Remember Fred Rogers? He was the very gentle host of a children’s television show called, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Many kids were completely enthralled with Mr. Rogers and his Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Mr. Rogers had none of the quick-moving story elements of “Sesame Street” or the color and energy of a Saturday morning cartoon. What Mr. Rogers offered was simple friendliness. Fred Rogers taught children how to be a good neighbor. Fred knew everyone in his neighborhood: King Friday, Daniel Tiger and Mr. McFeely. He was interested in their lives; he laughed with them and cried with them. Mr. Rogers was the neighbor everyone wanted.
Imagine a world where every neighborhood was as friendly as Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood; a world where cultures mix freely and where everyone understands that no one is perfect but that we can all work toward perfection. A world where my mistakes are met with patience, and the consequences are given out with love. Sounds impossible right? But I know a place where neighbors are trying to live like Fred. We don’t always get it right; we make mistakes and sometimes we can be downright cranky. But remember, Mr. Rogers taught us that even when Prince Tuesday and Daniel Tiger fight, they are still beings worthy of love and understanding.
The Church, at its best, is a place where being a good neighbor is highly valued. Welcoming the stranger, caring for the vulnerable and nurturing all people is at the heart of being the Church. I confess that I used to poke fun at “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” It seemed so unreal with all that tolerance and patience. But over time I have come to long with all of my being for a world that looks more like Mr. Rogers’ and less like the chaos of impatience, spitefulness and busyness. I want to know all of my neighbors. I want to practice the art of hospitality and be a part of a world where the theme song is “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” rather than “Dog Eats Dog.”
That’s why I love my church. We are not perfect. You will not find a bunch of people who have it all together. But you will be welcome. You can ask questions, and together we will wrestle with the answers. After Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength,” he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I, for one, am excited by the possibilities.