Scripture: Matthew 19:13-22
Key verse: (14) “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
Reflection: Sunday afternoon I had the opportunity to see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the new film inspired by one interviewer’s experience with the Reverend Fred Rogers, better known as “Mr. Rogers.” It’s not really a movie about Mr. Rogers, played by Tom Hanks, it’s more like an episode of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” that focuses on the life of the interviewer, Lloyd Vogel, played by Matthew Rhys. The movie was an inspired by a 1998 article in Esquire Magazine written by Tom Junod. (See: https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a27134/can-you-say-hero-esq1198/ )
Like last year’s powerful documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” the movie brought tears to my eyes. Mr. Rogers was a calm presence for me in the midst of a relatively turbulent childhood. His calming voice, his kind manner were my balm in Gilead. He embodied not only innocence and kindness, but wisdom and deep truth. His capacity to connect in such a genuine way through such an artificial medium as television was uncanny. Something about his way made you feel loved for being you, and so it was ok to be honest about your feelings, to talk about the things that troubled you and ask about the things you wondered about. As I child, he seemed to be the ideal adult. Ironically, for many adults he seemed childish.
“Let the children come to me,” said Jesus to his disciples, “for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” Fred Rogers had a deep understanding of this biblical truth. It informed his life and ministry. As a child, his show provided me with a taste of the kingdom of heaven, though I didn’t know it at the time. As an adult, I now see his innocence, kindness, wisdom and truth as reflections of his Lord. Something of his way reflected the truth about life we know in Christ. And so Mr. Rogers gave us all a taste of the holy.
In one scene in the movie, in the middle of a Chinese restaurant, Mr. Rogers asks Lloyd to just take one minute of silence to think about all the people in his life who helped him become who he was. Everyone in the scene stops, and so did everyone in the movie theater. One minute of silence to think about the people who helped us become who we are, who “love us into being.” That moment brought tears to my eyes, and though the theater was dark, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone. That moment was a taste of heaven, of the deep thanksgiving and gratitude at the heart of the life of faith. Apparently Fred Rogers asked people to do that all the time, sometimes for one minute, but more often just for ten seconds. He did it as part of his acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award in 1997. You can see it here.
“Let the children come to me…for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
Prayer: For today’s prayer, take Mr. Roger’s advice and just take 60 seconds of silence to think about the people who loved you into being, then giving thanks to God for them.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].