“The real question is ‘How Do You Do?’”

Staff_McDermott, Tom“You’re gonna wanna sing it,” my theology professor told our class as he entered the room. We were clueless. “It’s almost as unavoidable as taking a breath. You can’t really help yourself. You just gotta do it. So here goes . . .

‘It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood

A beautiful day for a neighbor

Could you be mine?

Would you be mine?’”

It was kind of embarrassing since he couldn’t really “carry a tune,” as they say. But we awkwardly, half committedly, chimed in. Then he paused and we gladly stopped. When he started in much more enthusiastically,

Its a neighborly day in this beauty wood

A neighborly day for a beauty

Could you be mine?

Would you be mine?’”

He walked around us and leaned in as he sang,

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you

Ive always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.’”

Revealing the rest of the words on the chalkboard, he urged us to join in, which we did, by this point with the enthusiasm of bar room impropriety,

Lets make the most of this beautiful day

Since were together, might as well say

Would you be my, could you be my,

Wont you be my neighbor?!!

mr-rogers-neighborhoodIt was a humorous moment. Almost an icebreaker, in a way. We all got into it toward the last verse. But here we were, near the end of the semester, and our professor decides to get us a little closer with one another when it’s almost too late. The fact was, there were 25 plus women and men in the class and we certainly didn’t ALL “like” each other, much less agree with each other’s theology. There were probably 10 different denominations in that room, and even those within the same denomination didn’t necessarily see “eye to eye” on matters of dogma and theology.

But there we were, singing a preschool song about being neighbors and beauty in graduate school! And just to be sure we got the point, Dr. Routt added, “That’s pretty much the Gospel and the direction of the whole story of God. We’ve known it since preschool —

‘Since we’re together, might as well say…’”

We’ve been thinking about the ways we talk about God in the world and in our communities — The 5W’s of God (and 1 H): the Why, What, Where, When, and Who of God.

This Sunday, I want to think with you about that one “H” — How. The question seems to always be, “How do we experience the ineffable, unnamable, mysterious idea/reality/question of God?” But I think the more important question might be, “How does the ineffable, unnamable, mysterious idea/reality/question of God experience us?”

My Uncle Mac, in his infinite wisdom, used to say, “You can tell WHO a person is by HOW they live.” And so he made up a little twist on an old phrase that still sits sideways in my mind, “It’s not ‘WHO are you?’ It’s ‘HOW do you do?’”

The way we come to know who we are, what life is, is ultimately in the way we live, the way we act . . . and we are all in it together. To ask “Who?” is to simply ask for a label, a mask, a role that may or may not be truly authentic. But to ask “How?”, we invite one another into a journey together, shared stories, and the whole joy and messiness and possibility of living. “How do you do it, this business of living?”

This Sunday, July 17, in nine:thirty-nine and eleven:eleven celebration, we conclude our series as we look at the story of Martha and Mary with Jesus and think about how we go about being in Life as Life goes about being in us.


The 5W’s of God (and one H)


Rev. Tom McDermott

with the music of

Michael Franti, Peter Mayer, and Macy Gray

and the eleven:eleven revolution



Subscribe to E-News

Subscribe to Newsletter Footer