I was looking through my bookcase in my office this morning, and I came across something that I had largely forgotten about-a collection of reflections written by Fred Rogers of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood fame- entitled "The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember". As I flipped through the pages, I was reminded again of the wisdom of this man-of how we need to look to the small things and the seemingly ordinary people that cross our paths daily. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister, and his ministry was lived out for children. But it was the parents and significant adults in our children's lives who were the recipients of his wisdom as much as the children who watched his popular Public Television show.
One of the reflections touched me as a preacher although it will speak to others as well, about the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us, even if we are totally unaware of it. Rogers relates about how he was on a weekend vacation, midway through seminary, in a small New England town. He decided that he would visit the little chapel to hear the visiting preacher. And it was the worst sermon ever. Rogers remembers how he sat there in that pew that morning thinking about how
the man had broken every rule that he had learned in his preaching class at seminary. That was until he glanced at the person sitting next to him, a woman with tears streaming down her face, softly whispering, "He said exactly what I needed to hear." It was then that he realized something very important had happened in the service in that tiny chapel. The woman
had come in need- in desperate need, and the Holy Spirit had worked through that poorly crafted sermon to speak to that woman's heart. But Rogers had come in judgement and heard nothing but faults.
It took a while for that experience to sink in, because I have seen myself in the same situation as he was on that morning—judgmental and unable to leave room for the Holy Spirit to do the work. I think that we as pastors sometimes are so quick to pick apart one another's preaching—this or that point was incorrect, or this or that was said in an awkward way.
It was transformational in how Rogers saw the work of the Holy Spirit in those moments where preacher and Good News can combine to be something amazing, even when he (and I, and many, many others) may have felt that the message was less than powerful. We try to do our best, but it is the Holy Spirit that ultimately speaks to the heart of
the hearer, even sometimes despite our best attempts.
And it's not just about preaching. All of us are called to be ministers-to be vessels of the Holy Spirit, even when we feel less than equipped. But it's not necessarily about us, but rather the empowering Spirit working through us, for the good of our neighbor-the one with a need that we can help wherever we are.
Grace and Peace,