In the past two weeks, we’ve talked a lot about loving God and how we see God working in our lives and the lives around us. This week we begin to talk about our neighbors. Who is our neighbor continues to be a huge question even though Jesus answered the lawyer’s question with the story of the Good Samaritan. Still, thousands of years later, we seek to find ways to say, “Yeah, but Jesus….” Before we can see Jesus or God in our neighbor and through our neighbor, sadly, we must ask the question again.
In Hebrew scriptures, the word (rea or רֵ֫עַ) was used meaning:
another, associate, companion, friend, friend’s, neighbor, neighbor’s
The term “vocation” literally means “calling.” Until Luther’s time it was used primarily to refer to those with a special religious calling to be a priest, monk or nun. Luther expanded the idea to include all Christians.
First, Luther affirmed that all Christians are priests. This “priesthood of all believers” doesn’t mean that we each have an individual pipeline to God but that we all have a responsibility to teach and to pray for others.
Second, Luther affirmed that all human work is a calling from God if done in faith and for the service of neighbor. According to Luther, God doesn’t need our good works, but people do. Christian faith, then, should express itself in how we live in our professions, in our family relationships and as citizens, since these are all arenas for the service of neighbor.
For this Sunday and next week, let’s discuss this. Who is YOUR neighbor? How does it fit in with what scripture tells us? What do you think Jesus mean? How can we look at the definition of neighbor in a more compassionate way?
Lectionary readings for Aug. 21, 2016 – Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 58:9b-14; Psalm 103:1-8;
Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17
Direct us, Lord God, in all our doings, with your most gracious favor, and extend to us your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy name; and finally, by your mercy, bring us to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Savior our Lord. Amen. (ELW, p. 86)