Where to Find God
- Posted on Jul 23, 2018
We grow up thinking that our lives might not be successful unless we do BIG things.
We think this about making money, positions in our vocation, raising impeccable children.
This kind of big thinking always permeates church life–particularly about numbers in worship and budget and programs.
We Americans are trained to think about big goals and dreams.
Truth be told, big goals are often only realized in hindsight–after a succession of small routines and perseverance in little goods.
And the work of the little good is the work of the prophet, the evangelist, the disciple.
But we often get sidelined by the big event or goal.
Last week David Brooks wrote an extraordinary editorial not about the Supreme Court pick or Brexit and NATO or Immigration but about one of our favorite children’s television hosts Fred Rogers. (See David Brooks, “Fred Rogers and the Loveliness of the Little Good,” New York Times editorial, July 5, 2018)
There is a new documentary about the late Fred Rogers–who was a Presbyterian minister but best known for his long-running show on public broadcasting “Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
Brooks was taking to writing on this topic because he believes we all need a good dose of “radical kindness at a time when public kindness is scarce.”
In his show, Rogers often responded in a subtle way to the Big Events of the time.
When segregation and integration were rocking the country–and there was community tension all over the country to let black children swim with white children in the city pools–Mr Rogers introduced a friend to the neighborhood who happened to be African-American and they dipped their feet in a plastic kiddie pool together on the show one day.
Or when there was an assassination, Mr Rogers explained for his young listeners a way to understand what had made the adults in their lives fearful and anxious.
In 1997 in Kentucky there was a school shooting by a young man, and after the incident, it became known that the young man planned this tragic violence because “he wanted to do something BIG”
In response, Mr Rogers’ neighborhood began featuring a 14 year old boy who cerebral palsy had left him unable to stand or speak.
Mr Rogers asked the boy to pray for him.
The boy was impressed because no one who could walk or talk normally had ever asked HIM to pray for another.
The boy thought to himself: “Well, I must be ok if Mr Rogers asked me to pray because Mr Rogers is close to God. I must be ok then.”
(The boy had learned that he was holy and blessed too)
When asked about this, Mr Rogers replied: “Oh no! I asked this young man to pray for me because anyone who has gone through challenges like he has must be very close to God.”
That was the kind of gospel radicalism that infused Mr Rogers’ ministry in his show “Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
As Brooks says: the belief that”the child is closer to God than the adult; that the sick are closer to God than the healthy; that the poor are closer to God than the rich; and that the marginalized are closer to God than the celebrated.”
Kinds like the Beatitudes and the Magnificat to me.
Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
God has cast down the mighty from their throne and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent empty away.
Instead of saying to oneself “I’m going to do something BIG,”
wouldn’t the world be a different place if we said “I’m going to do something little tomorrow.