Lancaster Newspapers’ “A Good Neighbor Policy,” and My Own Thoughts on Neighboring with a Purposeful Plan, Place and Presence.

On Monday morning, I enjoyed a conversation with Lancaster Newspapers‘ Staff Writer Earle Cornelius inside the lobby at East Petersburg Mennonite Church.

I deeply enjoyed my time with Earle Cornelius – it was certainly one of the best times and interviews that I have ever had with a reporter.

As we met and talked – I was presented with space and opportunity to share where I am at in life and where I feel that God is leading my story.

I also had a chance to tell him about the story I think God is writing in this chapter of our story at East Petersburg Mennonite Church. In this current chapter of our almost 300-year old story, I personally and humbly feel as if we are being called to develop a purposeful plan, purpose in our place and a purposeful presence. I personally feel that in this season we might find some meaning for us as a faith community – by looking at where God has literally put us. It is from this place, that I was also able to talk to Earle Cornelius about our upcoming series; “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

An article came out in today’s newspaper from our conversation. He called it “A Good Neighbor Policy.” I like that. He goes on with a subtitle that says, “East Petersburg Mennonite Church has a mission to connect with the community.

If you have not read that article, I invite you to read it online. I had no idea that I was going to appear both on the front of the newspaper, and on such a large feature.

Thoughts on Neighboring with a Purposeful Plan, Place and Presence.
Most of you are aware that over a decade ago, I didn’t want much to do with church. I was in a pretty broken place. I was probably more in love with music and adventure, than purpose and responsibility. However, as I look back throughout my journey – even in that era – I am now aware of the way God was shaping me to care about community and neighborhood. In that apartment, with my goofy roommate Phil and all of our adventures, I was already finding purpose in a neighborhood context – in ways that it served me with purpose. Our apartment was in Strasburg. There is something about the way that small town of Strasburg was interconnected, like buying a sub with a handshake, that stood out  and resonated deeply in me.

In all honesty, I am far from where I am journeying too. Like you, I am still learning to live and love like Jesus – more and more. However, I know that neighboring is going to be part of it. One of my lifelong friends, Matt Wiggins, shared this article and wrote – “It’s honestly weird to call Jeff a Pastor, let alone a Reverend. What’s not weird is Jeff always finding an outlet to make church apart of the community.” I get it. I chuckle at the same thing. However, I do own and know that no matter where I live – I am called to develop a purposeful plan, purpose in our place and a purposeful presence. Thankfully my wife, Katie McLain, gets that too.

In Mark 12, a lawyer-like scholar inquisitively asks Jesus what is the most important thing about following after God’s heart. Jesus told him it was to love God with everything you are. Jesus than offers, without invitation, what he thinks is the next most important thing and that was to love our neighbors as much as we carefully love ourselves.

I don’t have the space to list the ways I am trying to live this out through intentional investment and involvement. However, I will be transparent that I am recently realizing the importance of focusing on my specific block as much as I am focused on the neighborhood through my involvements and the intentional investments of East Petersburg Mennonite Church and the East Petersburg Events Committee.

In saying “Love your neighbors”, Jesus referenced a shared Levitical understanding of what it meant to love our neighbors (Leviticus 19).

  • Share what’s left over of your land, with those next to you, including the poor and the immigrant.
  • Do not steal from each other.
  • Speak truth to each other.
  • Do not manipulative or undermine each other.
  • Stand by my name in town, without swearing by it.
  • Invest in your neighbor, not take from him.
  • Pour out goodness in the way you pay.
  • Help those with disabilities.
  • Seek justice for everyone, not just your friends or the great.
  • Speak life, not slander.
  • Protect your neighbors life, not endanger it.
  • Never hate a neighbor, but don’t join in their trespasses.
  • Seek love not revenge.
  • Love your neighbors.
  • Love me in a way that keeps my values.

What do you think. Do we do this well in our neighborhoods as the church today? I know I am on the journey to discover these values in my own life. What is God asking you to learn about neighboring?

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