A little over a year ago, the global health company Cigna released results from a study which surveyed the impact of loneliness in the United States. This study was conducted in partnership with the marketing research firm, Ipsos. The study used the UCLA Loneliness Scale to assess subjective feelings of loneliness and social isolation. More than 20,000 adults over 18 were enrolled in the study. The results revealed that nearly half of Americans report feeling alone or left out. Only one in four people feel as though there are people who understand them. (You can read the study: https://www.cigna.com/newsroom/news-releases/2018/new-cigna-study-reveals-loneliness-at-epidemic-levels-in-america) I think you get the picture.
Loneliness is at epidemic proportions. We seem to have so many easy ways to communicate with one another: texting, Facebook, Twitter and other avenues. Yet, it seems that we are lonelier than we were before, especially when the posts on social media show other having a “good time” without including yours truly. We are involved in so many activities. It seems that children and parents are always with others at the ball diamond or in the pool, and parents are on the sidelines rooting on their favorite player. Yet, we’re still lonely.
A spouse dies, and life is so different. The one you could share your heart’s desire with is no longer there to listen. A marriage drifts to the point that you no longer know who your spouse is, and you don’t know how to fix it. You feel so alone. Alone in your grief and sorrow.
So, what does loneliness have to do with Pentecost? Although we can’t escape the stress, sorrow and loneliness of our broken humanity we can bring healing and work toward wholeness through the work of the Holy Spirit. This Sunday is Pentecost and we remember the many and various ways that the Spirit comes to us, lives among us and in us. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says ”I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” After Jesus ascends to the Father, he promises he is not leaving his disciples alone. The intimate relationship that Jesus has with the Father is imitated in what’s to come. When Jesus is gone and the Holy Spirit comes, the community of faith; the Church; will become the instrument of God’s love. The Holy Spirit dwells in God’s people and God will be enfleshed in the work of the faith community as we are his hands and feet. The same type of community that exists between Jesus and the Father will now exist between the community and the Holy Spirit.
If you don’t believe me, read the book of Acts. See the Spirit at work. Look at our congregation (community), when we gather in small groups to share time eating dessert, drinking coffee, or in Bible study gathered in love to build each other up and offer support. We become an intimate group caring for one another. We know the Spirit’s presence when the group is about loving each other and reaching out with that love to others. The group has a relationship which takes away the pain of loneliness.
Perhaps you see that love manifested in caring for one another at worship. Maybe it’s sitting with someone who is at worship by themselves. Perhaps it’s supporting a young parent who wishes their little one was quieter. You may be the person wo offers heartfelt words of understanding and support as they bring their child to church. Perhaps it’s a visitor who builds up the courage to stay for coffee and donuts. You are that welcoming person who invites the guest to sit at the table with you. That’s the Spirit advocating for love. Perhaps it’s going out of your way to greet someone you haven’t seen in church before to make them feel welcome. That’s the Spirit working through you to build a loving community. Words of love come from the Spirit and always advocate for love.
Loneliness is a terrible feeling, but the Holy Spirit, the One who loves like Jesus, the One who is the life-giver, the one who builds community is at work here at Holy Trinity through you and each person who the Spirit has welcomed into this place. The Holy Spirit uses the Church to bring healing to a lonely world. When the Spirit is leading, we have confidence that we can follow!
A blessed Pentecost my sisters and brothers! In Christ.
Pastor Pam Schroeder
copyright 2019 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church