Summary: Friendships are the building blocks of community. God wants us to know and be known, and He’s given us the key to making friends.
Sermon for Suites by the Lake – September 22, 2007 – The Possibilities of Community
[This sermon was for a Retirement Community’s Chapel Service]
Thanks to W. Maynard Pittendreigh for some borrowed thoughts and some illustrations for this sermon.
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us” 1 John 4: 16b-17a
There’s a story about a farm boy who accidentally overturned his wagonload of wheat on the road. The farmer who lived nearby came to investigate. “Hey, Willis,” he called out, “Forget your troubles for a while and come and have dinner with us. Then I’ll help you overturn the wagon.” “That’s very nice of you,” Willis answered, “but I don’t think Dad would like me to.”
“Aw, come on, son!” the farmer insisted. “Well, okay,” the boy finally agreed, “but Dad won’t like it.”
After a hearty dinner, Willis thanked the host. “I feel a lot better now, but I know Dad’s going to be real upset.” “Don’t be silly!” said the neighbor. “By the way, where is he?” “Under the wagon,” replied Willis.
Willis and the Good Samaritan farmer lived in a different era than we do today. While we all want to be good neighbors, the meaning of “neighborliness” has changed as the culture around us has changed from community to cocooning, from country to city, from slow food to fast food, from the dining room to the TV room.
And there’s a real challenge for us to connect to others in a big city. But we need to connect. We need each other. We may find it easier to cocoon, to not bother to have relationships, but truth be told we need relationships. We need to be part of a community.
It is not God’s will for us to be alone and lonely. In fact, in the opening verses of Genesis, God makes that very observation – “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18). That speaks to the way we were made. Somehow it is in our DNA to be connected to others. We understand ourselves more thoroughly when we relate to others. We were not, apparently, created to be islands unto ourselves. Somehow in our createdness, we were meant to know and be known by others.
This community, Retirement Suites by the Lake, is unique. Each one here finds themselves in a new circumstance, with a new group of people, a new community. And the fact that life here is a fairly new experience opens up some real possibilities. There are real challenges when it comes to living in community with others, but there’s at least one very important possibility that I want to focus on today.
The building blocks of community are, of course, friendships. In this place there are so many opportunities for new friendships. Now, the biblical notion of friendship runs deep indeed. “A friend loves at all times,” says Proverbs. All of us have known rich friendships in our lives. We know the feeling of having good friends, people we can rely upon and people who rely upon us. Perhaps we’ve had the experience of being able to support another through difficult times.
Jackie Robinson was a baseball player from many years ago. He was a great player, but he is perhaps best known for having been the first African-American to play major league baseball. While breaking baseball’s "color barrier," he faced the boos and insults of crowds in every stadium. While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. His own fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans booed him.
That’s when shortstop "Pee Wee" Reese called for a time out and walked toward Robinson and stood next to him. This team mate from the Southern States -- a white man who in that time and place would have been the last person expected to do anything for Robinson -- stood there and put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd.
The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.
Paul said in the first letter to the Thessalonians, “So encourage one another and build each other up...” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
That’s the promise of friendship. Friends want what’s best for each other. There’s a permission to speak into each other’s lives, and hopefully to be able to offer the kind of encouragement that is welcome. There’s the opportunity to lift one another up, to, as the Scripture says, “Build one another up”. That’s an awesome thing if you think about it. We can add strength and happiness to another life. We can make a positive difference in another life.