Monday, February 21, 2011

please, won't you?

That lovely, gentle saint, Mr. Rogers used to sing:

'It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It's a neighborly day in this beautywood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So let's make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we're together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?

Won't you please,
Won't you please,
Please won't you be my neighbor?'

Seems to me that God is (and has been trying for millennia) to invite us to live in a wonderful neighborhood, where revenge is not the norm, but reconciliation; where trying to have a bigger house, a newer car, more successful children and grandkids is not the standard, but it is taking care of the kids of the family down the street whose single mother has to work two shifts a day in order to put food on the table; where angry words are put out in the garbage can by the curb, and songs of friendship are sung over the backyard fences; where the losing side in the recent political election invites those who voted for the winners over for a picnic in the backyard, to talk about how, together, they can make the neighborhood a better place; where folks constantly live out the quaint notion that I show how much I love myself by how much I love those around me.

From Abraham to John on Patmos, from Leviticus to teenager Mary, from Jesus to Paul, over and over the Bible tells us of the invitation God offers to us.  Not with starry-eyed optimism, not with pie-in-the-sky promises, but with gritty honesty, with stark realism, with blunt words which let us know exactly how dangerous this invitation is.  Folks who want to live in God's neighborhood have to be willing to see people in a different way, to accept differences rather than trying to change them, to be willing to swallow pride, to listen to people who are constantly trying to shout others down, to recognize that the neighbor is the person who glowers at you as well as that person who showers you with love and hope.  The person you would love to hate turns out to be the person you are called to love, indeed with as much love as you have for yourself.

It's a dangerous invitation, but then it has always been risky to open one's ears, one's heart, one's life to God.

© 2011 Thom M. Shuman


Nancy Ross-Zimmerman said...

Thom, once again, in a few words, you have struck gold. Thank you for sharing your gifts! - Nancy

Chala Habasila said...

What a great neibourhood, Thom!