Leslie Scanlon, Chesapeake, VA
Tell about a time this week you felt lonely. Tell about a time this week you felt part of a group.
Think of it like “high/low,” “rose/thorn,” “mountain top/valley,” or whatever metaphor you like to use.
A Lonely Lot
With the rise of technologies that claim to facilitate communication, you might think that we would feel more connected than people in decades and centuries past. However, an article recently posted by NPR reports that a survey conducted by the health insurance company Cigna concluded that “Americans are a lonely lot” with over 50% of those surveyed responding, “that they feel alone or left out always or sometimes.”
The UCLA Loneliness Scale uses a series of statements and a formula to quantify someone’s sense of loneliness and was used in the survey to determine that many Americans do not feel truly connected to those with whom they are in relationship. Loneliness is not just an “emotional” issue, but can also negatively affect your physical health in a major way.
The survey results also suggest that the average sense of loneliness is progressively higher as you look at younger and younger generations. (Note: those surveyed were all over 18 years of age.) Some studies have reported a correlation between more screen time/less face-to-face time and higher instances of depression and suicide, but the Cigna survey did not find enough evidence to blame social media for the generational trends. That might be because not all social media use is equal—positive and negative personal interactions can happen on social media platforms, but they can also be used somewhat passively. Technology can aid in our relationships being built up, but can also be the means of breaking them down.
- What ways do you interact with people on a daily/weekly basis (outside of the obvious answer: school)?
- To what clubs, teams, and groups do you belong?
- How would you describe your use of social media (active/passive, regular/occasional, etc.)?
Seventh Sunday of Easter
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
For the past two Sundays, the Gospels readings in John 15 have been from Jesus’ final discourse to the disciples before his arrest, trial, death, and resurrection. This Sunday, we skip to chapter 17. Jesus is no longer talking to his disciples, but praying for them.
In the repetitive, seemingly roundabout sentences characteristic of John’s gospel, Jesus articulates in prayer to God (the Creator) that his followers are in fact God’s followers, and that, although he is about to die, it does not change that fact that they are God’s beloved children.
In verse 11, Jesus prays for protection for his flock which he is about to physically leave behind. One of the reasons he worries for them is because they are going to remain “in the world” (v.11) without him, but “they do not belong to the world” (v.16).
This is not true just of those disciples who physically walked with Jesus, but is true of us too. We are “in” but not “of” this world. We are called to take part in the aspects of life that this world makes possible, but we are called to do so in a way that gives glory to God. We are not called to tuck ourselves away and interact with only those who believe, worship, and look like us; we are called to be one (as Jesus talks about in verse 11). That is not to say that everyone in the church is always going to agree 100% of the time on every topic. However, there is a way to remain connected and in relationship, despite our disagreements. We do all of this as part of keeping God’s word and making God’s name known.
This is not always easy work. Jesus knew this, and that is why he prayed that God would protect, teach, and lead his disciples then and us now. As people of faith, we are called to not be “of” the world—giving into every whim we might have or striving to be what society tells us we should be. We are sent out into the world to do God’s work with our hands…as ONE people of God, ONE flock, ONE church.
- What is one example of how you are (or someone you know is) “in” but not “of” the world?
- What can get in the way of the church being “one”?
- You have been given the Word of God; what is God sending you out into the world to do? (be as specific as possible)
- Make a plan of how your youth group can work together (as ONE) to do God’s work in the world…and get started. SMART goals (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_criteria) are helpful when working to create a concrete and achievable plan.
- Brainstorm ideas about how to make your youth group, church, or other faith-based group more “one.” What is getting in the way of unity in the midst of diversity? How can you overcome those obstacles?
- Play a group-building game to help build “oneness” in your group. There are lots of ideas on Pinterest and Youth Ministry blogs. When choosing, keep in mind the participants’ levels of comfort with physical contact.
Gracious and loving God, you have given us so much—your Word, life, and each other—for that we are thankful. Thank you for being with us in our time together and we ask that you would continue to be with us and protect as we go out into the world this week. Help us to remember that we are never alone. Amen.