Milestones in Our Faith: the Tension between Loneliness and Community

By Kent French
August 8, 2019 - 8:41am

Have you ever been in the midst of a group of people and felt totally alone? Maybe you’re an introvert and this happens all the time. Maybe you’re shy. Maybe you had something personally troubling going on, or maybe you needed to be around people, but just not interact with them too much. 

Psychological research tells us that all humans need a mix of autonomy, a sense that we can do it by ourselves, and relationality, an ongoing connection with other people. And each of us needs this in different amounts, different proportions.

On Sunday, John Carter, one of our members who is working on a PhD in theology, is going to explore this tension between loneliness and community as it exists in our Christian faith. He writes:

As often as we emphasize relationality, love for neighbor (and even enemy), the communion of saints, and especially the communion of our church family here at United Parish, we can give the impression that there is no isolation, no loneliness, in the life of the “good Christian.” On one hand I want to agree with that, and on the other I want to say, it’s seldom that simple.

In our lives, following Christ, there are times when we are going to feel alone, and there are times we undoubtedly, necessarily, irresolvably, will be alone, and at the same time, it is often the case that we are not as alone, without any recourse of human connection, as we imagine ourselves to be.    

John invites us to revisit and listen to two stories from the Book of Genesis, in which parents and children were alone. In the first story, Sarah banishes Hagar, their servant, and sends her away with her son Ishmael. Sarah’s husband Abraham happens to be the father of Ishmael. The mother and son are homeless and about to starve in the desert (Genesis 19:8-21).

In the second story, Abraham hears God telling him to take his son, Isaac, and sacrifice him. (Genesis 22:1-14). Both of them are hard stories, important stories, real-life stories that cause us to search for the Good News. Together, we will find our way through these troubling stories and how each of us may seek the right mix of loneliness and community.

David Rockwell has also prepared a wonderful array of piano music for us, from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Ravel and Debussy. We will listen, pray, share communion together. I look forward to seeing you.

In faith,
Kent

If you’d like to read or listen to previous homilies from worship, click here.

Image: Hagar and Ishmael by Frederick Goodall (LEFT); Abraham and Isaac by Harold Copping (RIGHT)