Mr. Rogers the Prophet

This Sermons was preached at Ashland Presbyterian Church in Hunt Valley, MD on June 24, 2018. It is the third in the sermon series, The Gospel According to Mr. Rogers.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

A Prophet is one who proclaims and interprets divine revelation. It is descriptive of one who speaks forth God’s word.

I am not the only one in the congregation who has said this, I have gotten the comment from many of you as well. The confession is this: “You know, I didn’t always like Mr. Rogers.”

It never had anything to do with the message, many of you described how your children loved the show and you would sit in wonder at how this hokey, slow talking man could captivate their attention.

By the time I was born Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood had been on public television for 12 years. I cannot say that as a child I remember specifics about the show and it wasn’t until the Internet and having my own children that I rediscovered “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

For my generation on of the clips that endeared me to Mr. Rogers was not from the show itself, but watching this kind, gentle, albeit nervous man testify before congress. It was the most unlikely of casts. Watching these hard politicians and this soft man talk to each other, I watch it with hope that if we could just listen to each other, and I watch it with the ear of hearing a prophet speak truth to power.

You see of all the things we can call Mr. Rogers’ I feel that Prophet would be way, way down the list, but every day, for almost 50 years he spoke the word of God to children across the world.

In the still, soft voice, he declared “You are special, just by being you.” “Your feelings are real and valid.” “It’s okay to wonder.” “I want to be your friend, I like you.” The Prophet is to be the voice of God in the midst of the harsh world. Jeremiah would walk up and down the streets criticism the King and the people when they would step away from God’s call. But he was also there to reassure them and bring them hope.

When Jeremiah is called by God Jeremiah responds that “no, no God, you must have made a mistake, I am too young” and God proclaims, “no I know you fully, you are special, just by being you.” This message runs contrary to the human angst that in a vast universe our small lives might be meaningless.

They are not.

In a world where the lives of so many children – street children, child laborers, children living in the midst of violence, neglected, detained or abused– appear to assert a different reality. You are special, just by being you. It is an audacious faith in a God who not only affirms, but creates individual human worth and dignity.

The call of a prophet takes on many forms and the unlikeliest characters are called. You too, are called to stand up for your faith, in your own way. Remind people that they are whole and beloved, by shouting in the streets or one person at a time. In song and prayer or through presence and power.

Being who God created and called you to be is your greatest gift to the world, none of us should “hide it under a bushel” to quote another prophet, but embrace without excuse, the reality of being fully known and loved.

You are special, just by being you.

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