there, Neighbor!" will invite us to explore the depths of the deceptively simple idea of neighborliness. In John, "the word (meaning Jesus) became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood." In Isaiah, the expectation around fasting is re-calibrated toward practices that create communities in which we care for the well-being of all. In Luke 10, Jesus tells a story to define what it means to be a neighbor and how to love our neighbors as well as we do ourselves. How do these scriptures teach us about neighborliness, and how do they call us today toward co-creating with God what Martin Luther King, Jr. described as the "beloved community?"
During the month of this worship series, church members will have a special opportunity to gather with our neighbors at a Taco Tuesday event on August 21 from 5pm-7pm at Chorizo Grill, just down the hill from the church on Highland Avenue. Bring a neighbor and enjoy time together and free tacos courtesy of Highland Avenue Church. Then head back up the hill to enjoy free dessert from Cook's Ice Cream truck as well as games in the church yard and parking lot.
None of us are perfect neighbors. Not all of us are great at talking to neighbors or anyone for that matter. In none of these scriptures do I hear the message that perfection is required. We don't want to pretend to be people we're not. We don't have to do it perfectly to practice reaching out to each other. In fact, I believe failure is an option and an often fabulous teacher. The opportunities to risk widening our circles abound.
The Presbyterian-ordained Fred Rogers shared a radical message of neighborliness in an inviting package for decades on end in "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" and asked viewers each episode the seemingly innocuous but ultimately heart-expanding challenge, "Won't you be my neighbor?" When we risk stepping foot outside our cozy circles, we might just find a whole new and holy neighborhood awaits in which God has much to teach us and for us to celebrate together. It may not always be easy but we never know when a friendly smile migt lead to chocolate cake!
Sunday worship service 9:30 a.m.
Fellowship time 10:30 a.m.
Sunday School 11:00 a.m. Classes resume September 16 for 2018-19.
Wednesday Morning Bible Study 10 a.m. each week. We will study the scripture text that will be used for our worship service the following Sunday. Join us for a spirited, open discussion.