How are you a neighbor?

Luke 10:25-37

You can listen to the sermon time below. River of Hope has begun a collaborative sermon time for the season of Lent, so you’ll hear an introduction and conclusion with discussion time in the middle. Pastor Laura takes questions and repeats them. You can also read (below) some of what got said on Sunday.

Oh, and here’s how we experienced the scripture reading for the day.  Click here.

[Show Lego instructions on the screen.] This is what we know how to do, right? You buy Legos and then you lay out the instructions and you build the thing with every single piece. Right? There is a way to do this and you’re given all the pieces to put it together just so.

Our lawyer in today’s story is obsessed with getting his Lego pieces together in the right order. He has the complex instructions — the scripture — memorized. He’s got it, doesn’t he? Or does he?

He asks questions of Jesus. And Jesus asks questions back. And I asked you to think of questions as you watched the video. What are your questions about this familiar story?

Through this season of Lent, we’re going to create this sermon time together. Together we will participate in seeing what God might be saying to us through scripture and to have a back and forth. You’re going to help teach me how to do this. There isn’t a wrong way to do this.

If it helps you, read through the scripture in front of you and underline all the questions.

For me: I love this story because Jesus answers the lawyers question with a question, each and every time.

I don’t think this story is about trying to make yourself a better person, trying to make yourself be good. It’s not about reading the Bible for step-by-step instructions. It’s about being absolutely caught off guard by God’s grace and mercy present in people and situations that you would swear have nothing to do with God’s grace or mercy. So, are you scared of refugees? People who look different from you? Worship different from you? Are you disgusted with our President? Jesus would point to them as the one who would show up and help you witness God’s mercy. That’s how upside down the Gospel feels and is.

Jesus’ story illustrates that it is our sworn enemy who acts like a neighbor. He tells this story to get a rise.

We cannot do this alone. Loving is not easy especially on our own. The Bible doesn’t give you step by step instructions like a Lego set does. The Bible is the complicated story of God’s insistence in loving us and pointing us toward each other to show that love.

We like to be told what to build and then to compare it to the instructions. Did we do it right? Does it look right?

The thing is, there is no Lego set made up of only a single Lego. What good is a single Lego except to step on it in the dark of night and causing you to scream out? And yet you were given one single Lego this morning. Each person. So what can you do with one stinking Lego?

I’m not going to give you step-by-step instructions this morning. The only instruction I’m going to give to you is that all of these Legos, these individual Legos, must all be connected. Here is the base.

This is it, isn’t it? This is our story and God’s story. And it’s a hot mess and it’s undefinable and it’s hard to say exactly what it looks like sometimes.

We totally get where the lawyer is coming from, don’t we? Following the letter of the law. Yet, what Jesus says and does – well, that’s the guts of the gospel. And it’s hard to construct a picture of what it looks like. But you’ll know it when you see it.

God’s story and our story is all tangled up together. Each of you, each Lego piece, matters. And, a lot of the time, we’re scattered about with all these other Lego pieces. And it’s up to you and to me to notice and care for the other Lego pieces, to notice each other, neighbors, and to then to act like one ourselves, no matter who the other person is. Because the center of who you are changes when the neighbor becomes your center.

Jesus sends us directly toward each other to show love, to show what it means to follow.

It takes a lifetime of construction and practice. It’s hard to know what it will look like. But you’ll know it when you see it.