Relationship at SHPC: The Tie that Binds
The Second of Four in our Relationship Series at SHPC...examining what it is that we find in this place together. It was communion Sunday, so a bit shorter on the manuscript, but, as with last week's, Pastor Leanne found a groove and expanded and fleshed out some pieces a little bit more in person.
So, I guess you could call this a glimpse into what we talked about on Sunday! :-)
Relationship at SHPC: The Tie that Binds.
Rev. Leanne Masters
Southern Heights Presbyterian Church
This month, we jump of lectionary to talk about the life of this church and how we understand our relationships in and around it. Last week, we talked about our relationship with God and how it makes us Inwardly Strong, and the next two weeks we’ll be talking about our relationships with those outside of our current fellowship...but today, we’ll be talking about the other half of being “Inwardly Strong” at Southern Heights...what we strive to have in this place in our relationships with each other.
The truth is that there are many options for worshiping God, for having a place to strengthen your relationship with God. Southern Heights is just one of many. Now, while there are many different reasons to choose a church to belong to, from the worship style to the theology to the mission and the ministry that happens outside of worship...one of the biggest things that matter to people when they are choosing a church is what you see in this room right now...the people.
A couple of months ago, I attended The Church Growth Leadership Summit sponsored by the Quad Presbyteries and held here in Lincoln. One of the speakers was a man name Charles Arn who said that the main question that people ask when they are visiting a church is, “Can I make friends here.”
Now, I would argue that in our world today the definition of “Friend” has gotten a little bit murky. And, as much of a fan of social media as I am, I would definitely blame social media, but more particularly facebook, for that. On my own personal facebook page, I currently have 408 “friends”, with whom I share my little thoughts and pictures. And in conversations, I refer to them as friends, or more specifically, Facebook Friends. But...Friendship is more than just sharing pictures and information, it’s more than just knowing what’s going on in each other’s lives and knowing what they think about various topics and issues. That’s friendship on the most superficial level (what I would have once referred to as having an aquaintance with someone). And that is fine, but what people are looking for in their lives is much deeper and richer than that.
We’re not looking for people we can be facebook friends with...we’re looking for friends.
And, I hope, it is what we have found here. It’s what keeps us coming back to worship together. It’s what brings us together to work on projects with other people through the church. Because it’s about more than the worship and the work...it’s about what we have with each other.
We are friends.
We laugh together
We cry together
We celebrate together
We mourn together.
We are a part of each other’s lives...in good times and in bad, in joy and in sorrow, in everything and in everyway we live and we love together...
But, these friendships that we have don’t happen spontaneously. We work at building them, slowly by slowly, over time, creating those relationships that mean so much to us.
You know, when I interviewed with the PNC from Southern Heights, I was told that “we like to eat,” and I was told all about the different meals that this church has, the bounteous fellowship time both before and after the service where good food is served, the events that are planned around a meal or a special treat or dessert... But I would argue that those times are not really about that we like to eat. I mean, we like to eat, and we like to eat good food, but it’s not just about the food...ultimately, we like what happens around the table as we eat. The conversations and the laughter that ring throughout the fellowship hall or the restaurant as we share food (dare I say, as we break bread?) together. The building of relationships and community around a table of fellowship and food, as we chat about our lives and our work and our families and our worlds...
We like to eat because it allows us that space and that time to live into and express and develop those friendships beyond the superficial into something that is real and deep and meaningful to us...
We build these relationships in a number of different ways, of course...but it is in and through the times that we choose to spend together, whether it is in fellowship, in worship, in work, or in just hanging out outside of the strictures and the structures of “church” where these relationships are forged and crafted...strengthening us in so many different ways.
You know, having those tight relationships can make the call that Paul puts out there both incredibly easy and incredibly hard....
But it is necessary and right and good to strive together to not only strengthen our relationships with each other, but to fight to do the hard work of living together in community even as we wrestle with difficult situations and minor (and major!) disagreements with each other.
Because we are friends, and we love each other with the love that we have been given and filled with in God.
And that’s what's so amazing about this community, is that we have these relationships, these friendships, this community... We love and we accept each other. We struggle together and we grow together. We keep coming back here because of what we have here in each other...and that's an awesome and wonderful and amazing and special thing.