Contributed by Seth Moland-Kovash, Palatine, IL
Do you have someone whom you consider a close friend?
Who is Your Friend
A recent article in the May issue of The Atlantic cites research saying that, despite social media networks that keep us more connected to one another than ever before, we are really lonelier than ever. More important, this loneliness has real effects on our mental and physical health. The article is entitled “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” It cites a recent study that says up to 20% of Americans are unhappy with their lives because of loneliness.
Interestingly, the article also cites a German study about the effect of belief in God on loneliness. “Active believers who saw God as abstract and helpful rather than as a wrathful, immediate presence were less lonely.” While Lutherans might argue about the abstract part of this sentence, the core of Lutheran belief is that God is helpful (merciful) rather than wrathful.
Being physically alone and feeling lonely are not the same thing. And every person has their own priorities and needs related to alone time and personal connection. But each one of us does have a need to have connection. It seems that those connections are becoming harder and harder to make in our world.
- What does it mean to be lonely? How would you define loneliness?
- What are the ideal traits that would make someone a close friend? Is it about trust, shared interests, personality traits?
Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, May 13, 2012 (Sixth 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 C at Lectionary Readings.)
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
Jesus says that his disciples are friends. While he was speaking historically to a few select people a couple thousand years ago, we believe that he is also speaking to us. “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”
Jesus calls us friends based on some shared understanding of what God is doing in the world. Because we know that God is in the world saving lives and restoring all of creation to wholeness, we are Jesus’ friends. That’s a very privileged position. It raises our status and our sense of what it means to be the church. We aren’t just a group of followers; we aren’t just a group of people who believe some things… we are Jesus’ friends.
- Read the words to the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” Evangelical Lutheran Worship #742. What are the good things about having Jesus as a friend? Do you feel you have those things in your life?
- When Jesus calls us friends, does that come with obligations in addition to benefits? What might some of those obligations be?
- One aspect of loneliness is the feeling of being bullied and marginalized. Create an anti-bullying pledge for your group and your lives. Publicize it within your church or school or community.
- Visit members of your church or community in the nursing home. Play a game with them, or talk about memories. Show them that you are their friend.
Good and gracious God, we thank you for sending Jesus to be our friend. Help us to feel that community and to live into the community that Jesus has created. Amen.