Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Invading Our Comfort Zones, by Bill Lamie

The makeup of our congregation is very different from the makeup of our immediate neighborhoods. We are also out of touch with the mainstream in the life of our community. There is a major disconnect here, no matter how you cut the cards. We have not looked closely at this disconnection and its implications for our future ministry and mission. This means summoning the courage to ask tough questions, probe uncomfortable ground, and be open to considering new ideas – ideas that could direct our ministry and witness to a very different place compared to where it is today.

Have you ever had that annoying, uncomfortable feeling of guilt that you are ignoring reality? Many times it is out of fear of what are the consequences to me. There is our “Comfort Zone” and it is very difficult to step out of.

During our record snowfall a week ago, I like so many of us, spent the better part of the day shoveling, pushing, and blowing. It was dark and I was nearly finished by doing a good deed, clearing both of my immediate neighbor’s drives and walks (both were out of town), when a man appeared in the middle of the street asking for help. I’m normally overly sensitive to these types that show up when we’ve had snow, but I was tired, hungry, and ready to call it a day. Relieved that he declined my offer to drive him somewhere (there probably was no “somewhere”), he asked for any donation that I could spare. I gave him what little I had in my vest, wished him well, accepted his thanks, and off he went.

I couldn’t help but wonder if God really cares for that guy as much as me or visa versa. Maybe I should have invited him into to my house to warm up or maybe I should have offered him dinner. I didn’t.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” was spoken by Christ himself. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” God is not just referring to the people who live next to us as “neighbor”. He means all of humanity.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. courageously expanded our American values, teaching us and the world that, “The time is always right to do what is right.” I heard it said in last week’s post sermon class, that we have to take a risk(s) if we want to accomplish something really great. It seems so hard to take risk in the face of economic crisis, personal gain and intolerance, but Jesus didn’t just ask us to love “your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27), he commanded us; He didn’t say when it suits our schedule, or after I’m done shoveling snow.

Dr. King once stated that, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” He also said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

In the midst of so much suffering locally, nationally, and globally, we are needed by our “neighbors”. Sunnyside will continue to serve as a shining example of God’s love and do His work on Earth by sharing ourselves with our “neighbors”. But is it time, and are we ready to take that risk and take that step to do something really great?

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