The following was from my sermon on July 14. The Gospel reading was the parable of the good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.
Every once in a while, I hear someone ask whether a program will bring new people to our church. Almost as often, I hear someone ask whether making the church’s facilities available to outsiders will result in our church growing.
There’s something backwards about this thinking. Or maybe it’s just that something is missing. You see, churches don’t grow because their buldings are open. They grow when their hearts are open. If you want the church to grow, don’t look first at your buildings. Rather, look first at your hearts.
But when our buildings are closed, unavailable to the community, I have to ask whether that reflects an inward reality. I have to wonder
if closed buildings mean closed hearts,
if unavailable facilities mean that we are unavailable,
if limited outreach means limited concern,
if inactivity on the outside means inactivity on the inside.
I have to question whether our understanding of “neighbor” is woefully limited, un-expanded by encounter with the merciful Good Samaritan, the ultimate Stranger who became Neighbor, Jesus Christ our Lord.