Nicholas Kristof writes today in the New York Times of a “loneliness epidemic,” citing arresting statistics about its impact on our souls and bodies. It turns out that being divided physically, politically, emotionally, and spiritually is making us sick. Are you surprised? And the solution isn’t for us to agree with our friends or opponents—the ones within you or close to home or across some tribal line—but to spend time together in consistent and committed ways… to create bonds across difference, to discover how much we have in common, to make space. Recalling the work of Robert Putnam, we’ve been “bowling alone” since at least the mid-1990’s, and the paucity of guilds and groups and gatherings for at least two generations has taken its toll. We need each other!
It’s a wake-up call, not unlike Moses’s experience last week with the burning bush. Moses is a fugitive from justice. He has killed a man in Egypt and fled some 200 miles, to hide out, presumably for the rest of his life. All things being equal, it’s a comfortable exile, and he has everything that he thinks he wants: a spouse, a child, plenty of land and livestock, working for his father-in-law. But something makes him stop and look at this extraordinary sight, a bush that burns but is not consumed… some longing or anxiety, some sense of unfinished business or dreams deferred, some notion of things in the world not being right or a question about his success being all there is… “Is this it,” he must have been wondering about the life he was living, as he shucked off his shoes.
Moses was 80 years old before he turned aside and noticed the burning bush, before he heard God’s voice clearly say, “You and your people are suffering and you need to help to set them (and yourself) free.” There probably had been burning bushes along the way for Moses for decades, but only now did he turn and listen. He finally woke up and noticed what had been true all along: a whole lot of people were hurting, including himself. Because his circumstances were fairly comfortable, Moses had been sleep-walking for years, but on this day he heard the voices within and without: “my people are living lives of quiet desperation,” or worse.
Moses discovers that it is never too late to address the ways that we are separated from each other. Are you willing to risk the same epiphany? Here’s the good news: the healing starts as soon as you commit to engaging with a small group of others.
At Redeemer this month we are inviting every person in the parish to join a House Meeting group: gatherings of 6-8 people who will commit to meeting with each other once/month, between now and May, facilitated by parishioners who are trained and supported by the clergy, following a simple agenda that includes some fellowship, food, and faithfulness. According to surgeon general’s statistics, we are ahead of the game by attending church, but being rooted in a group of accountability and affection can make a life-changing difference. Sign up here.