From the Pulpit: Jesus rescues the lonely, and we can help
As a child did you ever wander off and think you were lost? Or turn around and wonder where everyone went?
I remember being in a couple of stores like that. I must have wandered away from the shopping cart and Mom. It seemed like I turned around and no one was there! I still remember feeling panicked.
The feeling of being lost and alone is a terrible feeling. When we have been lost and then are found, the feeling of joy, of peace, of gratefulness, the feeling of being rescued replaces our fear and panic. Being rescued and being restored to our “family” gives us a sense of belonging and joy.
Jesus told a story about finding a lost sheep. “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
As Jesus shared this parable, he was empathizing the worth of every individual in God’s eyes.
A 2010 AARP survey found that 35 percent of adults older than 45 were chronically lonely, as opposed to 20 percent of a similar age group only a decade earlier.
According to a major study by a leading scholar of the subject, roughly 20 percent of Americans — about 60 million people — are unhappy with their lives because of loneliness.
Across the Western world, physicians and nurses have begun to speak openly of an epidemic of loneliness. It’s clear that social interaction matters. We meet fewer people. We gather less, and when we gather, our bonds are less meaningful and less easy.
Connecting with other people takes an intentionality that wasn’t as necessary before. Community and knowing our neighbors tends to be viewed with suspicion instead of anticipation.
God created men and women to be part of a community. No man is to do a solo act — at least not for very long. Even those who don’t marry need to have people who truly care, listen and take an interest in their lives.
If we cannot rebuild strong, authentic social connections, we will continue to splinter apart — in the workplace and in society. Instead of coming together to take on the great challenges before us, we will retreat to our corners, angry, sick, and alone.
Jesus came to rescue those who are lonely. We are the lifelines He is sending out to find those lost sheep.
There are people all around us, some who feel desperately alone and forgotten. They may smile on the outside, but they are in pain and desperately want to belong.
Our church community can be that place for them to belong. We can be the family that God will place them in.
Our world wants to belong. Let’s be the family, the friends, this lonely world needs.