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Just the Way You Are

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from far away.

You search out my path and my lying down,

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?

Or where can I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there;

if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”

even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day,

for darkness is as light to you.

For it was you who formed my inward parts;

you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.”

Psalms 139:1-14 NRSV

At Christmas my daughter Sydney gave me a couple of books to read. I added them to a stack of books that I always seem to pick up and read a few pages before something either requires my attention or distracts me (like a squirrel running across the yard) and I have to put it down.

Rarely do I get through more than one or two chapters, despite my best efforts. If I do, then it is either a particularly boring day or a particularly good book. While I haven’t even started all the books my daughter gave me, the one that I did begin is a particularly good book!

The first time I picked it up, I read seven chapters and 70 pages, and I’m really annoyed that I had to stop! The book is Exactly as You Are: The Life and Faith of Mister Rogers. It is written by Shea Tuttle. Those of you who attend the church whose pulpit I am privileged to fill will be hearing excerpts from it in many sermons to come.

Early in the book, Mr. Rogers’s childhood is remembered. Several things are brought up, including the importance of his family, his church, and others in his community. It also recalls the fact that Fred Rogers was often ill as a child and because of his sickly nature and being overweight he was often bullied by other children. The bullies in his Elementary school called him Fat Freddy. He admits that he hated going to school. Like all of us, both the good and the bad stuck with him all his life.

His childhood experiences vastly influenced who he was and the work he did. He knew everyone—especially children—needed to have a place to share and be comfortable with their feelings.

While other mediums avoided such topics, “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” dealt with them in very real ways. Mr. Rogers, who was also Rev. Rogers, was unwavering in his belief that God likes you and me just the way we are. And that our calling is to do likewise.

The book explains it this way—including Mr. Rogers’s own words:

“When Fred acknowledged children’s very real feelings and walked through those feelings with them, he was taking a cue from Christianity’s central story: in the Gospels, God takes on human-ness and enters the world in the person of Jesus; God participates, very personally, in human struggles and fear. Fred models this divine care intentionally, ‘when I say that what we do (through Mr. Rogers neighborhood) is theological, I’m referring to the incarnation,’ he told an interviewer in 1971. ‘The incarnation means man is not isolated. There is Someone who cares and understands.’”

Of course, hidden in that is a call to you and me. You see, by remembering that each of us is God’s child and choosing to live in light of that knowledge, we too are called to be a part of the incarnation—that is, being God’s hands and feet on Earth. As such, we are to act lovingly towards all…a lesson we should have learned from watching “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” or perhaps studying the life of Christ. It’s what building the kingdom of God is all about, and when we do it, it makes for a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

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