I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, but I often wonder what I would have done had I been born during a different time in history. I wonder what I might have done had I been born even in a different country in a different time in history. Would I have been one of the women on the front line, protesting, contacting the powers that be to encourage passage of the 19th Amendment (the one, by the way, that gave women the right to vote). Would I have been the kind of person that would have hidden Jewish people from the Nazi’s in Germany? Would I have been the kind of person sitting on a bridge in Selma? Would I have been the kind of person to sit at a lunch counter that was only meant for “colored people” as a sign of solidarity? Would I have been the kind of person to go to the Stonewall Inn in New York City, the birthplace of the gay rights movement?
And I wonder what the events of our time will be that might make Ellen think the same thing. Or maybe your kids or grandkids will look back on a particular time in history and wonder “would I have been the one?” Often when we read the parable of the “good Samaritan” we want to place ourselves in the shoes of the Samaritan. We think we would have stopped. Certainly, we would have been the ones to stop and help a hurting man on the side of the road. We would have been the ones to find him help. We might even been the one to advocate for men like the one in our gospel story so that this doesn’t happen again in the future. But, more likely, we’re the lawyer asking “who is my neighbor.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I am lost. I am hurting. I know many of you came here today hoping that I would have words of wisdom or words of comfort, and I don’t. I am tired of watching the news and seeing fellow members of the body of Christ being killed. I am tired of the rhetoric that accompanies these shootings. I am tired of the debate that if you believe that black lives matter that you automatically believe that blue lives don’t. I am tired of the assumptions that say if you value African American lives you must not value the lives of law enforcement officers or vice versa.
I am tired of people assuming that just because I don’t own a gun that I must be anti-gun. I want to tell you this: I’m not anti gun. My brother, father, uncles, and brother in law all own guns. I support your right and even your desire to own a gun. I won’t ever own one. Ever. It’s a personal choice. But, I’d fight for your right to own one. However, I don’t understand why any average American citizen needs an assault rifle. We are killing one another. Our neighbor is the African American man shot dead while his 6 year old watched the entire thing take place. Our neighbor is a Dallas police officer just showing up to do his job. Our neighbor is a Muslim woman who just wants to get to her mosque without being harassed. Our neighbor is a lesbian who feels the only sanctuary she can turn to is a bar in Orlando. Our neighbor is documented immigrant who just wants to be able to support his family. Our neighbor is Jesus and lately our neighbor has been covered in the blood of hate, judgement, and unwilling blindness.
We are at a time in our history when we have the opportunity to stand with the other. We have the opportunity to be a Samaritan instead of the lawyer. We have the opportunity to accompany those on the road to Jerusalem. It is easier, much much easier, to pass by, I get that. It is easier, much much easier to say that “it’s not our problem” and in many ways it’s not. We don’t have any members of this church who are people of color. We live in a town where there is, however, a very clear cut distinction from the haves and have-nots. From my perspective, it’s a financial and class distinction, not a race distinction. And we have the chance to tell our children, our grandchildren, maybe even our great grandchildren that when our country was in a time of great civil unrest we made the choice to not ask “who is my neighbor” but to demand that others start to see Jesus in the eyes and skin of everyone around us.
Friends, we have entered a time of great blindness. We refuse to see one another, we refuse to see those we label as “other”, we refuse to see injustice, we refuse to see that anyone or anything but Jesus can help us to see. We have gone blind out of fear. We’re afraid of change that comes with no longer being a majority. We’re afraid of change that has accompanied the mass amounts of political rhetoric these last few months. We’re afraid that the America we’ve always known is no longer the America we will love and we’ve gone blind because of it all and that blindness has caused us to completely miss Jesus.
We’re so busy asking “who is my neighbor” that we’ve missed the fact that our neighbor is lying on the side of the road, dying. We’ve missed the fact that our neighbor is covered in blood that’s not his. We’ve missed the fact that our neighbor is the subject of daily harassment. We’ve missed the fact that our neighbor is feared. We’ve missed it all because we’d rather be safe than risk being hurt or judged and in the meantime, with every life lost, Jesus is killed over and over and over again. Because if we are made in Christ’s image, each time a bullet takes a life, no matter the color of skin, Jesus is crucified all over again. We are going blind and I don’t know that we want to do what it’s going to take to see.
We have to be willing to admit that we are scared, that we are wrong, that we are privileged, that we have certain unspoken rights that others just don’t, and we have to be willing to listen. We have to be willing to listen without correcting the thoughts and feelings of the people who have been hurt. Notice that when the Samaritan stopped he didn’t ask how the man who was left for dead was feeling, what he did to deserve this, why he was there, what he was wearing, what his past criminal history was, any of that. No, he just helped him, no questions asked.
I don’t have easy answers for you. I am just as lost as to what to do as you are. I am scared. But we serve a God who helps the blind to see. We serve a God who doesn’t give up on us. We serve a God who, in times of great darkness, continues to be the light we need. We have a God who loves all lives. We have a God who mourns when we mourn. We have a God who comforts us in sorrow. We have a God who provides us with rest when the world gets to be too much. We have a God who loves us enough to allow us to rest in our comfort but then disturbs us out of comfort saying “go and do likewise.”