Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Day 41, April 23, 2020
“The Good Samaritan”

   “And it was good…” Those words, words stated over and over again in the Creation drama of Genesis chapter one, are God’s clear affirmation that the world he created and the life he has blessed us with is good. The goodness of God’s creation is made manifest in human life when we put into practice God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves.

In Luke 10 an expert in the law tests Jesus with a question about inheriting eternal life. Their back and forth leads to an agreement that the key is loving God and loving neighbor. It would all would be good except that the expert asks a snarky question of Jesus. “And who is my neighbor?” What follows is a parable from Jesus about an unexpected person who rises to help another person in need. The person who helps the other person in need is a Samaritan, a despised Samaritan. In the parable Jesus never calls the Samaritan good. I wonder why it is then that the parable is universally known as, “The Good Samaritan.”

A young girl suffered the great sadness of losing her mother to death and her father to a debilitating stroke. Her church family heard of the need and responded. One particular family opened their hearts and they opened their home. They sheltered her through the storm, nurtured her as one of their own, encouraged her to pursue her dreams as a nurse, and left an imprint on her heart that was never forgotten. Who is my neighbor? The Brechtbill family saw a little girl named Clara in need, and they loved their neighbor by taking her in. They knew the little girl as their neighbor. I knew her as my mother. The Brechtbill family loved their neighbor, little Clara Meyer, “And it was good…”

Clara Meyer grew up, finished nursing school, rode horseback to deliver babies as a midwife in Kentucky, and then saw an ad in the mission journal of the Brethren in Christ Church that a nurse was needed at a Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico. Who is my neighbor? Clara answered the call and moved to New Mexico. In the first year she was with nearly a hundred families as she guided the mothers through the painful and yet sweet experience of bringing a little child into the world. Clara loved her neighbors on that Navajo Reservation, “And it was good…”

Clara Meyer met Carl Eberly on that Navajo Reservation and they married. For many years Clara taught the Licensed Vocational Nursing program in our hometown of Hanford, California. Who is my neighbor? Sometimes it is eager students who know the importance of nursing and want to learn how to be a nurse. Through a career that spanned decades she trained many nurses, mixing in a good dose of motherly concern and counsel. Some of our favorite family photos are of my mother pinning her students on their graduation day. One of our absolute favorites is the day she pinned my sister Anne as she graduated and became a nurse. Knowing the importance of nurses during this Coronavirus Crisis, when my mom loved those neighbors who were her students, there is no question in my mind, “And it was good…”

Who is my neighbor? Abraham and Zeuide fled trouble in the African nation of Eritrea. It was 1990. They resettled as refugees in Hanford, California of all places. Our little Presbyterian Church sponsored Abraham and Zeuide as refugees. In a faded copy of the church newsletter from that time is a single line that is pure gold as far as I am concerned. “Carl and Clara Eberly offered their home until the family could find an apartment.” When a couple fled the troubles in their home in Africa and came to California my parents knew they were called to love their neighbor. “And it was good…”

Yesterday was eight years since I said goodbye to my mom for the last time. I came to visit her after she had a stroke in April of 2012. I was fortunate to spend several days with her. I treasure each one of those moments. When I had to fly back home, I was so grateful that my sisters and brothers and their families were there to care for her. And toward the end Lorna showed up. The name Lorna might not be familiar to you, but many of us from the small church in our small town know exactly who Lorna is. You might not know Lorna, or maybe you do. Lorna is a neighbor, a real good neighbor, a neighbor who has been there for so many. When my mom was dying Lorna came to visit. She drove from Sacramento to Hanford, a distance of some 200 miles. She sat with my mom. She prayed with my mom. She recalled and rehearsed many wonderful memories with my mom. She loved my mom. Neighbors do that. From a lonely little girl who was loved by her neighbors to her dying days, my mom experienced the blessing of receiving neighbor love. And in countless ways and with countless people, including the five of us who had the special blessing of calling Clara “Mom”, she experienced the joy of giving neighbor love. “And it was good…”

Neighbor love is good. It is as simple as that. Jesus never said the Samaritan was good. But every single one of us who has ever been on the receiving end of neighbor love, we know that kind of love is good. In fact, “It is very good.”

With the love of Christ,