Text: Mark 2:1-12
The story of the four friends going to extremes to get their friend closer to Jesus is always moving. They carry him to the where Jesus is teaching. They hoist him up onto the roof of the house. They “dug through it” and they “removed the roof above him (Jesus)”. Finally, they lower him down to Jesus for healing. This is quite a feat. Thinking about all the effort put into getting their friend to Jesus is touching. It makes us feel good about humanity and what we are capable of doing for each other. When it is time and the opportunity presents itself, we will do what is right for our neighbor.
Being that I have been on the receiving end of incredible kindness due to illness I know that it is really touching to be cared for in such an extreme way. Not once, but twice within the last five years, I have been diagnosed with breast cancer and friends and family have sprung into action. The care that has come, not just for me, but also for my husband and children is extraordinary. To see care extended to the ones I love the most brings tears to my eyes. It really is community at its best – or is it?
Humans know how to come together when tragedy strikes. We have countless example of both natural and human created disasters where we have come together to care for a community in need. Floods, hurricanes, or wildfires, people show up with canoes, set up feeding stations and make donations. Shootings, oil spills, or a water crisis, and we show up with bottles of water, build memorials, say prayers, and once again, donations are made when you are too far away to actually provide hands on help. Humanity can come through with support when needed the most and participate in extreme acts of compassion and charity. It is truly moving. These are moments we should remember. It is a part of being in community with our neighbor, but it is not every day.
Being in community with your neighbor is, to me, more about how you are neighbors to each other every day of the week. We can all recognize times of extreme need and jump into action. What really speaks to building community with your neighbor are daily interactions and the community you are willing to build. Because of the history of redlining in the United States, we have the human-made disaster of neighborhoods divided by race and class. This impacts the schools our children attend, the health care available to whole families, and access to transportation or good wifi. Being a good neighbor is working to dismantle these systems that are built around misguided beliefs of white supremacy and black and/or poor inferiority. Being a good neighbor is believing it is okay for my family or any other black family, or any other minority family to live next door to your white family. Being a good neighbor is believing that any child, regardless of the color of their skin, could hold within their imagination the cure for cancer and they should have schools that could unlock that potential. Being a good neighbor, doesn’t need to mean taking the roof off of someone’s house to give them access to healing, but means not turning black women away at emergency rooms who are having heart attacks or heart failure. Being a good neighbor means simply believing in the full humanity of each person born on this earth.
Some want to say – we already do these things. Some want to say that it is unnecessary to point any of these things out about schools, or hospitals or neighborhoods. Corrections were made in the 1960’s, so everything is fine. But sadly, because some refuse to learn about our history as a nation, they don’t know that the roots of our systems are deeply tainted by racism, classism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination. “Everything is fine” in the eyes of many and they don’t want to be told anymore to be “woke.” But we are still trying to fight against laws that are meant to keep black and brown people from voting, which would bring changes to day-to-day life and what it means to be community and neighbor.
I know humanities capacity to do great things when disaster strikes and a community has a deep need for a moment in time. What my hope and prayer is for this Lent, is that more people will reflect on how to be a community of good neighbors every day. Communities that every day see the full humanity of everyone who calls that place home. Communities that know it is wrong to exclude anyone from having a place at the table. Communities that know what it means to truly share power. Communities that will protect each other and hold accountable those who don’t value each human life. When we start living like this, then I will marvel and we will be truly living into what it means to be in Community with our Neighbor.