St. Paul’s Congregational Church
August 11, 2019
Luke 10:25-37; Colossians 1:1-14
Let us pray: may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
I’ve learned inspiration for Sunday morning reflections can come from very unexpected sources – preachers often start their process on Monday, reading the text for the day, maybe reading some commentaries – spending time from Monday on putting together jumbled thoughts for what hopefully is a coherent message for Sunday morning.
Here’s where I started this week:
On the fifteenth of May, in the jungle of Nool,
In the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool,
He was splashing…enjoying the jungle’s great joys…
When Horton the elephant heard a small noise.
So Horton stopped splashing. He looked toward the sound.
“That’s funny,” thought Horton. “There’s no one around.”
Then he heard it again! Just a very faint yelp.
As if some tiny person were calling for help.
“I’ll help you,” said Horton. “But who are you? Where?”
He looked and he looked. He could see nothing there.
But a small speck of dust blowing past through the air.
“I say!” murmured Horton. “I’ve never heard tell
Of a small speck of dust that is able to yell.
So you know what I think? Why, I think that there must be
Someone on top of that small speck of dust!
Some sort of a creature of very small size,
Too small to be seen by an elephant’s eyes.
“Some poor little person who’s shaking with fear
That he’ll blow in the pool! He has no way to steer!
I’ll just have to save him. Because, after all,
A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
Recognize this: it’s Dr. Seuss, “Horton Hears a Who!”
The story continues, as it turned out, there was a whole town of people on that little speck of dust. They were calling out for help because they were afraid that the speck of dust would fall into the pool of water and they would drown. Even though they were so small that he couldn’t even see them, Horton made up his mind that he was going to help them – and his wonderful statement, “A person’s a person, no matter how small”
All of the other animals in the jungle thought Horton was crazy. First a kangaroo, then some monkeys, and finally an eagle all made fun of Horton for wanting to help the people on the speck of dust. Why, they even tried to put Horton in a cage.
Even though none of the other animals would help him, Horton refused to give up. He remained faithful to the task of saving the tiny people who needed his help. Because of his faithfulness, the tiny people were saved and finally, the other animals realized what Horton had said was true: a person’s a person, no matter how small.”
Doesn’t this story remind you a bit of our Bible story today? One day a lawyer asked Jesus what he had to do to have eternal life. When Jesus asked him what the Bible said, the lawyer answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus answered, “You are right. Do this and you will live.” Then the lawyer asked Jesus another question, “Who is my neighbor?”
And Jesus tells the parable: about a man who was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They beat him, took his money, took his clothes, and left him beside the road to die.
A priest came by and when he saw the man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and continued on his way.
A little while later, a Levite who worked in the temple came along. He also saw the man lying there and passed by on the other side of the road.
Finally a man from Samaria came along and when he saw the man, he stopped to help him. He put medicine on his wounds, wrapped them in bandages. And he took the man to an inn and took care of him. The next day, he gave the innkeeper some money and told him to take care of the man. “Give him anything he needs. If it costs more than I have given you, I will pay you the next time I am here.”
Then Jesus asked, “Which of these three was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by the robbers."
The lawyer answered him, “The one who helped him.”
“You are right – now go and do the same.”
Jesus has told us to love our neighbor – and if we have trouble knowing who our neighbor is, just remember these stories: every person is our neighbor – and a neighbor’s a neighbor, no matter how small!
As we watched the coverage of the El Paso shootings and the Dayton shootings – we saw too many of our neighbors suffering, didn’t we. And the coverage of the aftermath of the immigration raids in Mississippi on the first day of school – those children with no parents to meet them when the school day was over – the weeping and wailing of those terrified little ones just broke my heart. How do we help these, our neighbors? How do we love these, our neighbors?
We also read stories in news of how people didn’t turn away in those places: the young man who swept up terrified children in the Walmart store and got them out of the danger zone. The gym owner in Mississippi who opened his facility to take in children left alone after their school let out for the day, fed them, sheltered them. There are many more stories like this, I’m sure.
We’re geographically so far away from these needs – but the needs of our neighbors are all around us, aren’t they. Do we hear those soft voices calling out for help and how do we respond? And do we see the silent pleading eyes of our neighbors? Do we take a risk to ask, do you need help?
Last Wednesday, where were you when the heavens opened up and we experienced that heavy thunderstorm? I was coming out of Mountainside Hospital and realized I’d never make it to my car in the garage without being soaked to the skin! With a couple of other people, I stayed there at the Emergency Entrance under cover, waiting and hoping for a break in the storm. The weather radar on my phone showed it was moving quickly and I figured I’d just wait it out. The rain eased up and I thought, now I can make a run for it but just as quickly it came down again in a sheet. When it eased again, a woman who had been there too asked if I’d like to share her umbrella – mine, of course, was in my car! So we huddled under her umbrella, navigated the pools of water on the road, on the sidewalks, and managed to get to the parking garage, wet, but not soaked through – she was from Newark, wondering how she’d get home – we chatted about the flooding on the Garden State and she decided she’d try going down Bloomfield Avenue. Anyway, we got into the garage under that blessed cover and I asked her what floor her car was on. She told me hers was outside – pointing to the nearby lot. I thanked her from the bottom of my heart, we wished each other safe travels, and she went back outside to her car.
When I got into my nice dry car, I found myself smiling, grateful – and reflecting on the parable – who is my neighbor. This is what Jesus is talking about! See a need and respond. This time I was the beneficiary of this kindness. And I found myself energized to pass this on to others! Go and do likewise!
A neighbor’s a neighbor, no matter how small!
There’s a deeper truth that unfolds in this parable and in our real life situations: the one I serve is my neighbor and, and so is one who serves me. We’re all in the ditch sometimes, aren’t we. And the one who comes to us may be the Iranian, an illegal alien to whom we denied a green card, an immigrant whose child we banned from public schooling, a homeless woman we refused to help, a person with whom we violently disagree politically, an openly gay person who has made us uncomfortable - or the one who comes to us may a friend we haven’t met yet. We discover a new neighbor in whose face we see the face of God. No wonder Jesus tells us, “Go and do likewise.”
All of this applies to us as a church community too – we are all neighbors, one to another – and we need help too. We’ll never know what our pew mates are dealing with this morning or any other morning we’re together in worship. Do we hear the tiny voices of them as Horton heard the Who? Helping with the Trinity Trust application is another way. And there are others: volunteer to participate in worship leadership, volunteer to prepare and serve at our coffee hours, sign up to participate in upcoming fundraising activities to replenish our reserves, and if you are able, make a special contribution to our church. There’s a need right here in our church - our ministry to our neighbors depends on how we respond and our neighbors include not just those in our congregation but also those who are touched by our ministry. I pray we come together to love and serve God and our neighbors near and far through our ministry.
May we be open to both serving and being served. And let’s remember the teachings of Horton and the Whos, along with the Good Samaritan:
“From down on the speck, came the voice of the Mayor of Whoville: we’ve really had trouble! Much more than our share! So, Horton, please, will you stick by us Whos while we’re making repairs?
Let us remember Horton’s response and make it our own: “Of course. Of course I will stick. I’ll stick by you small folks through thin and through thick!” Let’s stick together now and always! So may it be. Amen!