Being a Volunteer

One thing I dislike about surgery is the paperwork needed to be filled out. Now, I don’t mind the forms that just need my name and address, but then come the pages that ask me to make payment in case the insurance doesn’t cover, accept medical consequences in case they mess up, etc. etc. I felt like they are pressing me into volunteering myself for things I don’t understand. You see we all love the idea of being a volunteer until they are asked to be one. From church organizations to community boards, from someone delivering meals to the elderly to simply being blood donors, there seems to be an ever-diminishing pool of people willing to volunteer. The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, (FLSA) defines volunteers as individuals that provide services without any expectation of compensation, and without any coercion or intimidation. Maybe things would change if we used Jesus’ much less complicated definition. He simply calls us to be neighbors. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus finds himself in conversation with a lawyer looking for a loophole (not much has changed in 2,000 years!) When asked about which was the most important commandment, the lawyer quickly answered.

…. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength 
and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 
Luke 10:27 ESV

When Jesus simply agreed with him, the lawyer realized that he had just opened himself up to a whole universe of things he might not want to do. So, looking for a bit of wiggle room, he followed up with another question, “And who is my neighbor?” We might feel superior to that guy because we know today that Jesus answered that question with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Who doesn’t love that guy? But are we really that much different? Of course, we all want to be a good Samaritan, until we get cornered about making actual commitments. Then we start looking for some wiggle room ourselves. In case you are short on wiggles, here are a few of mine: “I’ll pray about it. – I’ll have to check with my wife. – Maybe after the Summer (or Winter, Spring or Fall).” The hard truth is that there isn’t a convenient or comfortable way to be the kind of neighbor that Jesus asked us to be. But the good news is that Jesus never asked us to do this all on our own (something the lawyer missed). Jesus came to be our neighbor and He laid down His life so we could be His. When we ask Him to take over and be Lord of our lives, we discover that He has a place for us in His beautiful neighborhood in Heaven. If we thankfully remember that Jesus is our neighbor, it will make it so much easier to be neighbors to a whole slew of people that we discover along our way. Though it isn’t always easy, and it is a big world, with God’s help we can joyfully learn to go out and love one neighbor at a time!

The Gift of Being a Neighbor

On coming to the house they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, and of incense and of myrrh. Matthew 2:11

Most of us do not have much gold lying around the house, fewer still Incense, and probably no one even knows what myrrh is any more. So over the next twelve days I’m going to suggest twelve things you won’t be able to find at the shopping mall or even on-line, that we should be putting on our gift list for Jesus Christ. Today we start with the gift of being a good neighbor.

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31 – Most of us know that Jesus told us to love our neighbors, but it helps to remember that Jesus had neighbors too! He took the time to talk with them while He was also doing the more miraculous things like healing some of them. Jesus took time to change water into wine at a nearby wedding. He raised a widow’s son from the dead at a neighboring village and showed fisherman how to catch enough fish for a month. But in His own neighborhood Jesus was rejected!

Do you have neighbors who have rejected our friendship, invitations to special events at church or even good mornings at the mailbox? But, their rejection doesn’t get us off the hook from the command to love. Instead, Jesus might say, “Welcome to the club!”  He was so roundly rejected and His own brothers and sisters didn’t believe in Him and even Mary began to wonder about His sanity. But Jesus just kept on doing what He could. Jesus continued to share the good news that God had anointed Him to bring the gospel to the poor, freedom for the captives and sight for the blind. One day some of them would understand. His mother followed Him to the cross. Two of His brothers became apostles and more than half of His disciples came from the nearby city of Capernaum.

How can you give the gift of being a neighbor to someone this Christmas? Shepherds gave him praise. A small boy offered five loaves of bread. The woman at the well gave Him water and a rich man, a tomb to borrow for three days. Ask God for ideas, then step out in faith, because we will never know what He can do with what we give until we place it in His hands!

This morning I’m sharing one of my favorite Christmas songs called There’s a Rose in Bethlehem. May you have a blessed day and stay tuned for eleven more gifts along our journey to Christmas this year.

Willing to Be a Neighbor

But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.  So he went to himand bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.      Luke 10:33-34        

Jesus told a story of three people who passed by a man left for dead. Two of them were busy with their lives but one chose to stop and help. The first man was known for his religion and the second for his good family background. But only the third; a Samaritan, who even Jesus’ disciples would have avoided because of his race was remembered as a good neighbor. The Samaritan became a nieghbor because he slowed down long enough make a connection to someone he didn’t even know. He didn’t care about what anyone thought. His willingness to connect to a single person is remembered after 2,000 years! He was willing to serve, he shared a smile, even when no one else was willing to help. Making a connection meant taking the time to have compassion even when he was in a hurry.

God is holding a doorway open to make a connection to you and me today. In the story of the Good Samaritan we never do find out what happens next to the man left behind at the inn. In the same way today, Jesus is asking us to show mercy even when we don’t know what might happen next. The rest of the story because belongs to God. He is the greatest author of all time and He has some amazing endings to write for anyone willing to be a neighbor.