Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
This week is going to be very honest. And I think honesty is what we’re going for these days.
I have a lot of moments where I feel the emptiness right now. Days where the sense of exhaustion is pervasive and creativity feels stunted. I grow weary of the endless sharing of opinions on digital media and I pull inward, knowing that every decision made these days is bound to make a number of people unhappy.
Movement feels hard, and even as a people person, I start to feel like I just want to be alone.
What an excellent attitude for a pastor to have! (Read in sarcastic tone.)
If this is how I’m feeling as extrovert that normally loves being with people and taking initiative, I can’t imagine how a lot of folks in our population are feeling.
Isolation has become normal. Sure, we may interact with people through our jobs, but most everything outside of that has been shaved down to the bare minimum or nothing at all. And even when we interact with people, it can be so complicated on so many levels that it’s just easier to not try. There’s a cyclical nature to isolation. The more removed we are, the harder it is to move toward relationships. Inertia sets in. I’m hearing that from many of you, and believe me, I get it.
Good thing we have facebook, twitter, and instagram for connection! What could possibly go wrong?
Do we even need other people anymore? I’m glad I asked. Let’s talk about it.
Living a reflective life is crucially important. Taking time in the wilderness alone with Jesus is necessary to do the heart work inside of us that needs to be done. But...
But it’s possible to start walking circles in the wilderness. It’s possible to get lost in our heads and in our isolation and in our never-wrong opinions. It’s possible to stew, to spiral, to become so stuck in our internal monologues that we start to think we don’t need other people that much. It’s possible to feel just enough connection through our screened-in lives that we call it adequate. Or maybe we know we need relationships, but beyond family, it just feels too difficult to get motivated to reach out. The problem is that in arriving at that spot, we may just lose the ability to be disciples. Here’s a statement that will be true every day of your life: you can’t become like Jesus if you don’t have people to really practice love with.
The writer of Hebrews tells the young church that they have a calling to motivate each other to love and good works. We need to be in real connection with brothers and sisters in Christ these days, because that’s how we stay motivated to keep acting compassionately and beautifully in the world. The writer also tells them that they need to keep being together so that there is opportunity for encouragement. Something happens with direct human interaction that nothing else can accomplish the same way. It’s infinitely valuable for encouragement. Yes, digital media can be used to encourage each other. And yes, it is complicated in the COVID-19 era to figure out how to have responsible meaningful human interaction. But let’s fight to keep our humanity, friends. It’s getting easier to withdraw emotionally, and miss out on mutual motivation and encouragement.
Today I was working alone in the large school room that our church gathers in. While writing this reflection, my dear friend José, who works down the hallway, dropped in on me to say hi. We spent a few minutes talking (masks and all) about the challenge of leadership and creativity, the calling of Jesus, and the complicated task of creating forward movement. He asked me great questions and reminded me that we are in this thing together. Ten minutes later I was both encouraged and motivated toward acts of love and good works. Hey folks, church actually works. (Also, what a guy!)
This Hebrews passage is not about “going to church” in a traditional way, as some people have narrowly interpreted it. Jesus created the church so that people could grow a movement together of loving God and loving others for God's kingdom. It’s our task to creatively participate in that in new ways right now. It’s our job to keep showing up for each other, however that looks.
So here’s the bold ask. If you’re feeling what I’ve been feeling, make the hard move. Give somebody a call and talk with them on the phone. Or invite someone for a walk and conversation if you feel comfortable. Go beyond complaining about our political system or critiquing how everyone’s dealing with COVID-19. Pray together. Motivate each other toward love and good works, and encourage each other as you do. The current reality is too heavy of a load to bear alone. We need to stop trying.
Jesus, help me make one move toward healthy relationships today.