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Mr. Rogers and God
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Text: John 3:16

Note: I begin this sermon with a performance of the classic Mr. Rogers' It’s a Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood. I sing the song while putting on a cardigan sweater and sneakers.

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood
A. Several years ago Mr. Rogers was invited to give the invocation at the graduation exercises on the campus of Boston University.
  1. The somber faced deans and regally dressed academics ere ill-prepared for what happened when the 64 year old Presbyterian clergyman stepped to the podium.
  2. The 5,400 graduates leaped to their feet, threw their caps into the air, and shouted, "Mr. Rogers! Yeah!"
  3. The red-robed graduates broke into a wave shouting louder and louder, "Mr. Rogers!  Mr. Rogers!  Mr. Rogers!"
  4. Rogers simply stood there smiling shyly wondering how he was going to get these wild kids to settle down for prayer.
  5. And then with the tiniest voice he leaned into the microphone and said, "Will you sing with me?"
  6. The graduates locked arms and swayed together as they sang It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
B. Fred Rogers lived his life in the city of Pittsburg where Mr. Roger's Neighborhood was produced.
  1. The life he led was disciplined, deliberate, and gentle.
  2. Every morning at 6:30, he was in the pool swimming laps.
  3. He didn't smoke or drink, he rarely went to parties, and he was in bed by 9:30 every night.
  4. In every show he took off his shoes and put on his sneakers.
  5. There was this simple ritual that let you know that this was a safe and comfortable place to be.
  6. With happy songs and simple puppetry and grandfatherly conversation Mr. Rogers found a new way each day to get his message into the hearts of kids across America.
  7. And what was that message?
  8. That you are special. That you are worthwhile, no matter what you are like on the outside. That it's what's inside you that matters most.
C. In the familiar lines of John 3:16, we can see that that is God's message to us today.
  1. You are special.
  2. You are loved.
  3. You are so special and you are so loved that God gave all of heaven for you in the precious gift of Jesus Christ.
  4. Let's say those familiar lines together:

For God so loved the world
That He gave His only begotten Son,
That whosoever believeth in Him,
Should not perish,
But have everlasting life.
For God So Loved the World
A. Now let's face it -

