Here's this week's long "Opening the Bible" blog entry for i.ucc:
I started watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood just after I started watching Television. There was a 6-month period where I would watch “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “I Love Lucy,” but as soon as Mister Rogers was first on PBS I was hooked. (I also watched Sesame Street, but I have always been partial to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.)
I learned many valuable lessons from Mister Rogers. I learned that everyone was important. I learned that the way a person dresses or how much money they have doesn’t make them special – everyone is special because everyone is unique. I learned that it is possible to stop doing something you know is wrong. I learned that unconditional love really does exist.
Sure – those lessons were reinforced by my family and without their example I don’t think I would have been able to fully grasp all of what Mister Rogers was trying to teach in his television program, but I still believe I learned and was shaped to a great extent by watching Mister Rogers. (And no -- none of those Mister Rogers urban legends you've heard are true.)
In Mister Rogers Neighborhood, things are mostly pleasant – but not always. In the Neighborhood of make-believe there are daily problems that need to be addressed. Someone is not feeling needed. Someone is thinking that they are more important than everyone else is. Someone has done something that they need to say “I’m sorry” for. Someone needs the help of others. Someone needs a friend.
In this week’s Bible reading from Luke 10:27-35, a lawyer showed that he understood what Jesus was trying to communicate – that we are to love God and to love our neighbor. But he needed clarification as to who our neighbor is. And Jesus told on of the most often read parables of the Bible: The parable of the Good Samaritan.
Who was the neighbor to the man who was beaten and robbed and left for dead? Was it the priest? Was it the Levite? (Incidentally, both priests and Levites worked in the Temple. The priests, who had to be Levites, were authorized to perform sacrifices in the Temple. Levites who were not yet priests did all the other stuff -- They were elders, deacons, custodians, assistants, musicians, movers, and repairmen. Both were required by scripture to do good deeds and to care for those who were hurt.)
It was the Samaritan. It was the least likely person to do anything good – according to the thoughts of the ones hearing the parable. The Samaritan was the outcast. The Samaritan was the opposite of a neighbor.
To the world at the time, Jesus was the outcast who was reaching out with help to those who needed it. The church was turning a blind eye to the plight of the injured, the sick and the poor. Jesus was welcoming all to God's neighborhood.
God’s neighborhood is one where everyone is important. God’s neighborhood is one where the way a person dresses or how much money they have doesn’t make them special – the fact that they are a child of God makes them special. God’s neighborhood is one where unconditional love really does exist. It's big enough for all kinds of different people. It is big enough for babies, children, youth, young adults, middle age- adults, seniors – everyone. It is big enough for those with no education and those with advanced degrees. It is big enough for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. God’s neighborhood is big enough for rich people, poor people and “barely scraping by” people. God’s neighborhood is big enough for people with disabilities and people with mental illness. God’s neighborhood is big enough for Republicans, Democrats, independents, Greens, political activists and political apathists. It is big enough for soldiers, militia, and terrorists.
Every person in creation is worthy to be part of God’s neighborhood. Every person in creation is a child of God. Every person in creation is worthy of God’s unconditional love.