Prepare: Make a poster (or a use a flip chart) that says “Who is my neighbor” across the top. If you are doing a worship station, either make the poster two-sided (same on the back) or make two posters. You will need one for the children’s sermon, and a different one for the congregation.
Have your poster ready to go, and read it to the children. In today’s story about Jesus, someone asks him a pretty easy question, and, to be honest, I think that Jesus just over-thinks it. He launches into this long story about a traveler who gets attacked by robbers, and there are priests and leaders and people we don’t like . . . I just think it’s a mess!
So, let’s see if we can make sense of this question and maybe get a clearer answer than Jesus gave us. Who is your neighbor?
(write their ideas on the poster as they say them – you can, and should, repeat them for all the people to hear. Go with the flow here, but once things start to calm down, or it seems like a good time to add some complexity go on to the next part. You’re going to have to ad-lib a little depending on what they have said, what they say, etc.)
OK, so a neighbor is someone who lives next to you? What about across the street? OK, so what about the neighbor of my neighbor, is that my neighbor, too? I have a friend who lives about two blocks away . . . is she my neighbor? What about her neighbors, are they mine, too?
Here’s a tough question – what if all of these people look different from me? What if they have curly hair? Or different colored skin than me? Or what if they are really short, or really tall? What if they like tuna and I think it’s gross?
Boy, the deeper we get into this neighbor question the more difficult it is to answer! Maybe Jesus was right to tell a story rather than trying to give a simple answer. See, the story that Jesus tells about neighbors taking care of each other doesn’t put neighbors in a specific place – not next to you, or down the street. Jesus’ story doesn’t make sure that neighbors look like us, or think like us. Jesus’ story even says that sometimes the person we think should be a good neighbor isn’t a very good neighbor at all!
Maybe what Jesus is trying to say is that our neighbors aren’t just the people who live near us, or look like us, but instead they are anyone and everyone who needs our love and care.