A new movie about a children’s TV show is making quite a splash. The gentle spirit of its host stands in marked contrast to our day and age. Such was Fred Rogers, a fellow Presbyterian minister, whose calling was communications and children.
Presbyterian clergy are required to take two weeks of pre-approved study leave each year. Hopefully, it keeps us on our pastoral toes, so to speak. I sign up for a two-day conference in New York City at the Riverside Church, an edifice more like a Protestant cathedral. Hundreds of pastors are in attendance. The theme? Haven’t a clue over forty years later. Went with a friend whom I can’t recall as well. How could I ever forget what’s-his-name?
Sitting down about half way from the front of the church, I look around to see if I recognize anyone. Not a soul. Until I see Fred Rogers! Yes, THE Fred Rogers sitting right in my neighborhood! The session hasn’t started yet, so I scoot out of the pew, down a side aisle, bend over a few nice folk to greet the man himself. I tell him how much my boys love his show. He wants to know my name and theirs as well. That’s it. Half a minute. Over and out.
But not the end of the story. Next day I’m hanging out in the foyer of Riverside Church, waiting for my unremembered friend to arrive, when Mr. Rogers comes through the front door and right over to me, shaking my hand, saying, ‘Good morning, John. How are you today?’ What? He remembers my name? I can barely recall it myself at that moment, which becomes something I’ll never forget.
As amazing as Mr. Rogers’ greeting is to me, there’s something far greater. You know what I mean. Jesus knows us… by name. Yours and mine. And knows us through and through. And loves us like no one else could or would.
John 10: 27–‘My sheep know my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.’ John 10: 14–‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…’ We’re not John Does to Jesus. Quite the contrary.
Here’s an idea–this week why not go out of your way to mention someone’s name. Work at it. Promise to do so. See their reaction. Welcome them to your neighborhood!
Lord Jesus, thank you for knowing us by name. Amen.