Most of us have an ambiguous relationship with community. On the one hand, who doesn’t love the idea of a place where everyone knows your name? On the other, most of us find the reality of cultivating and maintaining groups of friends difficult, if not elusive. How can we all want meaningful relationships so much and yet feel like they are so hard to find? Come this Sunday as we learn what the Bible says about the demand and promise of having a society of spiritual friends.
We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.
During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness.
—Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy
Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial.
Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
5 The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.
6 Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
7 Again, I saw vanity under the sun: 8 one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
CONFESSION OF SIN:
Sing first verse
God of mercy, whose Son, Jesus Christ, longs to embrace us in his love,
we confess that we have disobeyed your commands and ignored your mission;
our ears have been deaf to your call and our hearts have been cold to your love.
Sing second verse
Father, we confess that we have hurt others and dishonored your name.
We have hoarded our gifts instead of using them to bless others.
We have failed to reflect your love to the watching world.
Sing third verse
Lord, have mercy on us, and forgive us for our sins.
Receive us again as your children, not because we are worthy,
but for the sake of Christ who loved us and gave himself for us. Amen.
SONG TO CONSIDER: