Neighbors or Peace
Summer Challenge: 5 Invites
June 25, 2017
Marleen Brooks of Farmington, MO
came home from work one day to find a note in her mailbox.
It was written by a woman who lived on her street.
“Mrs. ?, (She didn’t know her name)
Would you consider to become my friend.
I’m 90 years old- live alone.
All my friends have passed away.
I’m so lonesome and scared.
Please I pray for someone.” [i]
Would you consider to become my friend.
When Marleen posted that note she added,
“(The note) makes my heart sad…
But on the bright side, it looks like I will be getting a new friend.”
This month we’ve been looking at the great commandment –
Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself…
And how we can move from being ‘nice’ neighbors – to ‘good’ neighbors.
Marleen is a good neighbor.
She’s now started a GoFundMe fundraiser
called “Pen Pals for Seniors” to help connect lonely seniors beyond her neighborhood.
Of course not only seniors feel disconnected.
As we make a commitment to get to know our own neighbors,
we will find more who long for connection.
It’s not easy to reach out, to be proactive,
to seek out others.
Jesus says, “Go on your way.”
“I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.”
Sometimes what keeps us from reaching out to our neighbors,
Is that we’re afraid of the wolves.
When Jesus sent his followers out,
he said that they would receive both welcome and rejection.
I think we’d all be good neighbors – even great neighbors –
If we didn’t have that fear of rejection.
What if they say, ‘no’?
What if they’re not interested?
And so rather than engage with them,
we answer for them.
They’re so busy.
They seem to have enough connections.
I don’t want to get in over my head.
I don’t ever see them outside their house – they must want privacy.
None of us likes rejection.
So we make excuses for not offering the invitation.
Sometimes the fear is the neighbors themselves –
We grew up learning “stranger danger” after all!
But Matthew 5:46-48 says,
If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
Do not even the tax-collectors do the same?
And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,
what more are you doing than others?
Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
This passage does not mean
that if you’re not already perfect then don’t even try…
It’s saying, “If you’re a follower of Jesus,
Then be welcoming like Jesus.”
“If you’re a follower of Jesus,
Be hospitable like Jesus.”
Part of God’s plan for changing the world[ii]
Is to love your neighbor.
I would love for Jesus to show up in the people that I already know and like….
But Jesus says, “I was a stranger and you let me in.”
I was a stranger and you let me in.
Jesus identifies as a stranger.
I’m planning a cookout for my neighbors in a few weeks.
So far it’s an event just on my calendar (July 23, 5pm).
I have a rough idea of how I’m going to pull it off –
I’ll make a flyer and knock on doors –
Hopefully they won’t answer so I can just put them in the door! 😊
Inviting strangers into my home is scary!
Jesus says that yes, when we seek to be good neighbors
We will be like lambs among wolves;
We will experience both welcome and rejection.
He says when you meet rejection, move on!
Wipe the dust off your feet!
(Not everyone in my neighborhood is going to come to my house for a cookout,
and some may even be annoyed by the invitation.)
But here’s why to persist…
When we go out as lambs among wolves,
we will also meet people of peace.
These are the ones God has put in our path for a reason.
Persons of peace are the ones God has prepared ahead of time,
to hear the message of the gospel through us.
They are the people God has prepared ahead of time
to hear the message of the gospel through you.
Church growth expert Ben Sternke says
The key for finding such people of peace, of course,
Is the willingness to risk meeting people of “unpeace.”[iii]
The willingness to face the fear of rejection.
There will be those who welcome us,
And those who reject us.
I’m going to issue you a challenge today and for the rest of the summer
The challenge is to risk meeting people of ‘unpeace.’
I would like you to make 5 invitations to someone between now and September…
It doesn’t have to be to worship ..
(Sometimes church growth experts say the best initial invitation to someone
Is to something outside of worship)
When you pick up the announcement page,
Look through it and think of people you might invite.
This week, there is:
Pub Theology tonight at 7:30pm;
Vacation Bible School on Wednesday for both children and adults;
An Anti Racism meeting on Tuesday;
Book club on Tuesday;
A food packaging event at Oakton Baptist.
ALIVE! Food distribution is on Saturday.
Knitting on Thursday.
Our neighbors don’t need to go to church or be a member
To take part in any of these things!
There is something every week.
Five invitations before September 10 – Rally Day.
(I’m going to have a board in our hallway next week
to help us keep track of the invitations.)
When we issue invitations,
We are seeking out those persons of peace – those neighbors of peace.
Here’s something I find really liberating –
If the invitation is not accepted, that’s okay.
If our peace is not accepted, it returns to us Jesus says,
It’s just not the right time. Perhaps we’ve planted a seed for later.
We shake the dust off our sandals, and move on to the next person.
Jesus never went and chased after anyone.
He made himself available to those who were seeking God.
There are those who are waiting for our invitation.
There are those who are seeking connection.
There are those who are longing to hear the gospel message of
love, kindness, generosity, justice, inclusiveness, and mercy.
Perhaps God has put us in their path for a reason.
This summer, look for these people – these neighbors – of peace.