Last night was Halloween. My wife Nancy and I put on a Halloween gathering for our neighborhood. We went all out on decorations in the front yard and moved our fire pit into the front yard. We put out hot dogs, made chili, and s’mores makings, coolers of drinks and got lots of candy. We set up a tub to bob for apples. Then we had fun with our neighbors. We had over 150 kids come and Trick or Treat us. Throughout the night we had 80 or so people hang out around the fire, cook a hot dog or s’more with a stick over the fire, and get a drink. Hands were shaken, introductions were exchanged, and life stories were connected.
And it was the stories that made all the work worth while.
I was handing out candy to a 10 or 11 year old girl when the woman accompanying her, whom I later found out was her grandmother said to me, “Wow, This all looks great!” Her granddaughter looked up at her and said, “This house is always like this, it’s my favorite!” And after an invitation they went over to the fire pit gathering and joined in s’more making.
A father with three kids came up with them later to get candy. The father said, “The kids all discussed before we headed out they wanted to go to this house last. Save the best for last! Plus once we come her we usually hang out awhile.” Then they headed towards the fire pit and fun.
Another woman who came trick or treating with her daughter-in-law and grandkids. She came up to me and Nancy as she was leaving and said, “Thank you so much! I am so grateful for the fact that you offered such great hospitality and welcomed into your home a stranger you just met.”
And I don’t know how many of my neighbors stopped and took time to take family pictures and “selfies” in our front yard.
No one asked or cared if I was a church planter or that I am and Elder in the UMC, they just cared that I cared about their neighborhood. No formal sermon or liturgy was given and it did not take place in a church building but around the fire in the sharing of stories. However a gathering of over 200 people took place “in the community” and God was glorified. And we “loved our neighbors as we love ourselves.”
How are you known in your neighborhood? If you were to move out would your neighbors miss you? Would they grieve the loss of you in their lives? You were not sent by God to a church. You may have been called to help serve and participate in a church, but it is the neighborhood and neighbors that the church and you find yourself in to whom you are sent. You are sent into your neighborhood to be to them a tangible example of the kingdom of God in their lives. You are sent to be to them examples of salt and light, justice and mercy, love and compassion, partying and banqueting, laughter and dancing.
I am about to head out into my front yard. Not sure how it will look, but I know I will have several hours of clean up to do. I can’t say I am looking forward to it, but the time it will take to clean up is worth it.
How are you known in your neighborhood? If you moved out of it would your neighbors grieve their loss? If you were to take a piece of graph paper and make each square represent a house or apartment. Then place an “X” in the center square to represent your house, how many of the squares around your house could you fill in with the names of your neighbors? I am asking you to take time to pray over this today, but not in your house or apartment, but in your neighborhood. Go outside and spend time prayer walking your neighborhood. Take your spouse, children or roommate with you. As you walk, pray over the houses and apartments to which you have been sent. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you opportunities to connect with your neighbors. Pray and come up with ways and events you can be to them tangible examples of salt and light, justice and mercy, love and compassion, partying and banqueting, laughter and dancing.
Please share you reflections with us, as well as encourage us with ways you are tangible examples of Christ in your neighborhood.