While in seminary, my husband and I lived in large apartment complex. We hardly saw the neighbors that lived all around us until one day when the power went out. This day, the power didn’t just flicker off and flicker back on in a couple of minutes. It was a hot summer Saturday evening and the power was out for several hours. Eventually we all started coming outside to figure out what was going on. I grabbed the ice cream from our freezer…it was going to melt anyway. That was when friendships were born that soon grew into daily check in’s, weekly cookouts, sledding parties with hot cocoa, baby showers, birthday celebrations, hugs and listening ears in the grief of loss and life lived in the simplest of ways. Living life and faith with those who we call neighbor might look like loving those who literally live on your street or in your apartment complex or it might look like caring for those in your community. All of it is important because God’s call to a life of love and sharing of oneself is for all of us. I believe we are all called to this ministry.
Connecting to God and Neighbor in practice is day to day living of our faith that ultimately transforms our world. In the small moments of kindness, the noticing, the relationships built slowly over time, God is present and at work. The United Methodist Church mission states that “The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world”. Through our relationships with our communities, we can participate in God’s mission of transformation. Here are a few ways we can do this…
It is in sharing life that we practice the art of presence with one another. Throwing the football with your middle school neighbor, lending a hand to an older neighbor who needs help changing their lightbulbs, dog sitting for the family who hasn’t had a vacation in four years, ordering a pizza and catching up just to be together, really listening to the story of your cashier who checks you out at the grocery store, and paying attention to the needs in your community. Let us slow down, get to know those around us and simply be a part of one another’s lives. It means not driving into the garage and closing the door but hanging out on the front porch a little more, greeting one another and genuinely caring in the simplest ways.
As we share life together, it is important to listen and to look below the surface of the “How are you’s?” Ask: What are the needs of my community? Does your local school need tutors? Are there homeless in your community in need of warmth and a meal? Are their senior adults who are lonely and in need of a friend? As Christ-followers, how can we live out our call to love God and neighbor in tangible ways?
A couple of years ago, my husband and I lived in a home that shared a fence with our neighbors, Ted and Renay. Our dogs would talk to each other through the fence every day and we quickly became great friends. We shared a love for the local farmer’s markets and good food and one day Renay sent me a text that said, “Love over the fence!” On my fence post sat a handful of locally grown tomatoes and that was the beginning of our “love over the fence” tradition. When we had extra of anything worth sharing, it became love over the fence. Baked goods, homemade dog treats, extra home-grown produce, or a great book just completed. It was this simple gesture that connected us and reminded us to share our blessings with one another in daily ways. While we shared great food together, we also shared conversation and life and I am grateful for my forever friends because of their intentional spirit of love and the reminder to always share the good gifts we have. There is so much joy in the sharing!
As we learn each other’s stories, we can also learn how we can serve one another and reach our community. We share the love and grace of God through learning these stories, listening and caring for one another in intentional ways. As we listen and learn it is also important to share our story too and that is where the gospel shines forth.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each another.” –Mother Teresa
 (The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012, ¶120)