"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?"
For many, singing this tune reminds us of Fred Rogers, the Presbyterian minister most famous for creating Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, a children's television show which consistently drove home hopeful messages of love and community. The Neighborhood was Fred Rogers way of looking at the world through the lens of possibility. Mr. Rogers always affirmed that each of us was worth loving, and therefore capable of loving others and being each other's neighbor, irrespective of what boundaries might prevent the formation of such a neighborhood.
Fred Rogers' vision of the neighborhood, reflects Jesus response to a lawyer's question about inheriting eternal life. Jesus said to him "Love your neighbor as yourself". Trying to trick Jesus, the lawyer then asked him "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus gave him the surprising answer in a story we have come to know as the "Parable of the Good Samaritan". There are many ways one can look at the parable and draw meaning from it, but one thing has always been very clear to me - that Jesus intended to teach that love was what broke down boundaries, even the hard thick walls of social and cultural divisions. The man who was beaten and left for dead on the side of the road needed love and mercy. He did not receive it from his own countrymen, religious leaders who walked by and refused to cross to the other side of the road. Instead, love and mercy were dispensed by a Samaritan, an ethnic outcast who modeled the boundary-crossing love Jesus was preaching.
Fred Rogers took this vision to heart and reached across boundaries, even when it was dangerous and inconvenient to do so. Pictured above with Rogers is Francois Clemmons, who played the role of Officer Clemmons for 25 years patrolling Mr. Rogers' neighborhood. When Rogers invited Clemmons to play a recurring character on the show, he initially declined, thinking it not such a good idea, reflecting on his experience as an African-American growing up in Youngstown Ohio, and dealing with a corrupt police force in that city. But as he thought more about it, Clemmons saw the strong statement that Rogers' wanted to make. He eventually accepted, and a boundary was broken down for the good of the neighborhood. Clemmons remained apprehensive about the role, but eventually felt it made a positive contribution.
You can read the full text of Francois Clemmons' story by clicking here:
This has truly been a grim week in the neighborhood. Violence, and not love have marked us once again. Boundaries, and not community have formed as sides become identified and chosen. The taking of another's life is never an act of love in the neighborhood. And the neighborhood stands with the families and others grieving the loss of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. We understand that Black Lives Matter because Jesus taught us to love our neighbor, and because people like Fred Rogers have showed us that Black Lives Matter. The neighborhood also stands with the families and others grieving the loss of five Dallas police officers, because revenge is not the same as justice, and enforces, rather than breaks down boundaries. Good police, loving, protecting and serving all neighbors makes for a good neighborhood.
So, while we may be saddened and angry by the terrible racism, violence and loss of life we see much too often in our neighborhood, I pray that we retain the hope that by love and boundary crossing, we can once again have another beautiful day in the neighborhood.
"So let's make the most of this beautiful day, and since we're together we might as well say: Would you be mine? Could You be mine? Won't You be?..............My Neighbor?"
Welcome to The Soul Cafe, a place for gathering, for learning and for conversation.
We invite you to join us as we study and discuss how God reveals himself to us in the Bible and in our lives.
Please read our blog, share our devotions and join the conversation.
About this website
Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.