Hello Neighbor: Isn’t it strange how watching someone on television can make you feel loved? Mister Rogers loved me. Maybe I’m showing my age! I was actually a little too old to be watching his show and I never wanted any of my friends to find out. I think, given my later college work and first career choice, I was initially intrigued by the use of puppets and humans and the writing that gave inanimate objects like the trolley a personality (you’re not buying that one are you?). There is no doubt I was hooked into the discoveries and visits Mister Rogers made with his neighbors, whether living or puppetry beings and the way he cap-tured my curiosity and made me feel alive in his neighborhood.
We can expand this line of thinking to the impact a television show can have on scheduling. Before VCRs (early version of DVR for you millennials). We had to watch everything live. I remember sitting in the sorority house with everyone to find out who shot J.R. The show Dallas had created a community much like the soap opera General Hospital had done during the Luke and Laura period. Soon it was Cheers, and Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and more recently Orange is the New Black and Scandal. Rather than watching together in these later years, we chat during a coffee break. The way entertainment gives us something to discuss with colleagues and strangers points to the human need to find connections with one another.
To be human is to seek connection, community, friendships, and family.
The state of our nation is fractured, disjointed, isolating, and uprooted. There is no better time than now for our particular church to be declaring that with God’s help, we are finding common ground for the common good. The question before us is can our faith in a loving creator be strong enough to empower us to love our neighbors? Can we accept God’s love for all with enough ardor that we share Christ’s love our enemies? Can we allow the gift of liberation received from the servant Christ to free us for serving friend and foe?
This week – this week in particular – I admit, I am not sure I’m up to the task. Mister Rogers is dead. What if God is? What if all that love that came to me through virtual technology when I was younger has evaporated? What if that in-the-flesh Jesus ascended to heaven and never looked back?
On the other hand, what if the spirit of Mister Rogers lives on, and so does the Spirit of Christ? I’m pret-ty sure I’m not going to find it on television anymore. I’m more than certain I won’t find it by myself. I’m human. I want connection, community, friendships, and family. And it would be even better if the different things that we believe, and the things that make us unique, could bring us together. I’m not ready to give up on that possibility.
“Won’t you please, won’t you please, please won’t you be my neighbor?”