Letters I never intend to mail
By Will Zant
On some weeks as I prepare my sermons, I often write letters I never intend to mail. I do so to help remember a sermon is directed to people. It helps me process my life too. Recently, I did this exercise.
I was preparing to preach on the Good Samaritan from Luke 10. In some ways, it was a chance for me to reflect critically and emotionally on so much of the tragedies that have taken place this summer. I wrote the letter to a real person I grew up with in Jackson, Georgia (a town which I love!), although I have changed his name in this format. Although I never mailed the letter, it helped me remember the great work still to be done to build communities of peace and friendships.
As I consider Jesus' parable about the Good Samaritan, I'm reminded of the great hatred between Samaritans and Jews. Jews believed Samaritans were unclean because hundreds of years before the Samaritans were Israelites who then married people outside the Jewish faith. It was a matter of worth assigned to perceived differences. Jesus tells this story to shock and show this Samaritan is not who Jews believe them to be. They are not inferior or lacking in compassion. In fact, this Samaritan shows what it means to be a moral force in the world.
As I think back on my childhood in Jackson there's much we have to learn. I love Jackson, but I also see now the forces at play you and I were up against. It felt at times like our community could not come to terms with our perceived differences. Somehow, me being born white and you being born black defined the limitations of our friendship. It felt right to be in each others' classrooms at school, but not as acceptable to be in each others' homes.
But I'm thankful to God almighty God gave you and me sports. Because we both loved them. I cherish to this day basketball courts, football fields and baseball diamonds. Because they brought us together. Without sports I worry I would have never known fully the amazing, smart, funny and caring person you are. I hope you found the same in me.
I'll never forget when I was injured in a car wreck, you and your mother visited me. You brought me a cake and told me you couldn't wait for me to get well and get back on the field. I grieve for my own life still today. Because I don't have those fields, those common grounds as readily accessible and I do grieve it and my life is more impoverished for it.
The Good Samaritan teaches us we are not so different as we might think. Thank you friend and I pray for more ball fields, be they actual ball fields or any sort of common ground that brings people together.
The lawyer in this story asks, "Who is my neighbor?" Thanks for being a good neighbor to me.
Your friend, Will