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Would You Be Mine, Could You Be Mine, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

The sermon video below is from the July 14, 2013 worship gathering of the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.  Immediately below the video you’ll find the manuscript of the sermon.

Would You Be Mine, Could You Be Mine, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Luke 10:25-37

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

 

Theme Song:  “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood”

 

(Have the congregation sing)

 

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, A beautiful day for a neighbor,

Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

 

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood, A neighborly day for a beauty,

Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

 

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,

I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

 

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,

Since we’re together, we might as well say,

Would you be mine?  Could you be mine?

Won’t you be my neighbor?

 

Won’t you please, Won’t you please, Please won’t you be my neighbor?

 

Fred McFeely Rogers was born on March 20, 1928.  He died on – February 27, 2003.  He was an educator, Presbyterian minister, songwriter, author, and television host.

He is probably best known for creating and hosting Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  The lyrics we just sang was the theme song for his show, which remained in the air with new shows for 33 years (from 1968–2001).

When I was a child, I always enjoyed watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood .  When my own children were young, I enjoyed watching the program with them.

Sure, I like The Electric Company, Sesame Street, Bozo the Clown, and a host of Saturday morning cartoons.  Still, there was there was something special about Mr. Rogers.  He was always gentle and kind; always soft-spoken and warm – and he spoke directly into the camera in such a way that I felt he was speaking directly to me.  I remember Mr. Roger’s asking questions of his audience, and me responding to the television screen as if he were sitting in my own living room.

As he sang the theme song, Rogers would enter the living room to his make-believe house.  He would change out of his outdoor jacket and dress shoes, into a cardigan sweater and canvas sneakers.  As he tied the final knot to his sneakers, Rogers would sing, “Won’t you please…Won’t you please… Please won’t you be my neighbor?”

Then he would smile toward the camera and say:  “Hi television neighbor! I am glad we can be together again!”

During his career, Rogers received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, some forty honorary degrees, and a Peabody Award. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, was recognized by two Congressional resolutions, and was ranked No. 35 among TV Guide’s Fifty Greatest TV Stars of All Time.   Several buildings and artworks in Pennsylvania are dedicated to his memory, and the Smithsonian Institution displays one of his trademark sweaters as a “Treasure of American History”.

A Presbyterian minister college from the Eastern Shore, the Rev. Jane Young, was a close family friend of Fred Rogers and was one of those invited to speak at his funeral.  She said that with Fred Rogers, what you saw on television was what you got in real life.  Mr. Rogers was always kind, soft-spoken, and he would looked you straight in the eye when he spoke to you.

One story that was shared in his eulogy was reported by journalist Tom Junod in an article published in November of 1998 in Esquire.

It is a true story of a young man afflicted with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy did not affect this young man’s mind, but it affected his motor skills and his ability to speak. The boy could only communicate through typing on his computer.  In addition to his physical disabilities, the boy suffered emotional problems after some of his care givers callously abused him. Overwhelmed with self-hatred, the boy often hit himself. Using his computer, he wrote to his mother that he wished he could die.

There was one thing that seemed to bring the boy comfort: watching “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.” The kindly, mild-mannered Mr. Rogers emphasized that all people are valuable and worthy of love. His calming demeanor and accepting message touched the boy’s heart and gave him hope.

One day a children’s foundation set up a meeting between the boy and his hero, Mr. Rogers. Upon meeting Mr. Rogers, the boy became so nervous that he began hitting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room to calm him down. When he returned, Mr. Rogers carried on their conversation as if nothing had happened. And then Mr. Rogers ended the conversation by asking the boy a very special favor.

“Would you pray for me?” Rogers asked the child.

The boy was floored by this request. Would he pray for Mr. Rogers? He had always been the object of someone else’s prayers. But from that day forward, the boy began praying for Fred Rogers, and he experienced a new sense of hope and self-esteem through this act of praying for a man he so admired.

The reporter, Tom Junod, complimented Fred Rogers on this idea, thinking that asking for the boys prayers was a strategy for increasing the boys self-esteem.

