One year I was looking for the perfect Halloween costume when I came across the adult male sized Ghostbuster costume. The model looked exactly like one of my high school classmates Kyle. In fact, there were other costumes I found with the same model. The resemblance was uncanny. I even sent Kyle a message on Facebook to tell him about his doppelganger, only to discover the model was Kyle. They were shots from when he was in college, but it took me years of passing by the costumes to notice. I apologized, but Kyle said that every year there was someone new who finally saw his image.
I wonder how many people I miss on a daily basis. In the busyness of life, I find myself giving little thought to the majority of individuals I pass by every day. As we prepare to look at The Art of Being a Good Neighbor over the next few weeks, I am reminded that being embedded within the neighborhood is an essential step to developing a heart for the community. It requires us to pause and notice others.
Jesus’ ministry centers on noticing others. The ministry of Jesus always begins by recognizing and engaging those around him. As Jesus moves through the crowds, he heals, teaches, and cares for individuals only after he takes the time to notice them. Jesus enters the town of Nain in Luke 7 and raises a dead boy only after Jesus sees a funeral procession and notices the widowed mother in the mass of the considerable crowd carrying out the body of the dead boy. As Jesus walked through the crowd in Mark 5, he turns around and ultimately heals a woman after noticing someone touched his garment.
John's Gospel begins by talking about how God enters our world: that the Word dwelt amongst us. The Greek word for dwelt, eskenosen, literally means to “set up a tent.” Eugene Peterson translates this in The Message as “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” The Gospel starts by telling us that the work of Jesus begins by being part of the community.
Each example shows Jesus in the process of heading somewhere, yet he still pauses long enough to notice faces and actions in the crowd. More than passing pleasantries, Jesus takes the time to “behold” others, looking carefully at those around him. Being embedded in the community requires us to go beyond interacting with others in the community as mere “extras” in our lives requires us to pause and genuinely notice individuals.
Each day offers a new chance to participate in the transformative work of ministry and care because each day is a fresh chance to notice our neighbors within our community.