31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
February 9, 2020
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Despite having passed away seventeen years ago this month, Fred Rogers is very much en vogue right now. In addition to the movie and documentary about his life, there are countless books written by and about this man whose calling was to help us love ourselves and love our neighbors.
One of those books, called I’m Proud of You, details Tim Madigan’s friendship with Fred Rogers. Over the course of their eight year friendship, Tim writes about the times when Fred’s unconditional love, when Fred’s prayers made a difference in his life and in the lives of those Tim knew. He quotes his own mother, a woman of deep faith saying, “With Mister Rogers keeping us in his prayers, it doesn’t get any better than that.” (Madigan, I’m Proud of You, 179)
The power of Fred Rogers’ love, the strength, the honesty of it was transformative, and it came from his own deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.
Fred Rogers was deeply connected to Jesus. He began each morning with prayer. He embraced moments of silence to listen to God’s still speaking voice. Fred Rogers’ branch was firmly connected to the true vine, and that is what allowed him to bear fruit, to share love, to confidently own his ministry of telling each individual “You are important. You are valuable. You are enough – just as you are.” (Reid, You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood, Author’s Note)
We are not Fred Rogers though. Very few people have his discipline to begin each day with prayer, Bible study, and a 30 minute swim. None of us have his life experiences, which created him to be an introspective, sensitive, hard-working man who was thoroughly focused on loving God and loving his neighbor.
None of us are Fred Rogers; however all of us can be connected to Jesus. All of us can grow on our journey to know how amazingly and unconditionally God loves us. All of us can be connected to the vine and bear fruit, the fruit of God’s love in the world.
Throughout this season of Epiphany, we have been focusing on our connections with others: with strangers, with our literal neighbors, with other churches and Christians, with the close friends who support us no matter what. This morning, I want to guide you in a meditation to help you connect with Jesus because it is our connection with the God of love we know through Jesus Christ which gives us the faith, the discipline, the strength, and ability to connect with all these others.
I invite you to comfortably rest your hands open and face up in your lap. Relax the rest of your body. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths.
Imagine yourself walking down a city sidewalk. There are people walking toward you and beside you. Cars move quickly past on the roadway. All around you is activity.
As you walk along, you notice tendrils of ivy climbing over and across the brick wall bordering the sidewalk. Enchanted, your eyes follow the ivy as you walk along.
When they lead you to a gate, you listen to the feeling inside you that encourages you to pause in your journey and push open the gate.
You discover a garden. Your eyes alight on a stand of purple wisteria. Your nose delights in the smells of honey suckle, then jasmine. You pause to take it all in. (Pause)
You follow the garden path, pausing to watch hummingbirds dart around the trumpet vine, reaching out your fingers to touch the flowers of the morning glory.
As enjoy the softness of the flower, you notice there is writing inside one. You lean closer and discover it is the name of someone who once showed you great kindness. The memory of that kindness, the memory of the person fills your heart with joy. (Pause)
You notice there is a name inside the flower of another morning glory. This name is of someone who made a significant difference in helping you be the amazing person you are right now. The memory of this person fills your heart with gratitude. (Pause)
Your fingers and your eyes follow the vine to a third flower and a third name – someone who introduced you to the unconditional love of God. That memory fills your heart with peace. (Pause)
You continue to let the joy, gratitude, and peace fill your heart and soul. You take a deep breath in and then slowly let it out.
As you look up from the morning glory, you see a man walking toward you. He looks like a gardener. Your heart knows it is Jesus.
As he walks along toward you, you watch him reach out and pinch the dying bud off this vine, the diseased leaf off another.
Jesus invites you to walk with him toward a garden bench in a grape arbor. Together you sit down. Wordlessly, Jesus reaches out his hand to you. Wordlessly, you place your hand in his.
The joy, the gratitude, the peace you felt earlier are magnified.
The worry, the fear, the stress that you did not even realize you were carrying, all seem to be slowly pruned away.
As you sit quietly beside Jesus, you feel his strength, his calm, his love flowing through his hand into your hand, into your heart and mind.
“Abide in me as I abide in you.” (John 15:4)
“Abide in me as I abide in you.” (John 15:4)
You are connected to Jesus and he is connected to you.
Jesus is a part of you, and you are a part of him.
As the sunlight begins to fade from the garden, Jesus invites you to walk with him. Jesus leads you back to the gate, and although it saddens you, although you want to stay in the peaceful flowering garden forever, you understand you have a calling –to go and bear much fruit, to go and share much love, to go and connect with others and connect them with Jesus.
As you slowly walk out of the garden, back onto the city sidewalk, you slowly come back to the present, to this place, filled with joy and gratitude for all who have connected you with Jesus, filled with love for all you will connect with Jesus.