Today the associate at Myers Park preached on the parable of the Good Samaritan (which is the Lectionary text for today). In his sermon he talked about being ignored by the religious of the day and the one who really cared was the one who made the movement toward the person in need and actually bound up his wounds and brought him to an Inn. The one who really cared was not the religious but the one who was hated by the religious.
Today at lunch at Jay’s Deli (Friendly Shopping Center) Shirley and I were seated beside a group (that was already seated) of people from an un-named UMC (in Greensboro) among whom were one associate pastor from that church and her pastor husband who is in extension ministry (both of whom I went to school with at Duke and worked with on many occasions). One was almost facing me. I tried and tried and tried to catch their eye to say hello, but they kept averting their eyes from me. I even caught them a couple of times looking at me only to quickly look away as I looked at them. Admittedly, Shirley and I were wearing shorts and I was wearing my Mary Philbin tee-shirt, but they could have at least recognized someone they’ve known through three of the four years in seminary, and several years of working together in the same district.
Have you ever felt invisible around people you know and who know you? Have you ever felt like you must have leprosy – were wearing plaids and stripes together – or maybe you smelled like you had just crawled out of a dumpster? Today I felt bad because my friends purposely ignored me. They had to try hard to avoid seeing me. What’s more, I felt bad about that United Methodist Church. If this is how the leaders of that church treat colleagues they have known for 30 years, how will they treat the visitor who comes among them… and what would be their real motivation? I really do have problems with people who think they are better than me, who will not recognize me around their friends – but see me only when I have something to offer them.
I think about Robert and Melanie Niblock as the opposite of my colleagues. Robert is the CEO of Lowe’s Home Improvement and a member of the church I have just finished serving for four years. They are rich by worldly standards, but they are even richer by the standards of Jesus. They are smart, humble, compassionate, friendly, caring, hard-working, and their two sons (even though they go to UNC) are two of the nicest young men I have ever met. All of them will say hello when they see you out in the world… no matter who you or they are with. Robert and Melanie are real people who allow Jesus to live through them every day of the week… and so do the rest of the people in that church. I thank God for that church.
If you are ever in Winston-Salem I recommend you go and visit a church that really cares about you… even if you are a Samaritan… Pine Grove UMC on Jonestown Road. You will feel at home the first time you enter the door… for they will consider that you are family.
Grace and Peace
PS: I will be looking for a church to attend in Greensboro… but we know one it will not be.