Pentecost is over. The passion, wind, and tongues of fire have settled, and we are now slipping into the subtle growth of Ordinary Time. This underrated liturgical season highlights discipleship, learning, and development.
Now is the time to find inspiration in life’s ordinary things. Steve and I were on our morning walk. We were engaged in lively conversation. The sound of cars passing on the way to work, kids gathering at their bus stops, and the occasional barking dog in the distance provided the music, and the scent of the flowers wafting in the breeze made it even more pleasant. But then we ran across some sidewalk art and our walk became extraordinary, inspired, elevated.
Some people had taken sidewalk chalk and illustrated quotes along a paved pathway leading to a sports field complex near our house. Each section was a beautiful reminder of our shared humanity. Each quote was a call to be better, kinder, and more compassionate. Each quote was an echo of biblical ethics found in our scripture. There was no direct scriptural reference, yet those teachings of Jesus were right there. Taking my inspiration there, I will share them for the next couple of months, taking one at a time so that whoever takes the time to read the Pastor’s Corner may share in the ordinary wisdom found in simple sidewalk chalk art.
This month’s quote is for consideration in the picture taken on our walk. “Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept.” When I read this, my mind immediately went to Jesus’ summation of the ten commandments, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
Dr. and Rabbi Joachim Prinz is accredited with this quote which isn’t surprising because, he, like Jesus, a good Jewish man, was familiar with Jesus’ summation since it is initially found in Deuteronomy and, therefore, it has been around for a very, very long time. Dr. Prinz devoted much of his life to the Civil Rights movement in the United States. He saw the plight of African Americans and other minority groups in the context of his own experience under Hitler and because of this, he was at the March on Washington alongside Dr. Martin Luther Kings making a speech of his own in which he makes this statement.
In the speech he goes on to say, “It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man’s dignity and integrity.” Reading the news and all the ugly things pundits and politicians say or do to fracture our nation and hold onto power makes me wonder, do we even care about the preservation of each other’s dignity and integrity? As Christians, we should! We should care more about God’s calling to love than our concern about the issues we have been told to care about. In this moment in our shared history, I feel we are at a crossroads in which the moral concept of neighbor, crucial to our identity of the body of Christ, wars with societal fears over books, borders, drag shows and intrenched ideology inconsistent with Jesus’s Commandments. So, maybe it is worth our while, during the season of Ordinary Time, to pay attention to God’s word with intention to grow and expand and reflect on how we can do better with the moral concept of neighbor. It may also be worth our while to look for sidewalk chalk art, or to notice the smell of flowers scenting the air, and have stimulating conversations with friends, family, or coworkers. Subtle growth opportunities are everywhere.
While we do, let us ponder another quote from the speech given by Dr./Rabbi Prinz, “When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problems. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.” Lord, reveal to us what you would have us work on within ourselves, then may we find our voice and the courage to speak in this Ordinary Time of growth. Amen.