I. INTRODUCTION A. Story: (picked up off the internet) Achieving God’s Perfection A school in Brooklyn for learning disabled children At fund raiser … father of a student delivered a memorable speech. After extolling the school and dedicated staff, he said:

Where is the perfection in my son, Shaya? Everything God does is done with perfection. But my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child can’t remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is God’s perfection?

Audience was shocked by question, Pained by father’s anguish, Stilled by the moment. Father went on to say: I believe when God brings a child like my son into the world The perfection God seeks is in the way people react to the child.

He then told a story. He walked with his son past a park where boys Shaya knew were playing baseball. Shaya asked: Do you think they will let me play?

Flather knew son was not athletic. He knew that most boys would not choose him on their team. But he knew if son could play, he would have a sense of belonging.

So Dad asked one of the boys if his son could play. Boy looked at teammates for guidance. When they said nothing, he made a decision We are losing by six runs. It’s the eighth inning. We’ll see if he can bat in the ninth.

B. Dad ecstatic; Shaya smiled broadly. Shaya told to put on a glove and play short center field

In bottom of eighth, Shaya’s team scored a few runs. Still behind by three. In bottom of ninth, Shaya’s team scored again And with two outs, bases loaded, the potential winning run on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up. Would the team let him bat?

C. They did! Everyone knew it was almost impossible Shaya didn’t even know how to hold bat properly Let alone hit it.

As Shaya stepped to the plate The pitcher moved in a few steps to lob ball softly, so Shaya could at least make contact.

First pitch came in. Shaya swung clumsily and missed.

One of Shaya’s teammates came up to Shaya.

Together they held the bat and faced the pitcher. Pitcher again took a few steps closer Tossed the ball softly.

As pitch came in, Shaya and teammate swung. They hit a ground ball to the pitcher.

D. Pitcher picked up ball. Could have easily thrown ball to first base. Shaya would have been out and game would have been over. Instead, he threw a high arc beyond reach of first baseman.

Everyone stared yelling: Shaya, run to first! Run to first! Never before had Shaya run to first. He scampered down the first base line, wide-eyed.

By the time he reached first, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to second, to tag him out, for Shaya was still running. But the right fielder understood the pitcher’s intentions, So he threw ball high over second baseman’s head.

Everyone yelled, Run to second! Shaya ran towards second as the other runners circled the bases ahead

F. As he reached second base, the opposing short stop ran to him, Turned him in the direction of third and shouted, Run to third!

As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both team ran behind him screaming, Shaya, run home!

Shaya ran home stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders

And made him a hero. He had just hit a grand slam and won the game for his team.

G. That day, the father standing at the podium said softly, with tears rolling down his face, those 18 boys reached their level of God’s perfection!


A. A bright young scholar Well trained in the scriptures of his faith comes to Jesus to ask the question common to a person’s religious journey. What must I do to get eternal life?

B. Jesus responds: What’s written in God’s law? How do you interpret it?

The young man responded: That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and muscle and intelligence And that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself Good answer!, said Jesus. Do it and you will live. (I bet Jesus was saying…Let it, in fact, become the habit of your life.)

C. That wasn’t enough for the scholar. Who is my neighbor? He was probably trained in canon law … Very logical and skilled at debate. This was no casual question. Really, it was a challenge.

We all know folk like that, don’t we? Ones who like to draw you into debate or dialogue Ones who often want to win an argument Or at least put the situation in terms they can handle. Or with which they are comfortable.

D. But Jesus wasn’t getting hooked into that script. Jesus usually responded to questions with another question. or a story / parable. Jesus knew most people who came to him came not to hear arguments but out of a need

a need for healing, renewal, inspiration, cleansing.

Just like us. Isn’t that what Jesus does for us?

E. As I once heard in a commentary on this story: The young man wanted to win a point. That was his training Jesus wanted to make a disciple. That was his calling.


A. The looking for the simple, logical, comfortable answer.

Telling us who are our neighbors is to make our own decisions easy. With no paradoxical stuff, With no gray area. It is to guarantee us an answer.

B. We do that so often with our faith.

We want a simple theology Give us an absolute creed dogma Make us some rules (put them in a Discipline)

Tell us who is in and who is out Especially if it calms our fears about people different than us or change that we can’t seem to control.

Give us the answers so we don’t need to struggle. Let Jacob be the one who wrestles with an angel And surely, surely we can forget the cross


A. I believe Jesus was less concerned about who was the neighbor and more concerned about who the scholar was to become.

It is not the identity of the other person but our attitude towards them.

It is not the other person’s condition but the integrity and health of who we are.

You know, the content of our character… B. Isn’t that the point of the story that I told in the beginning?

Those 18 young people reached a level of perfection because of who they became

Not because of who their young colleague was.

So who have we become? Or who are we becoming … ?

C. I would be so bodacious to say (Now hang loose) I care less about a. What people are served b. What things are accumulated c. What friends are chosen d. What awards are given e. What gifts are presented

I do care deeply about who you become … You know, deep inside you Inside your heart and soul. The rest will follow …


A. Tells the story about his son A minister in the city of Camden, New Jersey Invited by the Lutheran Council of Bishop, along with some others

– 8 – To tell of his work among the urban poor (As the Council described it)

B. Lee’s son asked his parishioners … the people with whom he served … what he should say to the Bishops.

They told him: Tell them we are NOT poor. We have low incomes Some have no incomes But, we are NOT poor. Don’t give them a list of programs tell them we are simply here to proclaim the gospel that changed our lives

These folk weren’t categories and certainly didn’t want to be seen as such.

They wanted the Bishops to know what they became because of Jesus Christ


A. The young scholar asked Jesus. Tell me his class, sex, color, orientation In other words, give me enough specifics So that I can have no doubt about MY duty.

B. Folks, ministry is NOT a duty

Ministry IS about relationships. The test isn’t who your neighbor is BUT HOW DEEPLY YOU CAN LOVE THAT NEIGHBOR

It’s about US, not them.

C. Our impact as a church today (and frankly, our survival)

Has less to do with certain skills or tested methodologies or creeds or dogmas or discernment or transformation or technology or spiritual formation (they can serve us well but cannot save us …)

and everything to do with what we become A holy and loving people


A. About the rabbi, renowned for his piety Unexpectedly confronted one day by one of his devoted young disciples. In a burst of feeling, the young disciple exclaimed, My master, I love you! The ancient teacher looked up from his books and asked his disciple Do you know what hurts me, my son?

The young man was puzzled. Composing himself, he stuttered, I don’t understand your questions, rabbi. I am trying to tell you how much you mean to me and you confuse me.

My question is not confusing, responded the rabbi, for if you do not know what hurts me, how can you truly love me?



A. Of growing hostility and conflict A time of an increasing resort to a philosophy of hate and militarism, to angry speeches, to ethnic cleansing.

A time of increasing neglect for the poor and the marginalized.

B. Jesus’ life and spirit, His uncomplicated love that embraced all calls us forth.

We are his disciples We are called to his ministry of relationship To be a loving and holy people young and old lay and clergy

It calls for, as one described, A Samarian spirit on a cosmic scale

It calls for compassion, for tenderness and love for one another … Extravagant, boundless love that helps to heal and build rather than tear down and destroy.

C. It has everything to do with who we become.