I just walked in the house from another community meeting that I attended tonight representing my congregation, Meridian Street United Methodist Church. In recent months the southern part of my neighborhood has been challenged by violence and crime that has become all too familiar in the City of Indianapolis. This is not the first neighborhood meeting I have attended. Last month, I went to a small church to a meeting sponsored by the Indianapolis Metro Police Department. I attended to simply listen to my neighborhoods.
As I have attended meetings, prayer vigils and peace rallies, I have heard the cries and concerns of my neighbors. There are people who live just blocks south of me who face the risk and threat of violence on a daily basis. There is fear. There is hopelessness. There is death. For many of my neighbors in Indianapolis there is only darkness, no light. Then I remember my faith. We are people of the light of Christ.
As I think about what it means to be church, I remember that we are called to bring hope, love and light in the darkest of places, especially if it’s in your backyard. We have an opportunity, as people of faith, to change our community for the better. In another meeting earlier today, I shared that I believe there are many people in our own community who simply need relationship. There are many who simply need an encouraging word, a prayer and a relationship that really invests in their life.
It reminds me of Jesus’ story in the Gospel of Luke. He tells the story of the man going from Jerusalem to Jericho who was attacked, robbed and left for dead. We could change the route of this man quite easily. We could say a man was travelling from the east side of Indianapolis to downtown. A religious leader drives on by the man thinking another person can do something. A person from out of state goes into the far lane of the road right on by the man thinking “I’m not from here anyway, so why should I help.” Then a person no one ever expects serves the beaten man. He was a Samaritan man. Not only does he stop, he saw the man. That’s a major revelation. He actually noticed the man. The Samaritan man took care of him and found the beaten man care. The Samaritan man invested in the life of this beaten man.
What if we become the Good Samaritan in this story? What if the people called Methodists would take the time and invest in the lives of our neighbors?
I continue to reflect on that question “Who is my neighbor?” As I have heard the concerns of my neighbors, I realize that I can do more. I can get to know others in my neighborhood and city, build relationships and pray for them and the struggles they face. I am apart of the United Methodist community in Indianapolis. We can do more. We can stop, talk with our neighbors and invest in the lives of people who need hope, encouragement and love. It might mean we have to cross 42nd Street or enter into another part of our own neighborhood or city, but we go with the light and strength with Jesus who said “Do not be afraid.”
Who is my neighbor? The business people drinking Starbucks coffee down the street are my neighbors. The excited young college students at Butler learning are my neighbors. The family in the southern part of my neighborhood who is grieving the loss of their 10 year old son is my neighbor. The parent afraid to let their son or daughter play in the yard is my neighbor. Everyone is my neighbor. The question is “Will I slow down, notice those around me and invest in the lives of my neighbors?” Let’s stop driving by those in need and share love, hope and encouragement with our neighbors.