Throughout scripture, a certain refrain repeats itself. So consistently, in fact, we nearly miss the power it holds. Okay, here’s the truth, I ignore this significant part of scriptural witness more often than I’d like to admit. Hear it today: No one can go it alone.
Mark 6: 6-12
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. 8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
I was the girl who wanted to complete every group project in school on my own. I AM the girl who doesn’t ask for help. I can do it myself… You can too, right? Equipped with enough resources, I can knock out any project on my own. I’ve got a heavy dresser to move up a flight of stairs? No problem, I’ll just shimmy it across the carpet, use one of those Menards roller things, then angle it up one stair, brace it on my hip as I adjust my grip to heave it up that next step. I grit my teeth, and by God I’m gonna get it done. Never mind the ache in my knee, the resentment in my heart, or the scratches on my newly painted dresser. WHY do I, do we insist on going it alone?
Here’s how Jesus says it… None of us are gonna have any success driving out the demons of self-sufficiency until we learn to rely on others. We’re not gonna heal anyone–especially ourselves–unless we ask for help. And asking for help means acknowledging how desperately we need a source of connection…maybe even THE source of connection- Jesus our Christ. Where do we turn to find Jesus? Here’s a great place to start– look around you– the body of Christ. That’s not just a name for church, that’s who we are! Jesus is forming this authentic and helplessly self-sufficient crew of believers who know deep down that we actually need each other.
Jesus makes this point in Mark’s gospel: don’t rely on your own resources (bread, a bag, or money), PEOPLE are the most important thing in your life. Take nothing for the journey, except a buddy. Oh, and you can wear sandals too. That’s the secret, Jesus? The buddy system and a solid pair of shoes? What else…invite ourselves into people’s homes? Really?
What if Jesus is right? What if the secret to abundant life has something to do with connecting to one another? What if the buddy system is a form of salvation for you and I, this side of heaven?
Scientist Matthew Lieberman wrote a book in 2013 called Social. It’s a strong case that our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water. He comes to this conclusion by reviewing a lot of social psychology research that finds social pain is real pain. The suffering we experience when our social bonds are threatened…[think: the betrayal of a close friend].. Is as hurtful to our wellbeing as the suffering of starvation.
He says, “With respect to understanding human nature, I think this finding is pretty significant. The things that cause us to feel pain are things that are evolutionarily recognized as threats to our survival; the existence of social pain is a sign that evolution has treated social connection like a necessity, not a luxury. [...] because of how social pain and pleasure are wired into our operating system, these are motivational ends in and of themselves. We don’t focus on being connected solely in order to extract money and other resources from people – being connected needs no ulterior motive.”
In a nutshell, we connect because we were created to connect; The fabric of our being is dependent on how well woven we are into the community around us. Jesus knows this, he too was connected intimately within the triune nature of God- three persons, one divine being. He too was connected with his mom and brother, his disciples & friends, the same ones he sent out two by two on a mission of more connection.
I don’t know what you think brought you to church this morning- whatever the reason, I suspect something even more elemental was also at work. A need to feel connected.
Being a part of a church has been one of my favorite ways to experience this innate need for connection- even since childhood. But here’s the interesting thing- no matter HOW MUCH value I find in connecting with you all, I still try to go it alone sometimes.
This Wednesday, of what turned out to be an extremely busy week for me…I came into the office pretty hyped up and scattered. Marc knows this version of Emily. Many of you likely do too. I LOVE the variety of things a pastor does, so much so, that I THINK I’m the one who needs to do it all, even when I physically and mentally just can’t. I guess I haven’t changed much from those “do the whole group project yourself” days. Thank goodness for people around me who heed the wisdom of Jesus and offer to be my buddy. Nance came into the office that morning to discuss a few things, and when she saw Marc and I with a pile of paper bug parts for Messy Church…she immediately started cutting. After hours of them laboring over little bug bodies and wings, I was more than grateful for their help; but then Nance asks, “what else can I help you with?”
Whew, I’m REALLY not good at answering that question. Honestly my first thought was, ‘don’t you have something more important to do?’ as if helping me shouldn’t be a priority (that’s the demon of self-sufficiency rearing its head). I stammered for a bit, looked around as if the answer were on my desk or floor…and suddenly I said “Googly-eyes. We need googly-eyes.” Immediately after I said it, I felt ridiculous; but when the confirmands and I began setting up Messy Church, I felt this wave of joy seeing those packages of googly-eyes awaiting us. It feels GOOD to be helped.
Friends, it’s not really about the googly eyes is it? It’s about the connection we create when we acknowledge a need. When we let someone else help us, it’s good for everyone! It’s a more abundant life!
What part of your life needs more abundance? Are you struggling to find balance, to set priorities for yourself and your family? Maybe you’re lonely; or maybe the constant demands on your time mean only one thing: you’re in sheer survival mode. Wherever your need for more abundance might be, here’s the invitation…let someone know your need. Isn’t it crazy that it’s often the last thing we think of doing- asking for help? Invite another person into the mess that is life. If people have already failed you when you asked for help…start with prayer. Allow a connection with God to open your heart to new possibilities. You never know who will enter your life next. What we do know is this: no one can go it alone.
May we all find a buddy, a Nance who runs out and buys googly-eyes in our moment of chaos. May we discover connections anew right here in this church body as we gather to mourn; to sing; to laugh; to learn; to help; to worship, to talk; to hold hands and pray; to listen and to be heard. May we do the work of Christ’s disciples, delighted by the simplicity of our task: make a connection.
Rev. Emily Munger
delights in connecting sacred texts with everyday life.