Taking Time to Say Thank You

This sermon was preached at Ashland Presbyterian Church on July 1, 2018 as part of the worship series, “The Gospel According to Mr. Rogers.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 

Fred Rogers awoke every morning to a swim, weighting himself (which we will learn more about later), and silent prayer.

“Taking Time” was a gospel Mr. Rogers preached almost as much as “you are special”. He believed God was to be found in the silence. He believed the thing that was wrong with modern society was that we don’t take time. We need to slow down, to remember those who have helped us, we need to listen for God.

Now we’re about to watch a video which is a very similar speech the one Fred Rogers gave at every award he received and I would like you to pretend you are in the audience and that he is speaking to you, let’s watch:

Who has helped you to love the good within in you?

Who has wanted the best of you? Who has helped you to become who you are?

When you came in you were given a thank you note. We’re going to take a few moments together and write notes to the person you thought of. If they are in heaven, then maybe there is a relative you could send it to who would love to hear about how their loved one helped you, or you can leave it at a place of memory for them, or you can leave it with us and we will cherish it for you.

Let’s take a few moments… (write thank you notes)

Taking time to remember, it was the one thing Jesus asked at the Last Supper of this disciples, remember me. May we all take more time in our days, weeks and years.

 

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.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Bulletin Cover 6-17

This sermon was preached at Ashland Presbyterian Church in Hunt Valley, Maryland on June 17, 2018. It is the second week of the Worship Series “The Gospel According to Mr. Rogers”.

Luke 10:25-37

Hello Neighbors!

In 1968 when Fred Rogers started Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood he set out to change children’s television from consumer driven slapstick, to a show teaching children about life, love, and make believe.

He started every show with the song “Won’t you be my Neighbor?” and that was the question he was asking every single day.

Fred was a good neighbor. He was kind and gentle, he was loving and accepting. He never turned away a visitor and always listened to their stories with patience and grace.

One of the things I realized as I dug into this series is that Fred wasn’t teaching us (the viewers) how to be good neighbors by instruction. He was a good neighbor and lead by example. We learned how to be good neighbors by watching him.

Our job, our responsibility, was to respond to the invitation he proposed in mutual relationship at the beginning of each episode: “Won’t you be my neighbor?” And you wanted to say YES! After all, he’s always wanted a neighbor just like us!

In our scripture lesson this morning we get another story of a good neighbor. The story of the man who falls into the hands of robbers is a man in need of help, desperate help, as he is described in bad shape being left half dead.

A priest and a Levite avoided the man, crossing to the other side of the road, but the foreigner, the Samaritan, takes the man, cares for him out of his own pocket and makes sure he gets continued care.

The Samaritan answers the call of the dying man, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” and responds with a room and fresh bandages and an ongoing relationship of care. And by Jesus emphasizing the priest and the Levite ignoring the man, but the foreigner helping, Jesus is emphasizing to us that our neighbors aren’t simply the people who live down the street or speak our language, or even pray to our same God. All are our neighbors.

So… Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? Jesus asks. The one who showed mercy. And Jesus instructs the lawyer to “go and do likewise.”

Showing mercy, in other words, is being a neighbor.

But this is not a stand alone story, scripture explicitly gives this mandate “Love your neighbor” over 40 times and is implied hundreds. Even Paul in Romans 13 lifting loving your neighbor as the fulfillment of the law.

As we move through this series, we will be looking to embody the gospel through Mr. Rogers, we will strive to, in our own way, become more Mr. Rogers like, more neighborly, which is, merciful and loving.

As we enter this series, we must first start with ourselves:

Am I a good neighbor? Do I show mercy and love? Am I seeking others our in mutual invitation to be in merciful relationships with me?

What would it look like for me to be a good neighbor? And ask others to be our neighbor?

For our church to be a good neighbor? And ask others to be our neighbor?

For our city to be a good neighbor? And ask others to be our neighbor?

For our country to be a good neighbor? And ask others to be our neighbor?

As we watch this popular clip from the show I want you to observe all the ways Mr. Rogers invites Jeff Erlinger to be his neighbor in merciful, mutual relationship.

I want you to notice how he meets Jeff on the steps and sits to look him in the eye.

I want you to notice how he lets Jeff talk about things that may make us or others uncomfortable, but are very natural to him, how he lets him take his time showing off and feeling special.

Being neighborly may mean interacting with people who are different, who look and sound different, who may not be able to do the same things you do, who may sometimes make you uncomfortable.

Being neighborly means breaking out of your comfort in order to extend mercy. It means being vulnerable to learn something new, and accept someone not for what they can give you or do for you, not for what they have, but who they are.

Let’s take a look:

Go and do likewise

Who is My Neighbor?

I have been working on a Summer Worship Series on The Gospel According to Mr. Rogers for the church I serve. We kicked off last week with Children’s Day and a theme of “You Are Special”.

This week we ask the question “Who is my neighbor?” and look through the lens of the Good Samaritan Story.

Like all things Mr. Rogers the keys are kindness and helping, one person at a time, one community at a time- and not just *your* community, as a minister Mr. Roger’s sense of community was all the world.

Bulletin Cover 6-17

This is the cover of the bulletin this week.

As I do the (sometimes) tedious job of writing liturgy for this sermon series I couldn’t be more excited about I take short breaks between calls to worship, confessions, and hymns to look at email and social media.

It started last week when the video of Senator Jeff Merkley was denied entry into a detention center for migrant children. This started to highlight the rule of separating children from their parents as a “deterrent” to keep people from crossing the US boarder illegally.

The most recent story as I write this is a baby taken from a mother while breastfeeding.

I’m sick. I’m sad. It hurts.

Who is my neighbor? Like Mr. Rogers said, the world is and I share responsibility, yet I feel powerless.

I call my senators, and feel hopeless, I don’t understand what’s becoming of humanity and the disassociation I think people are having. The same people who support these policies are the same people who say they just want some “decency” back.

It is not unlike the stories I read last week when my husband and I visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC. In the very beginning after the journey downward into darkness there is an exhibit of artifacts from the São José Shipwreck. I could not find the quotes that accompany the artifacts, but they are from the crews of these enslavement ships talking not about the deep guttural cries coming from a people torn from their homes and imprisoned in such inhumane circumstances.

Many crew members killed themselves from the pain of the sounds.

Who is my neighbor? And what kind of neighbor am I when I am jailing your children?

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I turn again to social media and my timeline is filled with stories like these. I can hear the heart wrenching screams of parents and children.

Many of my friends are asking the question that if these were the practices of Egypt when Joseph and Mary had appeared at the boarder with their infant son, what would have happened (Matthew 2:13)?

Who is my neighbor?

What is my responsibility?

What kind of neighbor am I?

Migrant workers jailed for crossing our boarders to pick our tomatoes risking their health not only in the sun, but from all the pesticides on our food so we have a perfect unblemished slice on our Wendy’s burger.

Have we no shame? Do we not hear their cries?

I don’t have an answer, just a paralyzing sadness.