UNYC Director of Stewardship
Rev. Susan M. Ranous, Deacon of Stewardship (updated 1-27-22)
As I’m writing this, we are coming toward the end of the year, the end of 2021. I know many of us came into 2021, hoping and anticipating that 2021 would be better than 2020. In some ways it was, in some ways it wasn’t. Things aren’t going back to normal, and I’m not sure they ever will. Friends and co-workers, neighbors, and others we don’t know continue to face illness and hospitalizations. Our lives haven’t returned to normal. And we are still having to wear masks to keep our friends and neighbors safe.
But we approach a new year, and a new start. I think we should pray for change that will prevent so much illness and death, but we also need to focus on what we are willing to do to follow Jesus’ instructions to love your neighbor as yourself. What can you do to do that?
Maybe we should look at how we start the New Year. For many, it is the time to identify resolutions that will change everything about ourselves in the upcoming year. For others, it is a time to identify resolutions that won’t last more than a week or so. For others, there are no resolutions made.
What if our resolutions for this upcoming year, for 2022, aren’t about dieting and losing weight, exercising more, and making ourselves into the picture of what people say we should be or do? What if we instead made plans that will enable us to fulfill Jesus’ instructions? How do we love our neighbor? Who is our neighbor?
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:28-33 NIV)
If this is the greatest commandment, maybe we could start with this as part of our plan for the upcoming year! But first, who do we identify as our neighbor? It may not be the person next door to us in the pew, or the person who lives in our neighborhood. It may not even be a person that looks like us or acts like us or lives like us. It may not even be a person that lives anywhere near us. I believe neighbor should be identified as a person who, like me, was created by God. Which excludes…no one.
So, once we identify our neighbor, we need to determine HOW to love our neighbor. How do you love others? How will you love others?
Blessings to you and yours as we leave one year and start another. May you be the neighbor loved by others and may you love others as your neighbor!