Struggles in Neighboring

design (10)

June 18, 2017

Galatians 3:22-28

Matthew 22:34-40

John 13:3-5, 12-15


Jesus says the greatest commandment is

to love God with… well with all that we have.

And the second he says is like it:

To love your neighbor as yourself.


We continue our sermon series on neighboring,

and in light of so many things happening in our world this week,

it is a word of challenge – and a word of hope — we are given today to hear.

Love your neighbor as yourself.


Pause and think for a moment…

Who are the people you find difficult to love?

Who presses your buttons?

Who triggers things in you perhaps from past relationships or experiences?

(Maybe it’s people who ask questions in sermons…)


Putting it mildly…there are people who just rub us the wrong way.


A friend of mine asked for people to share their “pet peeves” on his FB page this week.

In the space of just a few hours he had over 70 comments

about people who drive us nuts!


“People who don’t use turn signals”;

“People who throw cigarette butts out the window”;

“New England fans of every sport” (that one hurt!)


There is a difference of course between the pet peeves we have about our neighbors…

And the real roadblocks, the real struggles, the real divisions we have with our neighbors.

The former are petty annoyances.

The latter as we learned again this week can be dangerous.


Anger over political differences

has reached the point where one man responded

by traveling over 800 miles to target members of Congress.


Fear over racial differences

  • as we were reminded again on Friday – results disproportionately in the death of our black and brown-skinned neighbors.


Who are the people you find difficult to love?

Are you aware of who triggers anger or fear in you?

Jesus says “Love your neighbor  – love this neighbor – as yourself.”


Over the past year or so our Reconciling in Christ team

has hosted a number of events to help us understand our LGBTQ neighbors in particular.

Those who are part of the LGBTQ community have not been loved as neighbors.

They have experienced fear and anger –

especially by those in the church.


I heard from one gay man that every time – every time –

He walks into a church, he feels anxious –

He’s not sure if he’ll be accepted or hear words of hate from the pulpit –

Hate for who he is.

For him, a congregation which says it welcomes LGBTQ people

Means that he can come to a church and not be afraid.

That’s big.

That’s important.


Please hear me as a pastor – as one who loves the Bible as the living Word of God and loves Jesus:

The church is wrong when it fails to recognize our LGBTQ neighbors

as beloved children of God, created in the image of God,

wholly and completely as they are.

No one needs to change who they are to be loved by God –

And there is no exception for the LGBTQ community.



And now also, please hear me as a physician – who for 12 years studied things like biology and microbiology and genetics and psychology and the human condition:

Homosexuality is not a choice –

It is a God-created state of being.

We don’t need to fear our differences –

We can celebrate them…and we can welcome them.


In your bulletins you’ll see that our Reconciling in Christ team

using your input has put together a draft welcome statement.


It says:

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church welcomes everyone to join with us on a journey of faith. Worship is the center of our life together and we welcome the participation of all ages, races, religious backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities, economic and marital statuses, and national origins. With welcoming hearts, we invite all to join us in worship, fellowship and ministry. Everyone is welcome.


Please fill out the survey –

Maybe you like the statement as it is.

Maybe you have some suggestions to change it.

Maybe you’re not so sure we should have a welcome statement – if so, I hope you’ll share that with me too so I can hear more.


Fill out the survey and place it in the survey box by July 2.


Of course a welcome statement is only the first step

in reconciliation with our LGBTQ neighbors.

Recognizing the people who trigger fear or anger in us is only the first step

in loving neighbors with whom we struggle.


The next step is …well it’s doing what Jesus did…he washed their feet.

He knelt down, took a posture of humility, and washed their feet.


One of my favorite pastors of all time was Mr. Rogers.

Mr. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian Minister,

And on one of his early shows in the 1960’s,

In the midst of racial turmoil…

Mr. Rogers invited Francois Clemmonns to come on his show –

To be a neighbor in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.


Clemmons is an African American man,

And in an interview last year on NPR, he said that at first he didn’t like the idea.[i]

Mr. Rogers asked him to be a police officer on the show,

And Clemmons said that it was a time when police officers

Were siccing police dogs and water hoses on people,

And he wasn’t excited about being Officer Clemmons on the show.


But he agreed to it.

And as he played the role for two decades,

One scene in particular stood out in his mind.


It was a time when there was public outcry in communities,

Because children of all colors wanted to swim in public pools together.

The episode aired in 1969 in which Mr. Rogers was resting his feet

In a plastic pool of water on a hot day.


“He invited me to come over and to rest my feet in the water with him,” Clemmons recalls.


“The icon Fred Rogers not only was showing my brown skin in the tub with his white skin as two friends, but as I was getting out of that tub, he was helping me dry my feet.”


When we struggle with neighbors…

May we find the equivalent of that plastic pool

With our LGBTQ neighbors.

May we find the equivalent of that pool

With our neighbors of color.

May we find the equivalent of that pool

With our neighbors who are political opposites.

May we fine the equivalent of that pool.


Clemmons says he’ll never forget the day Rogers wrapped up the program, as he always did, by hanging up his sweater and saying,

“You make every day a special day just by being you, and I like you just the way you are.”

This time in particular, Rogers had been looking right at Clemmons, and after they wrapped, he walked over.

Clemmons asked him, “Fred, were you talking to me?”

“Yes, I have been talking to you for years,” Rogers said,  “But you heard me today.”

Today Jesus is talking to you and to me; and to any who have trouble hearing it:

“You make every day a special day just by being you;

I like you just the way you are.”






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