For so many folks, the summer is a time for traveling. Whether it’s going down the shore, or up to the Pocono’s, or somewhere further afield, summer is a time to travel. I know my family and I are looking forward to our vacation this summer.
But for the last 15+ years, youth and adults from St. Luke’s have also taken part in a different kind of summer travel. Every summer we send a group on a Mission Trip, to places ranging from Virginia to Rhode Island, from West Virginia to New York, and probably some places besides these. This year, we’re sending 10 youth (all in high school, or just graduated from high school), plus 5 adults to Charlotte, NY, which is a town just north of Rochester, NY. While there, they, along with some 400 other volunteers, will do various types of home repair for folks in need. They will also bring the love of Jesus with them to these folks, and in their act of service, will also receive the love of Jesus from these folks. They will be a blessing, and they will be blessed. They will have fun, they will work hard, they will make new friends and become new friends, they will grow closer to each other, and closer to God. It is a special, blessed, and holy trip, and we should all be very proud of all 15 of these wonderful volunteers.
Jesus was once asked what the greatest commandment was, and Jesus replied, love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Paul wrote that all of the commandments are summed up in loving your neighbor. If we are to take seriously our baptism and our life of faith, if we are to take seriously what it means to be a follower of Jesus, then we must take seriously the call to love our neighbor as ourselves.
When folks from our church go on a Mission Trip, that love is what compels them to do this. There are easier ways to spend a week in July. There are simpler, more relaxing ways to spend a week in July. But there is no more holy way to spend a week in July than by going someplace else, and doing hard work in the name of Jesus for the good of others. This is loving your neighbor put into concrete terms. This is loving your neighbor lived out in a very real way.
The truth is, we all have an innate desire to help others. We all have within else the will to do good for others. We all have within us the love that compels us to reach out, lift up, help out, make a difference, lend a helping hand, and do something that makes someone else better in some way. It ‘s why we support a food pantry and a clothing collection. It’s why we give 10% of the funds we raise from events like the recent JuneFest to some good cause outside of the normal life of the congregation. It’s why other folks from our congregation go to places like Costa Rica, and why we support Steve and Debbie Buckner in Honduras. It’s also why we support agencies outside of the congregation that do good for others.
We all have within us a good and loving heart, and a good and loving desire to help. My hope is that we can all find more ways to share that heart and that desire, that we can all become more involved in more good ways. Can we do more to support the ELCA World Hunger Appeal, or Lutheran Disaster Response? Can we find more ways to help the homeless, the poor, and the hungry nearby us in Pottstown and Boyertown and Philadelphia and places in between? Can we do more to support the residents of Frederick Living and Manatawny Manor and other area nursing facilities? Can we find ways to more fully and more profoundly love our neighbors, near and far?
I believe we can, and I believe we will. Because we already see love in action through our youth and adults going to New York and in the work we already do. The need is so great, but God has given all of us the will, and the means, to meet those needs. Our mission is to the world around us, and not just to ourselves. Open your hearts, to let out the love that God already fills our hearts with constantly. Let is always be the church that brings healing and hope to all. Let us always be, not just as has been suggested “The Little Church on Big Road”, but, “The Little Church on Big Road with the Generous Heart”.