Fall Throwback Series, Loneliness and Belonging
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This past Sunday the Church of the Redeemer held in-person worship for the first time in 7 months. I have to tell you it was absolutely wonderful. In the truest sense of the word: filled with wonder. We called it Pop-Up Church, and we had it in Ault Park. We had three services to keep numbers low, and everyone kept appropriate distances and stayed masked and was genuinely respectful of the rules and of each other. It was great. How great was it? We decided to do it again this Sunday!
But you know what stays with me as I relive that beautiful day? It was how vocally and emphatically appreciative everyone was: Thank God we’re doing this. I miss us so much. This is just so great. Thank you for doing this. Can we do it again?
What I heard over and over again was something simple, “We belong to each other, and we want to be near each other.” While I know people miss the sanctuary, the choir, the band, the singing, the handshakes and hugs, the Eucharist – oh the Eucharist! – some deep yearning was met on Sunday when we simply got to be together. Even when we knew wanted more, we got to want more together. Even when we knew we were missing something, we got to miss it together, and that was not lost on any of us.
And it makes me wonder: With whom are you sharing your loneliness?
We’re all lonely. And I don’t think that’s just a COVID thing: Loneliness is a natural part of being human. The wondering if you are the only person who sees things the way you see them, the solitude that you experience surrounded by people – this has always been a part of our humanity. It’s just been exacerbated by this pandemic – but it’s a part of us, this loneliness.
Jesus was profoundly lonely. It’s so obvious when you read the stories about him. Constantly misunderstood, oscillating between seeking connection and trying to find alone time. So many of his parables and teachings are about being misunderstood. Friends, loneliness is not bad or shameful. And it’s not all about being physically isolated – although many of us are that right now.
One of the things I have found to be so beautiful about our church these last 7 months is how we find ways to minister to each other in our loneliness.
And I don’t just mean this past week in the park. Because the vast majority of people who are part of the Redeemer family were not able to join in worship there – and won’t be able to gather physically for a long time – but we are finding all sorts of ways to experience connection and togetherness. Each of us is in our own personal quarantine, not sure when we’ll be together again the way we know and love so much. And I know there are waves of sadness and hopelessness, but it is my enduring hope and work to assure that we know we have each other, that we have someone or a group of someones with whom we can share our loneliness. This matters tremendously.
The implications of this belonging and loneliness are wide-ranging. Think about our country, for example. The very fact of how divided we are is killing us right now. It’s not just about the fact that we disagree – it’s how disconnected we feel from one another on basic principles that hurts so much. Our concern over racial injustice and inequity is no different. I’ve not met one person who is happy about the possibility of such inequity. The pain we face is found in how badly we wish to all be on the same page about the causes and solutions to these essential issues.
All point to an idea larger than power, politics, or economics: We know in our hearts we are made for each other, and utterly beloved, and we don’t like the idea that something we are doing or have done is hindering our ability to experience the powerful presence of the almighty God right here and right now.
Fault and frustration notwithstanding, God made us for one another. This is foundational to our understanding of the life we are living. Sometimes I am concerned that you will think it’s a cop-out when I say that relationships are at the heart of the Church of the Redeemer. Some of you will say, shouldn’t it be justice? Others will say, shouldn’t it be worship? Justice is nothing but the seeking of healthy relationship. And worship is the corporate expression of our desire for that same healthy relationship. As Christians everything we do points to the relationship at the center of all life.
Cherish your loneliness at this time. It is pointing to something so essential to the life God has given you. My prayer is that you have a person or a place to share that loneliness so that even in your loneliness you know you belong. Maybe that place is at Ault Park on a Sunday morning. Or in a Zoom Bible Study or Coffee Hour. Or a physically distanced walk with your neighborhood Connector, or a call from your Stephen Minister. Wherever it is, you will find your Redeemer there. We are in this together.
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