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Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C, by Fr. Kevin Anderson, July 14, 2013

A week ago Friday, I did something incredible. Along with another parishioner, Sylvia Michels, we went to a Windsted MN to get trained and each of us were harnessed up to a guide. The plane took us up 13,000 feet. With a guide harnessed to my back . . . I jumped out of the plane. It was scary and exuberating at the same time. I was so happy . . . mostly that I didn’t wet my pants. And I landed just fine. Besides the rush of free falling at 120 mph, when I was falling and then the gliding in the parachute . . . I couldn’t help appreciate the landscape. It was beautiful. So much better than looking out of an airplane window. As I was floating down, I couldn’t help but observe the connectedness to the earth. I mean, I am connecting via gravity but the homes and farms blur into each other. It’s hard to see any borders or fences. In a sense it is easier to see how connected we are to each other. I could sense that all the people down there . . . . truly are neighbors. Sometimes, we can get confused about who our neighbors are. Of course there are immediate physical neighbors . . . and it’s a blessing if you have some respectful neighbors. But the lawyer tells Jesus in the gospel (and he is actually quoting from Deuteronomy and Leviticus, from the Old Testament) the great commandments are to love God and to love neighbor (i.e. each other). Then Jesus tells an incredible parable (and remember that it never happened. Jesus is making it up to illustrate a point. And that Jesus doesn’t just answer the lawyer’s question; instead he lets him figure it out . . . that’s a good teaching technique for you parents, teachers and coaches). So we have a beat up man and the first two to come along to him are “Churchy people.” I mean they both know that quote from Leviticus about loving your neighbor as yourself. Perhaps they didn’t want to touch blood because it would make them impure and they couldn’t do their Church duties. Or worse yet, they just “go through the motions” of religion and don’t live it. You know, it the same as when any of us say we are Christian, but we don’t practice it. I find that so many young people today are really searching for Church people who not only belong to a Church . . . but they live what they say they believe. So in the story, it is the bad guy, the one from Samaria, who actually does the good thing. And remember, a Samaritan is considered worst of worse people. If Jesus were telling the parable today, he might call the man a drug-dealer or a bombing terrorist or a child molester. Do you understand? To the Jews there was no such thing as a GOOD Samaritan, they were all no-goods. And it’s that one who truly understands what neighbor is . . . not the person who looks like us, or talks like us, or who has the same color of skin. A neighbor is anyone in need. Many of you understand that, when there’s a tree down in someone’s yard, you’ll go help. If there is someone struggling to open a door, you’ll help. You even are generous with your money. For example the second collections that we’ve had this past year have been so successful . . . helping those in our community (like Rum River Life Choices, or the Food Shelves or Care or Faith in Action). Or just last month we donated nearly $3,000 to help those affected by the tornados of Oklahoma. We as a parish do well when there is a crisis. Now here’s my concern . . . as you know I will on Sabbatical for four months starting in September. My concern is NOT that when there is a crisis you all won’t step up . . . rather it is the day-to-day operating things that will start to slack. For example we just finished our fiscal year at the end of June and we just barely made budget. We can do better than that. When there is a crisis you all step up . . . and this is not a crisis, but I need you all to consider giving more . . . especially when I am gone. I don’t to come back to a crisis. But starting right now . . . give more the Church. I want each of you to again “pick up your commitments” to show up to the ministries that you’ve signed up for. We have all these events and programs (like Fall Fest or FIRE) . . . that we need you to continue with. Don’t be like the Priest and Levite from the gospel and think that this is someone else’s concern. When Jesus asks who is my neighbor . . . you get it, when there is a crisis or a need. But it also means the person sitting right next to you today. And if we are going to continue being a vibrant and friendly parish we each need to start doing and giving more.


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