Rogers reacted with surprise, saying that his request for prayer was sincere.

“I didn’t ask him for his prayers for HIM, I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.”

Wouldn’t you like to have a neighbor like Mr. Rogers – somebody who is kind, compassionate, direct and honest?

“Won’t you please…won’t you please…please won’t you be my neighbor?”

In today’ text from Luke, a lawyer is sent by the religious establishment to “text” Jesus’ theology and opinions.  The man starts his conversation, as religion is apt to do, inquiring about what a person has to do to be right with God.

In his words, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  In other words, the man want to insure that he has the best God has to offer to those who live and upright and righteous lifestyle.

“You tell me!” Jesus says.  “You know the Law…what does it say?”

Quoting the Hebrew scriptures, the man answers:  “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind…and you should love your neighbor as yourself.”

“That’s the right answer,” Jesus said.  “Do that and you will live!”

Next the text says that the lawyer wanted to “justify himself.”  That’s an odd statement.  Evidently the man felt insecure about something in his life that was uncovered as he quoted scripture in response to Jesus.  Jesus said, “Do that and you will live!”  Evidently the man felt that maybe there was something in the THAT that he was NOT doing, so he wanted to “justify” himself.  He wanted to cover his bases, as it were!  Isn’t it interesting that the man intended to put Jesus to the “test,” but now finds himself in a bit of a sticky situation?  So we have to wonder what it was that put this man in such a quandary.  That’s revealed in the man’s next question:

“Who is my neighbor?”

The man wanted to know just how inclusive he needed to be.  Evidently he already had his list of whose in and whose out.  Of whose acceptable and whose to be excluded!  Of whose suitable and whose to be eliminated from the “neighbor” status.

That’s the way religion operates.  Some are considered acceptable, others, not so much.

Should I included a Roman Catholic in my “neighbor” circle when I am a Baptist?  When I was a teen, some in my Baptist congregation warned me to stay away from those Catholics.

How about an “illegal alien”?  Can one of them be in my circle?

How about a black man, an Hispanic woman, or somebody of Asian descent?

Should I include someone in my circle of neighbors who is not a church going person?  Or what if they are even more than non-religious…what if they are anti-religion?  Can that kind of man or women be in my “circle”?

How about somebody from a differing religion…say a Muslim, for example?

How about somebody whose lifestyle I disagree with?  Can a gay man or a lesbian woman be “my neighbor”?  The issue is not whether they can live next door or across the street.  The issue is whether such a person can sit with us at our dinner table or hold our hand in a prayer circle at a Bible study?

These are the kinds of issues the lawyer was addressing when he asked Jesus:  “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus responses with a parable.  We’ve heard this story so many times that it has sort of lost its impact.  But the parable of the Good Samaritan was one of the most shocking stories that Jesus ever told.  It made the religious folk look really bad.

Now, typically, when a Rabbi would tells a story, the religious types would be heralded as the prime examples of goodness and virtue.  In the story of the “Good Samaritan,” this is not how Rabbi Jesus portrays the religious crowd.  In Jesus’ story, the Priest and the Levite are not heroes.  How could they be?  Jesus story paints them leaving a poor, defenseless, wounded victim along the side of the road.  They swerve lanes to pass by on the other side to avoid getting too close.

What prompted this detour in Jesus narrative?  Evidently they were so obsessed and absorbed with the responsibilities of their religion that they were willing to pass by genuine human need.  It’d be like seeing a homeless man passed out on the side of the road, but not stopping to help because it might make us late for the church committee meeting aimed to talk about helping the homeless.

So, Jesus does not make the religious folks the hero of his story.  He does not build up their devotion to meetings, their faithfulness at attending worship, or the amount of money they toss in the coffers.  He does not lift them up one bit.

But that is not the extent of the story’s shock value.  You see Jesus does lift up a heroic character in his parable, but that hero is the type person that no good Jewish man would ever include in his “circle of friends.”  The hero in Jesus’ story is a Samaritan – and in the minds of Jesus’ listeners, there could be nothing “good” about any Samaritan.  To the Jews, Samaritans were outsiders to  everything in life that was considered right, noble, and good.

