I’ve been wrestling with the story of The Good Samaritan this week.  It is the scripture I’ll be preaching on Sunday morning.  A man was robbed, left for dead, three people encountered him, only one helped.  “Go and do likewise.”  Jesus shared that story a few thousand years ago, but it still stings.  The story was told as a response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

Our church is nestled in the very fabulous Dilworth neighborhood in Charlotte.  Our most obvious neighbors are the people who jog by in the early mornings or walk their dogs and push their baby carriages on pretty days.  They’re the ones who hear our chimes on the hour (except for this week–chimes are in for repair) and they’re the ones who deal with all the cars parked in front of their  lovely homes on Sunday mornings.  But there are more potential neighbors, says Jesus.

An assessor came out to meet with us as part of our Hope Project-New Beginnings consultation.  He wrote a report, designating a perimeter on a map–bigger than Dilworth–that could be our area for ministry.  There’s more to the process, but we’re using that perimeter as a guideline to determine what the needs are in the area, where the people fall through the cracks, what is missing, how the church could make all the difference somewhere between South Boulevard and Independence Ave., between Morehead Street and Woodlawn Ave.  But there are more potential neighbors, says Jesus.

Aren’t our neighbors also on the other side of town?  Aren’t they living in towns outside of Charlotte?  Aren’t they filling up the pages of the newspapers?  Aren’t our neighbors’ names being shared on television as stories of police shootings and terrorist rampages and any other number of dreadful situations emerge every day?  Aren’t all of them our neighbors?

Jesus’ story was a story, not of a community, but an individual.  His story about the Good Samaritan was about a personal encounter.  A man lay dying.  Three people encounter him.  Two go out of their way to avoid him.  One stops to help.  That’s the story.  Who was the neighbor?  The man laying on the street, without a hope for survival?  No, the neighbor was the one who felt enough compassion to stop what he was doing and save the man’s life.

Who is my neighbor?  That’s the question of the week.  Our lives and the lives of others around us depend on the answer.