Inspired by a movie…
The family is all home for Thanksgiving break. This is a new season for us with a son now away at college. With some time to have fun together, we selected a movie to see at the theater – choosing a movie about Mr. Rogers over a race-car movie. My expectation was rather low for either, simply happy to be with my family! But, to my surprise, the movie about Mr. Rogers was moving, and inspirational. This movie is literally thought provoking, or perhaps better said emotion provoking. As I walked away from that movie and disposed of an empty bucket of popcorn and teary napkins, I am better for being reminded of the following things as I work on my own Neighborhood Improvement:
People are valuable
The value of all people, right where they are, just as they are, permeates the movie. Rom 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus focused the majority of His passionate anger toward the religious elite, the self-righteous. The elite looking to the outside – prestige, power, “success” – those who make those as connection points. But Jesus dialed into the heart. Most often He shared his ministry of connection with the broken, outcast, sick and abandoned. As we all know, regardless of our outward trappings each of us are broken, outcast, sick and abandoned. Ephesians says it more strongly as being “dead in our sins.” As Jesus accepts us as we are, I am not saying Jesus leaves us as we are, but he takes us as we are and shapes us and makes us ultimately to be like Him.
Often Mr. Rogers would avail himself to be available with people, or rather individuals. He did not multitask. Mr. Rogers did not speak so much to groups in conversation, but often zeroed in on one person even in those groups. He was present, and that person would know they were heard, understood, and accepted. It is fascinating that the premise of his television program was to speak into the camera as if it were to one person. Just as Nicodemas came to Jesus in the night to ask soul searching questions, or just as the woman at the well explored her life with the Master – both of these and many many more experienced the Truth personally.
No one is perfect
As shared by Mr. Rogers, while seemingly saintly, he was a jar of clay like us all. He met people where they were because he was also very familiar with his own shortcomings, in the past and present. But, he did work at it. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says,
“But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
and Paul declared in Philippians 3:12,
[ Straining Toward the Goal ] “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
Impacting your own neighborhood
It is not uncommon for Neighborhoods to band together for clean-up, safety teams, and overall neighborhood improvement. What if we also took time to restore our neighborhoods relationally. Building and maintaining relationships today is tough. Our culture seemingly stokes and pits us against one another creating sides and divisions. Not to mention the fact that there is an enemy who prowls about seeking those he can destroy; individually, in marriages, families and communities. Chaos and anarchy are his MO, for all time.
Book – The Art of Neighboring
The staff where I serve recently walked through the book The Art of Neighboring. This great read gives some straightforward context and descriptors of neighborly life today, or rather the lack thereof. And then it turns to ways to combat our isolation. Obviously there is a goal of permeating our relationship with the Gospel, while living authentically and transparently with those nearest us, even if we live in ways that do not align. I confess I am not a perfect neighbor. I get tired of other’s Christmas lights being up too long, barking dogs, and cars going too fast with stereos too loud and the like. But, I’m guilty of not being present, not looking for ways to connect and help in my own neighborhood improvement. This is where the Lord planted me. The need to be a neighbor who cares is my responsibility.
It’s Thanksgiving, how will you connect with your neighbor?