Who is my Neighbor?

Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY

As a kid growing up on the north side of Jamestown I had a pretty good idea what a neighbor looked like. With a yard not much bigger than my current living room, it was out in the neighborhood that I spent most of my time. Next door was my friend Jeff Drake. Behind us it was Mrs. Anderson—a widow who was usually sweet, that is, until one of our balls would accidentally fly over the fence into her yard. Watch out. Two houses down and across the street was a girl named Mary—my first baby sitter and the first love of my life.

Defining my neighbor was easy then. I lived among them, walked past their houses to get to school, and delivered their newspapers. We had block parties where the city police would shut down our street so all we could set up tables in the road and the adults could party all night while the kids played hide and seek in everyone’s yard. 

It was easier then for me to think about who my neighbor was, because my world was smaller. People on the other side of town might as well have been on the other side of the world. But as I grew up, something happened. Suddenly the other side of town didn’t seem so far away, and for that matter neither did the other side of the world. And either one of two things happened—either the world shrunk or maybe my neighborhood just got a lot bigger. But either way, it’s been more difficult since to answer the question, “And who is my neighbor?” 

But we aren’t the first to ask the question. In the gospel of Luke a lawyer is testing Jesus and he asks him a similar question. “Jesus,” he says, “who is my neighbor?” It’s that question that leads Jesus to tell arguably he most famous parable: the parable of the good Samaritan. 

If you need a refresher you can find it in Luke 10, but in a nutshell it’s about a man who needs help and finds it in the most unlikely person. As Jesus ends the parable he asks the lawyer, “Who was the neighbor?”  The lawyer answered, “The one who showed mercy.” 

And it’s that line that spoke to me in a new way as I reread the story in light of what we’ve been witnessing in our world lately. You see, the man asked Jesus who his neighbor was, but Jesus never answered his question. Not really. Instead Jesus reminded that man how he could be a neighbor. Show mercy. 

And that’s the reminder our world needs these days. We don’t need another meme reminding who our neighbor is. We need a refresher course in how to be a neighbor. Because we live in a world where it is very easy to see who the bandits are. We live in a world where it is very easy to see who the victims are. And in a world where it is very easy to see who is passing by on the other side of the street. What we need more of are neighbors. And that starts with us. 

Because, whether we want to admit it or not, we all know the answer to the question, And who is my neighbor? What we’ve forgotten is what it looks like to be one. We can’t control the violence and devastation in our world. I wish we could. But we can control how we respond. May that now and always be neighborly. 

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

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Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.