Donate to St. Paul's and Help Us to Help Many! Use PayPal or your credit card here to share your love securely.
At St. Paul’s: “Our primary mission is to relate to, and minister to people who are living on the edge, who seek God’s will for their lives, struggling to find direction and purpose in a society that can be violent, insensitive and money-grabbing.”
So today is Memorial Day. We cherish the memories of loved ones. We visit
grave sites and honor those souls who have passed on before us. Most people
take a day off. How about you? We may go to visit the memorial site for my
brother, and then find a quiet place in nature and picnic and grill some veggie-
burgers. Taking some time away is good for the soul. The spirit says: nurture your
What does it mean, “your soul?” Your soul is the place God is dwelling in . . . the
place where I know I am loved by God. And I believe everyone in the world has
a soul. That is why Jesus said: Love God. Love others. Love yourselves. Jesus
said: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." The commandments
that mattered most to Jesus were those two about loving God and loving
our neighbor. And, we might add, he expanded our understanding of those
commandments to include things like forgiveness, praying for our enemies, caring
about the poor and the marginalized, and ordering our lives according to God’s
plan, including our use of money. On the bulletin today I have left a blank space
for you to draw a picture of a good neighbor; in action. What are things a good
neighbor would do? Who do you think is a good neighbor? Draw that.
All this talk about love . . . and its unfortunate, but there are some people who
don’t feel loved. I think about the homeless, the criminals behind bars, and also
out on the run, waiting to be caught. And I also think about Orphans, or those
who grew up in difficult situations, where love was not really expressed in a good
way. And even if you grew up in a functional home, I know sometimes we forget
that as children of God we are loved, and we all feel alone sometime. Sometimes
in our lives we have that feeling of being so far away from any type of comfort or
security; the family unit, the parent/child image to describe the feeling of security
that children long for when they're left alone. Kids want to be reassured that
someone greater, stronger, smarter is not only present but in charge. And they
want to be reassured that this someone loves them.
It's obvious that if you love your children, you're going to take good care of them.
Perhaps Jesus' statement is in that same spirit. That since we are all children of
God, we all desire that same kind of treatment.
Jesus in this passage, and Paul, in the passage we read before the Gospel, is
speaking to a group and not to an individual, and preparing them for what is to
come. Things are going to change, and change fast, and the disciples will have to
learn quickly to walk the talk and "live what Jesus has taught and demonstrated in
his own life, and they will find themselves once again in his love."
If we live and love as Jesus did, "we will live with clear consciences, with peace
of mind, gentleness and reverence. The love that comes to us through the Spirit
will overflow into the lives of others. We will be agents of God's love in the
world....Our lives will be evidence of the presence of the Spirit in our midst."
In this way, we become family. Not easy, but a necessary choice in this world, in
this time and place. Actually, this may be quite difficult: we live in a world that
is materialistic, competitive, and self-centered. The people around us often are
full of empty promises, but we, as disciples, are called to be "agents of God's love
in the world." We are called to be active in our faith and inspiring by our actions
for everyday life. We are called to be good neighbors, so that other people will
know we are Christians by our love. So maybe in that picture you are drawing you
should draw yourself.
Because neighbors never leave neighbors alone. And we are not left alone;
we are not orphans; we are "Easter people." This is the place where searching
souls can find comfort, encouragement, and strength. The presence of God is
felt here, and the spirit is active in our midst, inspiring and sustaining the life we
share together, nourished for ministry in the world God loves. If we want to know
whether we are loving Jesus, perhaps we can hold up our love for each other as
the love that Jesus gave to us.
St. Paul’s has become a family for many people who have no other family. People
who never really fit in any place else, or never had a good loving family growing
up; this church community becomes their family. Eric Jones was a person who
found a family here at St. Paul’s. He had a family, but he when he came here, he
was running away from the troubles in his past. He had burned some bridges and
didn’t know how to reconnect. We just memorialized Eric yesterday. 40 people
came here for a service and paid tribute to a faithful servant, a member of the
family, and good neighbor.
Maybe you are not aware that we have a couple of other outreach programs
that invite and encourage people to join us. Bellfaire Homeless Youth Outreach
program is one such program. They recently put 30 mannequins dressed like
teenagers out in the mall and Tower City. Very life-like; if you look at one of these
mannequins, you wonder if it is a real person or not. And these tell the quick
story of an unloved kid who has run away and can’t seem to find his or her way to
a home that is filled with the loved they desire.
We also have a larger food program now. Jonathan Gray picks up food at places
like the Food Bank and churches and delivers it to places that pass it out to those
who are needy and in transition. It is an outreach program that focuses on food
distribution. Its tentacles reach far and wide across the city.
So we become family. To me, this is what is meant by being a good neighbor.
On the front of the bulletin is a space. I want you to draw a picture of a good
neighbor. And we will put them together into a cover for next week. Because
this theme of loving our neighbors as ourselves is going to continue, it seems
important to me that we learn from each other how to do this. To be good
neighbors. After all, it is a command directly from Jesus: “You must love one
another as I have loved you.”