Sermon Text: The Gospel According to Fred
My son is a good judge of character. I admire him very much. Even as a little boy, he was thoughtful, kind, and perceptive.
He liked one TV show very much: Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. I thought it was dull, slow and boring. My son thought he was kind, gentle, and quiet. And he liked that.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a great man of the 20th century, once wrote this: "When I was younger, I used to admire intelligent people. Now that I am older, I admire kind people."
Me, too. And I have found out that Mister Rogers was the same person off camera as on TV. He really was gentle and kind.
Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, but he decided as a young man he would not be pastor of a church. Instead, he would be a pastor to children using television. There is a new documentary out now about him. My parents recommended it to me highly. I've ordered it, but haven't yet seen it.
But I have memorized something Mister Rogers wrote. "Listening is where love begins... listening to ourselves, and then to our neighbors."
This fits the teaching of Jesus, of course. In today's gospel story from Mark, there is an interesting word. The gospels, like all the New Testament documents, were written in Greek. But the language Jesus spoke was a version of Hebrew called Aramaic. And there are a few of the Aramaic words of Jesus scattered through Mark's gospel.
One of these Aramaic words is "ephphatha." It means, "be opened." Jesus heals someone who cannot hear, and that's what Jesus says. Ephphatha....be opened. And the man's ears are opened and he can hear again.
The prophet Isaiah promised that God would come, and the lame would dance, and the blind would see, and the deaf would hear. Ephphatha...be opened.
Ephphatha is a wonderful word. I think Jesus says it to all of us, all the time. Be open. You have ears, so hear. Listen.
My daughter famously echoed this word of Jesus to me once in a powerful way, when she said, "Listen up, Godboy!" I took it as the Word of the Lord.
Ephphatha...be open. You have ears, so hear. Listen.
Okay. Listen. But to what?
Listen to nature. The breeze in the leaves. The rush of waves on the shore. The songs of the birds. The ripple of water over river rocks. The patter of rain on the roof.
Listen to people. The laughter of children. The words of someone you love with all your heart. The friendly greeting of a neighbor. The cheers of a crowd at the big game. The question from a stranger in need.
Listen to pain. The tears of someone in grief. The questions of someone who has lost the way. The frustration of someone trying to do the impossible. The exhaustion of a caregiver. The complaint of someone who hurts.
Listen to yourself. Your dreams. Your sadness. Your joy. Your nights. Your days.
"Listening is where love begins," says Mister Rogers, "listening to ourselves, and then to our neighbors." I like the words of this Presbyterian minister.
And I like the words of another Presbyterian minister, one named Frederick Buechner. He wrote this: "Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness, touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, for in the last analysis, all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace."
You have ears, so hear.
And that's the Gospel according to my daughter,
and according to Mister Rogers
and according to Jesus.