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The SermonPosted Friday, October 28, 2011, at 7:33 PM
By Rayla Stewart Hogue
Special to the Daily Statesman
The service was over and the pastor was walking down the aisle to the back of the building. We waited patiently while the people in the pews around us began to move before we joined the line. Listening to the conversations around us, we heard others discussing the latest gossip, who was missing this week and why; plans for the afternoon; and the latest sports talk. As we moved closer to the pastor, most people made comments like, "good job," "interesting sermon," "good service," or "inspirational" as they shook the pastor's hand before leaving the building.
Soon it was our turn. Shaking hands and mumbling we escaped to a discussion of where to go to eat. Finally agreeing upon where we would go, eager to beat the rush, we headed to a local restaurant.
We wove our way to our table stopping to greet friends and neighbors along the way. After we were seated we couldn't help but overhear a conversation at the next table.
"Hey dad, what's the highest number you ever counted up to?"
"I don't know. How high have you counted?
"5,372" came the prompt reply.
"Oh," I said. "Why did you stop there?"
"The sermon was over."
Everyone at our table chuckled. Then we went back to our conversation. The child's words, however made me stop and think--what was the sermon about today? It had made feel good about myself . . . the scripture was from the New Testament . . . it was a parable or something like that . . . I just couldn't quite focus in on it.
What had I heard? Let's see, I remember the scripture was on "love your neighbor" and it reminded me of that idiot that has been target practicing the next farm over from ours. I have warned them once . . . they've got to move their targets. They don't have a good back stop and if they aren't careful they could shoot somebody's kid or animal. Oh, that's right, someone mentioned at Sunday School that another one of our neighbors' horse was shot over the weekend. I wonder if there is any chance it could be the idiots next door. Hmm, should I confront them? Should I tell the horse's owner about my neighbor? Nah, it would be better to stay out of it . . . after all they get pretty crazy over there sometimes. But if it were my horse, I'd want to know.
The pastor said something about what Jesus meant for us to be a neighbor is more than being a buddy, or speaking kindly, and sharing warm fuzzies. So does that mean I should tell the one, or both, or neither? What else did that preacher say?
Hey kids, did you hear the sermon this morning about neighbors? What did you hear the preacher say? Oh, you were counting the number of pipes in the organ. There are twelve rows on one side of the church, ten in the middle, twelve and how many can it seat? No, never mind.
"Did anyone listen to the sermon this morning?"
His little one spoke up and said, "I liked when the preacher said, 'Neighbor--no matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here. That is God's way.' It made me feel included. It was a good sermon, wasn't it daddy?"
God, you created us to love you and to love one another. You call us to love you with all our hearts, our minds, our souls, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. God, forgive us for not loving as you love. Continue to remind us to love. Give us the strength to stand for those who cannot stand for themselves. Give us the wisdom to recognize our neighbor. Give us the love to love unconditionally. Give us the courage, to love--uh and God, help me to listen. So be it. Amen.
So be it. Amen.
İRayla Stewart Hogue
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.