Summary: Neighbors. There are good ones and then those we wished would move. Have we become Neighborhaters? Can’t we get along?

Mr. Rogers Sound Track plays in dark - Lights Come on Pastor Enters from Stage Door and lip syncs to track

Room in the Pool

I. Introduction

Nostalgia. Fond childhood memories. Wholesome. Meek. Soft spoken. A super hero in disguise. His uniform was colorful sweaters and sneakers. He used his weapons of silly songs to disarm anger, fear, and neighborhating. Each week his goal was to teach us how to push past differences and love. It was easy to miss or overlook but Mr. Rogers was unafraid to weigh in on huge social issues. This may have never been more true than in August of 1968. While attending church, Mr. Rogers heard a guest singer by the name of Francois Clemmons. Clemmons was born to slaves and sharecroppers in Alabama. He was touring as an opera singer. After he finished singing, Mr. Rogers invited him to join him on his show. Clemmons joined The Neighborhood in August 1968, only four months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In doing so, Clemmons became the first African-American with a recurring role on a children’s television series. However, it is Episode 1065, that I want to draw your attention to today. The show opened in the typical manner with Rogers inviting viewers to be his neighbor; but instead of putting on his iconic cardigan, Rogers talks about how hot the day is and how nice it would be to put his feet in a pool of cold water. He moves to his front yard where he fills a small plastic pool with water and begins to soak his feet. (SLIDE 2) Soon Officer Clemmons drops by for a visit and Mr. Rogers invites him to share the pool with him. Clemmons quickly accepts, rolls up his pant legs of his uniform, and places his brown feet in the same water as Rogers’ very white feet.

Today, this small gesture may seem insignificant, but in 1969, it was considerable. Like public fountains, public transportation, and public schools, the public pool had become a battleground of racial segregation. Under Jim Crow era policy, not only could black and whites not swim at the same time, many pools were entirely off limits to blacks, fueled by a fear that African-Americans carried disease and the view that swimming pools were physically (and by extension sexually) intimate contexts. Like the lunch counter and public buses, swimming pools became a point of protest. Both black and white protestors staged wade-ins and swim-ins at beaches and community pools; but just like at sit-ins local authorities responded with arrest and sometimes, physical violence. (SLIDE 3) One iconic image from June 1964 shows a hotel manager dumping muriatic acid in a pool of black and white bathers, while a young black woman clings to a white man screaming in terror. Mr. Rogers took time to break down barriers. He did this by making room in his pool.

We must continue to make room in our pool.

Have Andrew and Taurrie join me. Discussion on discrimination and race.

Neighborhating really isn't a new issue. Even the early church dealt with this . . .

James 2:1-8

My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted? Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?

You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.”

So James confronted neighborhating by repeating the command of Christ!

What is His command?

Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

But in order to avoid shutting people out and to make room in our pool (life) we must do more that give lip service to or be able to quote a command we must also take on the character of Christ.

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