by The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher Priest-in-charge, Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

At the opening service of the recent Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of Kentucky, Bishop Terry White told the story of an old wise Rabbi who once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun.

"Could it be," asked one of the students, "when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?"

"No," answered the Rabbi.

Another asked, "Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it is a fig tree or a peach tree?"

"No," answered the Rabbi.

"Then what is the answer?" the pupils demanded.

"It is when you can look on the face of any woman or man and see that it is your sister or brother. Because, if you cannot see this, it is still night."

The family values of our Rabbi, Jesus, were that we are all sisters and brothers and members of his family. We are to look on the face of any woman or man and see that it is a sister or brother. Matthew's record of the Jesus experience is that if we see anyone who is a stranger, or who is naked, hungry, thirsty, or sick we are to care for them as we would any member of our immediate family. (Matthew 25:40) As the Rabbi in our story said, if you cannot see the face of any woman or man and see that it is your sister or brother, it is still night. We are to open our eyes to the needs of others in order to see daylight.

Bishop Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, wrote that the love of neighbor is not schmaltzy (rendered chicken fat smooth) or sentimentality. The love of God and neighbor is shocking and sacrificial, not self-centered but other-directed. It seeks the good and the welfare of the other or others before self-interest.

The challenge of this message is overwhelming. There are so many people who live with hunger, thirst, illness, in need of clothing, and as immigrants appear in this country as strangers. No person or agency can meet all the needs. But we can be grateful that help is given through a variety of church outreach programs and social agencies.

While we can never do enough, let us be encouraged to open our eyes more to see one another in the Oneness of God's love. Our Lord's policy was not me first, my country first, my bank account first, my happiness first, and so forth. We are meant to take care of ourselves and those for whom we are responsible, but Jesus would have us see that our responsibility extends to the needy in our community, to see one another as sisters and brothers, and to welcome the stranger as one of our own.

As a little personal reminder I try to think of shoppers at Wal-Mart as my sisters and brothers in their great variety, and I often say a prayer for them. My own family includes a variety of skin colors: white, black, brown, and olive. I am grateful for these reminders to open my eyes to see the Oneness that we are meant to become -- and to acknowledge who we are in God's sight.

May we open our eyes and see each other as sisters and brothers and enjoy a bright new day.