September 15

Connecting to One Another

It’s not often that a pastor will ask the congregation to intentionally close their eyes for fear that they may not reopen until the music begins playing. But I’m going to take a step out of my comfort zone and ask you to close your eyes and imagine the following scenario.

You walk into a room on Monday morning where the tables are arranged in a square with chairs placed around the outside. A handful of people have already gathered in the room and are sitting in a chair offering a friendly welcome. You reach into your pocket and pull out some cash placing it into a transformed coffee container used as an offering jar to pay for future coffee grounds. Then you grab the pot from the Mr. Coffee machine and fill a Styrofoam cup.

Walking to an empty chair, another person enters the room behind you where the friendly welcome is repeated once again. Two bags of mini-donuts are passed around the table, each person deciding which kind to take. Someone makes mention of the much needed rain and conversation begins about the condition of the local corn and soybeans. That topic leads to the announcement that golf was cancelled at one of the local courses which somehow ends up in discussion about the price of gas at different locations. A donut is bitten followed by a sip of coffee. Then…silence. Someone points out the ‘G’ on your hat and asks what happened to the Packers last night, which expands into general chatter about football. One person gets up to grab the coffee pot and walks around the table filling empty cups. Then someone brings up the failing health of a neighbor and everyone pays attention, because everyone knows that neighbor.

After about an hour of general dialogue about many different topics, someone stands up and says they have to get going. Everyone says good-bye and the domino effect begins. One by one, people get up to leave. (Pause). You can open your eyes now.

The setting I described was from a Monday morning gathering at the Library. If you’ve never attended that event, you were probably able to imagine a similar situation from past experiences. There weren’t any world problems solved that morning. As a matter of fact, there weren’t any problems from Luckey solved that day. In the big picture, this hour long event didn’taccomplish anything practical, but it was incredibly important.

This experience was one more link in the chain of human bonding, a moment of fellowship with other people. Just like coming to church today, we all come wrapped in layers of our own worlds. Your inner core is a world that is completely you. Nobody knows exactly what is inside that core but you, and even you don’t understand it all. Then you are included within a family shell, in which you have knowledge of one another and share an intimacy deeper than other people. You can read each other, somewhat. And that level is wrapped in a communal layer, like this congregation, where we come together as one community. Each of us live in our own worlds, defined in various ways, very different from one another, and yet very much alike.

While I am sharing this message, some of you might be thinking about a variety of things ranging from an upcoming game to your ‘to-do’ list this week. In every situation, your world is unique and yet everyone has probably experienced something very similar. We are human after all with different views of life yet we are all connected. That connection is the Holy Spirit.

Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments when God was angered that the Israelites were building a golden calf. There are two separate events taking place. The Israelites were in the wilderness and didn’t know what happened to their leader. They were no different from you or me. He had been gone for a period of time in which they believed that he was either dead or lost. And when they felt that God was absent, where did the community turn…to gold. We too put our trust in places outside of God when challenges arise. It may not be gold, but it might be government leaders, traditions, churches, or maybe even ourselves. At the same time Moses was in conversation with God. He stood up to God on the Israelite’s behalf (unknown to the people), and ‘implored’ God to turn away from his anger. Why would God go through all the trouble of bringing these people out of Egypt just to destroy them in the desert? Do you remember your 3 promise, O God; the promise to multiply the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and to deliver them to the land that they would inherit forever? And God changed his mind.

The Israelites (as a community) forgot their dependence on God and built an idol. While fellowship is a bonding and connecting experience, it is also a misguided journey when we decide to go our own way. How quickly they forgot God’s guidance. I had this conversation Friday night after the football game. In a land of plenty, we take so many things for granted! We are quick to spend money, time, and effort on things connected to the self instead of valuing opportunities to connect to others. God listened to the Israelite’s mediator named Moses. And all this time, the Israelites had no idea what was going on in the mountain. They continued to worship their idol while God changed his mind. In the parable of the lost sheep,

we aren’t told how the one became lost. That lamb may have fallen asleep in the lush grass as the herd moved slowly forward. It might have stepped outside the boundaries for a drink of water before realizing it was alone. Or, maybe in excitement it went running in the opposite direction.

Most of the time we are interconnected with others just as the lost sheep was typically part of the herd. But on occasion, whether intentional or not and whether we realize it or not, we become disconnected. We might be so involved in something that by the time we finish and look up, we realize that things have changed or that we aren’t in the same place anymore. In those times, just as Moses stood up for the Israelites who felt abandoned,Jesus is mediating for us and coming to us. And the angels rejoice when one person turns around.

There is a lot for the church to rejoice about. Look around and see all the reasons to be giving thanks. We live in our own worlds, each one different and yet the same. The Holy Spirit is present as we connect with one another. And Jesus is present, loving and forgiving, when we are in community, even when we don’t see his presence.

Praise God for our intercessor! Amen.