All of us have these pictures of God in our heads and a lot of these pictures are badly out of focus.
  1. For some of us God is like a Disneyland dad–
    a. An easy sort of fellow who promises a magic kingdom day, everyday.
    b. No heartaches. No hard times.
    c. Just one big thrill ride after another.
  2. For some of us God is like a Las Vegas slot machine–
Put your good-deeder quarter in the slot and hope for the jackpot.
  3. For some of us God is like a Duchesne cop.
    a. Let me explain.
    b. For three years I pastored a little church in Vernal, Utah.
    c. It took me three hours each way to get there.
    d. And every time I drove there I had to go through the town of Duchesne.
    e. Now the cops in Duchesne are ticket happy guys.
    f. I think that's how they funded the whole department.
    g. And one Sabbath afternoon I went flying through town and they nailed me.
    h. When got to church I complained about how I had gotten a ticket and they laughed at me.
    i. They said, "That's nothing. Pastor Jones came over here one Sabbath from Salt Lake City and he got a ticket on his way to church and another one on his way home."
    j. Some people think God is like a Duchesne cop – Someone who is out to get you.
  4. For some of us God is like Ebenezer Scrooge–
    a. Someone who is a genuine bore.
    b. Someone who drains the very joy out of life.
    c. A lot of people see God as the original tightwad who wants His people to mindlessly adhere to a bunch of arbitrary rules.
B. When it comes to getting a clear picture of God the Bible tells us that the very heart and soul – the very quintessence of God is love.
  1. And that love is so deep, so wide, so high we can't totally get our feeble minds around it.
  2. And so God says, "Let me show you some pictures from my family picture album."
C. The first snap shot takes us clear back to the beginning of our world.
  1. The love of God can be seen in the creation of the human race.
  2. The companionship of men and women was something that God wanted to enjoy so He did something He had never done before–
  3. From the very elements of the earth He fashioned the first man and woman and He breathed into them the breath of life.
  4. Adam and Eve were more than mere puppets. They were given the ability to choose love for God in response.
  5. Every single day God fellowshipped with Adam and Eve.
  6. The laughter and love they shared created unforgettable moments together.
D. And then one day Adam and Eve began to doubt that love and they acted upon those doubts by eating the forbidden fruit.
  1. In that moment the entire course of the human race was altered.
  2. Selfishness, hatred, bitterness, cynicism, sorrow and death penetrated the whole human experience.
E. During the Vietnam War David Roever was given the assignment to clear a path through the jungle for the other soldiers.
  1. He stood on the bow of his boat and reached for a hand grenade.
  2. He drew his arm back and started to hurl the grenade into the thicket ahead when all of a sudden a hidden enemy shot the grenade right in his hand.
  3. The whole thing exploded a mere 6 inches from his face spraying white phosphorus all over his body.
  4. In an instant he became a human torch.
  5. Even the water in the swamp could not put out the flames.
  6. Finally the medics were able to spray him with copper sulfate and get him to the hospital to begin the healing process.
  7. Two weeks later they decided to do surgery and when the doctors made the incision Roever's internal organs burst into flame.
  8. Evidently some of the white phosphorus had been ingested and when the phosphorus was ignited by the oxygen in the operating room it set the man on fire all over again.
  9. That's the way it is with sin–
    a. It has penetrated the whole human race.
    b. It is a systemic kind of thing that burns deep within us.
    c. And it is fatal.
F. Now God could have been like a Duchsene cop and nailed us to the wall.
  1. He could have said, "That's it! I'm through with you!"
  2. He could have zapped us clear out of existence with the sweep of a finger-tip laser beam.
  3. But – God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
That He Gave His Only Begotten Son
A. Within moments of Adam and Eve's fall the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit met together in a holy conclave to confirm the contingency plans that had always been there should the human race fail.
  1. With broken hearts and tear streaked faces they determined that love would find a way to save the human race.
  2. In a mystery that we will never fully understand, it was decided that Jesus, the Son of God would come to this earth and pay the penalty for our sin.
  3. It was the only way.
  4. Only He who fully knew the height and depth and width of God's love. Only He could make it fully known on earth.
  5. Only He whose holy character is reflected in the law of God could make atonement for its violation.
  6. And so Jesus came to this earth to live and die – to show us what love is all about.
B. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939 the old fort in Toledo was held under bombardment for 72 days by the communist dominated loyalist forces.
  1. Some how the enemy captured the general's son.
  2. They called the general and said,  "We've got your son. You must surrender the fort."
  3. They put the young man on the phone and he cried out, "Father, unless you surrender the fort they will kill me."
  4. It was a heart wrenching moment.
  5. The father struggled to make a decision.
  6. Should he sacrifice his country's interests because of his deep love for his son?
  7. Finally the anguished words came,
    a. "My son, commend your soul to God.
    b. Cry Viva la Espana/Long live Spain
    c. And die like a patriot.
    d. Good-bye, my son."
  8. The father then went to the back corner of the fort and fell on his knees to cry and pray.
  9. And as the tears streamed through his fingers he heard the shot at the bottom of the hill that took his son's life.
  10. This father made the supreme sacrifice for his country – He gave up his son.
C. Listen my friend – you will never find a love that is greater than the love God has for you.
  1. In Jesus Christ He made the supreme sacrifice for you.