So, let’s sum up the picture.

The first “shock” to the system in Jesus story was who Jesus portrayed .  He is the everyday traveler between Jerusalem and Jericho.  That would make his the typical Jews, folks who considered themselves on the “inside” when it came to God.

Let’s assume in our day that he is the everyday Baptist, or Methodist, or Episcopalian, or Presbyterian, or somebody from any of the other religious systems of the day.  These are the good church going folks who assume that their observance of the rituals, rules, and regulations of their religion has made everything all right between themselves and God.

Yet just like the rest of the world, they, too, find themselves beaten down and broken by sin.  Despite their best efforts and birth right as people in the religious crowd, they find themselves left for dead, without a bit of help.

The religious elite (the priest, Popes, potentates, and pastors) pass by, offering no help.  How could they help?  At some point they, too, will end up on the side of the road broken and beaten.  There are no religious rituals or rules that will earn anyone salvation anyways.

The root of the  word “religion” means to tie down and restrict.  That’s what religion does.  It ties us down and restricts.  It does not bring life and liberty and hope and freedom and grace…it only brings more burdens and regulations.

So, when you are beaten down and abused and left for dead, don’t expect help from religion.

But there is help from one.  He is the least likely of heroes.  In the parable, he is an outsider.  He is one who is despised and rejected.  Yet he comes, has mercy, binds up the man’s wounds, carries him to safety, and provides whatever cost is incurred bringing the beaten man back to health and life.

There is certainly a morality lesson here.  There is no denying it.  We are not to be like the religious crowd.  We are to be like the Samaritan, the one who stopped and did what the other two in the story did not.

This is not just a story about who is our neighbor.  It is also an instruction on how to BE a neighbor.  BUT if we stop there we miss the deeper lesson.  This parable is MORE than simply a morality lesson.

Before there is the life within us to BE that kind of neighbor, there has to be one that comes to us and gives us that life.  You see we are the ones broken and beaten and left for dead at side of the road.  For us to be a channel of life, we need to be blessed with life by one who can come us when nobody else would or could.

Jesus is our “Good Samaritan.”  He doesn’t come to set for us an example.  He comes to be our source, our life, our salvation.  The message today is not to be like the Samaritan, but to live life from the Savior, the one who has given us all such amazing grace.

I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers
by: Tim Madigan
publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, published: 2012-03-10
ASIN: 1470155117
EAN: 9781470155117
sales rank: 189444
price: $7.53 (new), $7.52 (used)

It began as another newspaper assignment, a celebrity profile of the children’s television icon. But in Fred Rogers, Texas journalist Tim Madigan found more than a fascinating subject. From their first meeting in 1995, at Rogers’ invitation, the two became unlikely friends, a deep and abiding relationship that lasted until Rogers’ death in 2003. In that time, Madigan found Rogers to be much more than the calm and compassionate personality of television. He was a person of unique human greatness who embodied love, compassion and wisdom his every waking moment. He was the transcendent being who guided Madigan through periods of life-threatening depression and the tragic death of a sibling and helped him heal his difficult relationship with his father. I’m Proud of You reveals Fred Rogers as a person who deserves a place among history’s greatest people. It chronicles male friendship at its finest and most powerful. And it is a book that has already brought hope and inspiration to many thousands of its readers. With this second edition, including a new afterword by the author, the inspiration continues. “Fred comes to life in I’m Proud of You, with his simple goodness etched on every page, and his complicated greatness etched in the heart of every reader who finishes the book and decides to become a better person.”—Tom Junod, writer at large for Esquire “A loving testament to the power of friendship and to a most remarkable man.” –The Boston Sunday Globe “I’m Proud of You will connect with the same audience that loved Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie and its celebration of male mentoring and friendship.” – USA Today “A poignant, inspiring account…” – Minneapolis Star-Tribune

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