We start a new series this Sunday called: Get Connected.
The call to Get Connected is two-fold: change your lifestyle so that you can get connected with family, friends, fellow believers, neighbors; and get connected to God through your connections through other people. You can't know or love God apart from your relationships with others. If you've developed a lifestyle that connects you with others in a refreshing, fun, and nourishing way, you'll also have gone a long ways in connecting to God.
I don't know how many times Tara and I have talked about having so and so over for dinner, or getting together with so and so for the day, or traveling to such and such a place with so and so for a good time. But we, like so many others, are living out a way of life that is quite normal, quite explainable, quite understandable, but quite disassociated from too many of the people that we really need to be with more often.
A book we'll be using throughout the series has been very helpful to me in re-imagining how to change my way/pace of life so that I can follow Jesus while enjoying a lifestyle connected with others. The book - Making Room for Life: Trading a Chaotic Lifestyle for Connected Relationships - will be available at Anchor to borrow or purchase. If you feel like you're too lonely, if you feel like you just never get to spend much time with your friends or neighbors, if you really want to get together with family more often, this book will help you think through how to make that a reality. I want to point out, however, that we're not talking about having more picnics or trips to the zoo just so we can better live out middle class leisures. We're having these conversations because we've absorbed a busy middle class life that wears us out and leaves us with thin souls and lonely homes.
The Scripture text for this Sunday, which will also be the overarching theme for this series comes from 1Peter 4:7-11. The fellow believers reading this letter were scattered all over Asia Minor. Groups of Christians in small villages and bustling cities struggled at times to live out their faith, for they often met stiff resistance and even opposition. Peter is teaching them how to react to outward hostilities. But he is also teaching them in the text we are examining, how to knit their lives together in such a way as to overcome the overwhelming pressures, but also how to thrive and enjoy their life together as examples of Jesus Christ. He envisions that they would be the kind of Christians who "love constantly, for love covers a crowd of sins"; he envisions a community of believers who offer glad and generous hospitality to newcomers, to strangers, to drifters and seekers. What connects the Chrisitians is not navel-gazing and bemoaning how bad the world is; what connects them is their obvious and difficult acts of love towards each other in light of personal sins, as well as welcoming sinners into their midst. And since they met in homes, it was about letting people into your life, and getting into their life, carrying their burdens and helping them walk in the light.
We need to get more connected with our family and friends, our fellow believers and neighbors: more BBQ's, more picnics, more trips to the lake and the zoo...because we need to be in proximity with people we care about, and we need to be making room at a table or in the van for those that are looking to connect to God through a community of believers. Jesus promised his followers much suffering, but also much joy; this joy came not from some mystical spiritual solitude, but from the joys of sharing life with others - the good times and the hard times. And like the early Christians, we need to be more loving, more personal in our love, more loyal in our love, more forgiving in our love, more generous and servant-hearted in our love. This is not a call for more programs, but a reorientation of your lifestyle so that you are available with time, energy, and money to invest your life into others for God's glory and our joy.