Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Psalm 147:1-11 and Mark 1:29-39
Jane Shelton, CRE
I’ve always been fascinated by windows and doors. Really any opening with light beaming through. Often, I take photos of these when I see them because I’m drawn to what is on the other side. The light shines on the other side, and I want to know where it comes from, and what awaits on the other side of the space through the window or door.
I think of this when I imagine the people gathered outside Simon’s door. Surely, they were being drawn there by what they had been told by their neighbors, and I’m sure they all wanted to get to the other side of the door to get a glimpse of the light of Jesus inside healing and proclaiming the message they had been hungry to receive.
The morning after this gathering, early in the morning before daylight, Jesus goes out to a deserted place to pray, as he often did during his life. Simon and his companions search for Jesus, and when they find him, they tell Jesus that everyone is searching for him.
Were they looking for Jesus because they wanted to know more about him, because there were other people who needed healing, or were they searching for Jesus out of curiosity of what he was doing, and they wanted to know more about this man of mystery?
When they find him, Jesus doesn’t say, come sit with me or come pray with me or let’s just relax here for a moment in the cool of the morning and get comfortable. Instead he says, “Let’s go!”
He wanted Simon and his companions to move into action with him to greet their neighbors in the nearby town so that he could proclaim his message to their neighbors. Why? Because that was what he came to do on earth. He came to proclaim the message to his neighbors, the good news that a great thing was going to happen. The good news in a message that held love and grace, mercy and compassion.
Last Saturday at our Session retreat, we considered a book called, “Neighborhood Church, Transforming Your Congregation into a Powerhouse for Mission.”
We considered the question, “who are our neighbors,” and “where do they live?
When you look up the definition of “neighbor,” you get more than one definition.
- a person living near or next door to the speaker or person referred to
“I visited my neighbor’s garden.”
- a person or place in relation to others near or next to it:
“I chatted with my neighbor on the flight to New York.”
- any person in need of one’s help or kindness:
“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Bing says being a good neighbor is an important aspect of community living. Here are some qualities that make a good neighbor:
- Friendly: A good neighbor is approachable and available. They interact with their neighbors, welcome newcomers, and participate in community events.
- Respectful: A good neighbor respects people’s feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions. They are mindful of their neighbors’ privacy and space.
- Quiet: A good neighbor is mindful of making loud noises at the wrong times and of doing obnoxious things. They are considerate of their neighbors’ peace and quiet.
- Clean: A good neighbor maintains their property and keeps it clean. They do not let their trash accumulate or their lawn overgrow.
- Helpful: A good neighbor is willing to lend a hand when needed. They are reliable and trustworthy.
- Mature: A good neighbor is responsible and mature. They do not engage in petty disputes or gossip.
- Trustworthy: A good neighbor is honest and trustworthy. They keep their promises and do not spread rumors.
- Discreet: A good neighbor is discreet and respectful of their neighbors’ privacy. They do not pry into their neighbors’ affairs or spread confidential information.
Wow! It’s a lot of work to be a good neighbor!
So who are our neighbors, and where do they live?
A good number of the members of our congregation live in Lake Park, so we have neighbors to our south. We have members in Hahira, so we have neighbors to our north. We have members that live between Valdosta and Quitman, so we have neighbors to our west. Our members who live here in town are our neighbors. Our members at home in Canopy, Langdale Place, and the Presbyterian Home in Quitman and in Athens, give us neighbors both near and far.
Let’s look more at our community neighbors, we have our sister church, Trinity full of good neighbors. We have VSU where Dr. Gosnell teaches and where our student center is located, lots of neighbors located at VSU.
Today, we are blessed to be visited by our Executive Presbyter, Deb, all the way from Kathleen, Georgia, and she represents all our neighbors in Flint River Presbytery.
And let’s definitely not forget all our folks who are joining us via Facebook Livestream who are also our neighbors!
When we look outside our church building. When we dare to walk out those doors and down those steps, we see our neighbors in close proximity to us, the County Administration Building, we have the Chamber of Commerce, the Blood Bank, the Post Office, downtown restaurants and shops, and even neighbors we know that live downtown.
Neighbors! They are everywhere! Who knew?!
Jesus says, “Let’s go and proclaim the message to our neighbors.”
Are we still going and proclaiming the message, or have we gotten comfortable and complacent? Have we forgotten to “go?”
Have we lost our curiosity to look for the light through the open door, and are we failing to gather with our neighbors in the presence of Jesus?
This past week, I met with the Worship Committee to discuss our upcoming services during our Season of Lent, and one of them said to me, “do we have to be so gloomy as we walk through the wilderness with Jesus, or can we express joy?”
I’ll admit, I was taken aback by the question at first, then I sort of chuckled, and replied, “Yes! Yes, we can!” We can bring all the joy within us on our walk with Jesus through the wilderness.
And while we are on our journey in the wilderness with Jesus, we can bring all our joy from within this church out those doors to our neighbors, wherever we go. Let’s face it, our neighbors are everywhere, and Jesus is telling us to “go!” Go spread the message to all your neighbors. Spread the good news of love and grace, a message of healing and mercy, a message of, “we are going to be okay, because we are loved, and God has given us in abundance all that we need.”
Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.