  2. He gave all of heaven for you.
D. In a mystery that defies full human comprehension Jesus laid aside His royal robes and came to this earth.
  1. The King of glory became the babe of Bethlehem.
  2. The Creator of the universe learned to craft wood into fine pieces of furniture in the Nazarene's carpenter shop.
  3. In His ministry Jesus worked to widen our apertures and sharpen our focus – to deliver a good, crisp, clear picture of God's love for us.
  4. He gathered the children in His arms.
  5. He healed the sick and raised the dead.
  6. He treated women with respect and dignity.
  7. With a twinkle in His eyes and humorous wit He spoke words of hope to men and women and children.
  8. He did not flinch in the face of oppression.
  9. Even when He called the religious power brokers of His days a bunch of snakes and white-washed sepulchers there were tears in His eyes. Tough love in His voice.
E. And to top it all off, He died on the cross for you and me.
  1. Christ was treated as we deserve that we might be treated as He deserves.
  2. He was condemned for our sins in which He had no share that we might be justified by His righteousness in which we had no share.
  3. He suffered the death that was ours, that we might receive the life which is His. - Desire of Ages 25
That whosoever believeth in Him Should not perish, but have everlasting life
A. The future is bright for those who embrace that love –
  1. Jesus tells us that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.
  2. Our Savior who lived and died and rose again and ascended into heavenly places has promised to come again and take us to heaven where we will live forever.
  3. Never again will terrorists knock down World Trade Center and snuff out thousands of lives in an instant.
  4. Never again will a tsunami sweep across Asia.
  5. Never again will a hurricane blow through the gulf states.
  6. Never again will the centers for disease control have to grapple with cancer and AIDS.
  7. Never again will gangs and drug cartels take control of our streets.
  8. For we will live in a city whose builder and maker is God.  Hebrew 11:10
B. So what does it take to get all that?  What does it take to get the gift of eternal life?
  1. Jesus gives us the answer right here in John 3:16 –
  2. Whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.
C. The story is told of a woman who was driving alone late at night and plunged into a guard rail.
  1. For two and a half hours this woman writhed in excruciating pain and her car dangled from the overpass by its left rear wheel.
  2. Twenty-five people pulled over and tried to steady the wreckage with ropes.
  3. Fire fighters extended a ladder from below to stabilize the vehicle while cables and chains were tied to tow trucks up above.
  4. And through the entire ordeal the trapped woman screamed out her pain – "I'll do it myself! I'll do it myself!"
D. Listen my friend, when it comes to crawling out of the wreckage of sin and death, you can't do it yourself.
  1. You need outside help.
  2. You need Jesus.
  3. And the way you connect with Him is through faith.
  4. By trusting Him to do for you what you are not able to do for yourself.
E. Many years ago a woman found her life ebbing away.
  1. Every day found her a little more drained.
  2. The diagnosis was easy–
  3. Any doctor could see that this woman was suffering from internal bleeding.
  4. One doctor told her to carry the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen rag.
  5. Another told her to carry in her hand some barley corn that had been found in the fecal matter of a white donkey.
  6. She went to dozens of doctors and everyone of them had some hair-brained cure to suggest.
  7. With her strength almost gone and her life savings spent she ventured one day into a jostling crowd.
  8. Jesus was her only hope and she was convinced that if only she could slip down low, reach through the legs of that crowd and touch the hem of Jesus' robe – she would be healed.
  9. With her last ounce of energy she crouched down low and reached out her hand and brushed her finger tips across the hem of Jesus' robe.
  10. Instantly, she was healed.
  11. Jesus stopped and asked, "Who touched me?"
  12. The crowd was incredulous – in a busy bunch like that it could have been anyone.
  13. But Jesus recognized the difference between a casual touch and the touch of faith.
F. There is a difference between a casual contact and faith that truly takes hold.
  1. To believe that Jesus is a historical personality just like Abraham Lincoln or Margaret Thatcher is not enough.
  2. To intellectually embrace a certain body of doctrinal beliefs is not enough.
  3. To accept that fact that Jesus is the Savior of the world and not to personally stake your claim to that salvation is not enough.
  4. You must accept, you must receive Jesus as your personal Savior.
  5. You must embrace that love and love Him in return.
G. One day little Brian Campbell traveled all the way from his home in Arlington, Texas to Pittsburg to visit Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood set.
  1. Plump and awkward, Brian had William's syndrome – a condition that causes mild mental retardation and congenital heart defects.
  2. As he walked through studio A, he spotted his hero.
  3. "Hey, you're the real Mr. Rogers," he cried out.
  4. Mr. Rogers bent down to shake little Brian's hand and said,  "And you are the real you. You're so brave to shake my hand."
  5. "I'm special, aren't I, Mr. Rogers?" Brian asked.
  6. "Yes, you are."
  7. "You know what, Mr. Rogers? You are my friend!"
  8. And with that he began to sing one of the neighborhood songs.
  9. As the last words were lisped, little Brian's eyes got big and he said, "Mr. Rogers, can I give you a big hug?"
  10. Down on his knees, Fred Rogers opened his arms out wide and little Brian fell into that warm embrace.
  11. "I love you, Mr. Rogers," he whispered.
H. Right now God is bending down to take you into His arms.
  1. And I wonder, will you fall into that embrace?
  2. Will you say, "I love you Jesus"?
  3. Do want to spend eternity basking in the wonder of his love?

Submitted by Dan Martella. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.



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