The Most Important Thing

The tenth reflection in a series, “Hope to See Us Through,” by the Rev. Terry Elsberry.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”

—Jeremiah 29:11
I

One positive thing I find in this great leveler of a pandemic is that a lot of us are realizing how much we need each other.

One young father said, “Our children are at the age when they have such busy schedules of their own, sometimes we can go a whole week and hardly see each other. Now we’re all together all the time. Not sure how the kids feel about it, but I’m delighted. Couldn’t be happier to have all this time with them.”

There are as many variations on the togetherness theme as there are family situations. But except for the cases in which some family member feels overwhelmed by too much proximity (marriage is for love not for lunch) virtually every story I hear is how much people value each other—some as never before–whether forced by the pandemic to be together or apart.

We see the sadness of the apart end of the spectrum in situations where children are grown, live on their own, and parents are left in a state of isolation and loneliness they may never have experienced before. Maybe you’ve seen some of the pictures of families standing at the requisite distance outside the house singing to a grandparent standing alone on the steps.

Everywhere I turn I hear how many of us are coming to a deeper realization of how important, how necessary, how absolutely crucial our relationships are to us.

Among the other things the pandemic is teaching many of us is that we were not designed to be alone. We were created by God to live in some kind of community—family, friends, workplace, organizations, clubs, teams, church. God created us to need each other.

OUR RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THERE IS—OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD AND WITH EACH OTHER.

 

II

Those relationships are manifested in Christian community.

We see what love the first Christians had for each other. Part of the depth of their caring was because they were forced by society’s rejection, to live in virtual isolation from the rest of the culture.

But instead of bemoaning the fact, those early followers of Jesus rejoiced in their closeness. They made the most of it. The rich members gave to the poor. Lonely members were given surrogate families. They fellowshipped from house to house. There wouldn’t be church buildings as we know them for hundreds of years. People opened their homes, their lives, their hearts to one another.

Bemused, amazed and astonished the Pagans looked on.

“Look how these Christians love each other,” they said. They’d never seen anything like it.

I’ve had members of Christ Church say to me in the past several weeks, “You know, I’ve never felt closer to the church than I do now.”

When we can feel that even though church for us these days is virtual, we know the Holy Spirit is at work, drawing us closer, ever closer, to Him and to each other.

I heard a young graduating senior interviewed on television the other night. He was talking about things he was learning from the pandemic.

He said, “I used to spend all this time working and planning how I was going to get ahead, work hard in college and build a successful life for myself. Before the pandemic, success to me meant making a whole lot of money.”

“Now,” he said, “I realize true success comes from the relationships we have in life.”

This young graduate could have been channeling the apostle Peter who in his first epistle adjures Christians to “love each other fervently—from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)

Just as there’s nothing more necessary than our relationships with the Lord and with each other, so as we give, we are given to. Over and over. In ways we too often take for granted, but in ways that fulfill our deepest needs.

In the words of a song I love:

For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all that wrong that you made right
For every dream that you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I’ll be forever thankful.
You’re the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You’re the one who saw me through it all.

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You gave me faith ‘cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

You gave me wings and made me fly
You touched my hand, I could touch the sky
I lost my faith, you gave it back to me
You said no star was out of reach
You stood by

–Celine Dion

 

THANK YOU, GOD, FOR HELPING US—THROUGH LOVE—TOUCH THE SKY, REACH THE STARS AND SEE, THROUGH EVEN THE DARKEST CLOUDS, YOUR LIGHT. AMEN.