We’re All Connected
The word universe is derived from Latin and means “all together”, the totality of all things that exist, the cosmos, the world, the heavens and the earth.
When I was a child I really liked the “connect-the-dot” puzzles. I see children still doing them today. I had a lot of fun trying to guess what the picture was going to be, and then following the dots around, number by number, until the hidden image was revealed. When you started, there were just a lot of random dots on the page. But the connections make all the difference! They turn random dots into a meaningful picture and then you could color the picture.
Connections in life do much the same thing. They take random, individual parts and turn them into a whole. People need connections, especially to other people. We are social creatures and most of us want and need to be connected to others.
But with all of the amazing ways we have to be connected in this technological world in which we live today, people are always holding their iphones and ipads, they cannot be without having these devices within arm’s length, still this leaves us at a very surface level of connectivity. How many times have you gotten an email from someone and it just leaves you more confused about what they are trying to convey or sometimes the tone of an email can be very different than what the person is trying to convey. Even a phone connection makes things a lot clearer. All of these ways of connecting yet I believe we all still crave connection at a deeper level. We have the capability of being connected at the surface level in a way that has never been possible before.
But in many ways, it’s possible that all of this “connection” has made us even more dis-connected at a deeper human and spiritual level.
In this world that is at the same time more connected and more dis-connected than ever before, the church takes on even more importance, because I am convinced that the church is the one place in this world where we can make those vital, life-giving connections that we so need.
Three ways in particular that the church helps us to make and keep vital and life-giving connections are:
· To God
· to other people
· to the world
Worship is one of the main ways we can stay connected to God, Sunday worship and other types of worship during the week. . People may come to worship for different reasons – maybe it’s mainly to see friends or enjoy the music. But something deeper should happen when we come together for worship. Whether it’s through the fellowship or the prayers or the music or the sermon, or the Eucharistic, or all of the above, our connection with God should be deepened and strengthened. There’s nowhere else we can go to experience what we experience in worship
Prayer is another way we stay connected to God. Of course, we do a lot of our praying in private. But there is something powerful that happens when we join our voices together in prayer. Jesus taught his disciples – “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” During the Prayers of the People we share joys and concerns in worship and we commit to pray together for one another. Where else but the church could we find such support and love and caring? When the people of God pray together, something very powerful happens.
We can pray all throughout the day. One of the most helpful things for me is to sit on the floor in a lotus position a yoga position cross-legged sitting in which the feet are placed on the opposing thighs or in a chair with my back straight and feet on the floor and breathe in and breathe out." Sit quietly for a few moments and breathe in and breathe out, and I am learning how, in those moments, to be aware of how Jesus sits with me and loves me. I imagine myself being in the presence of Jesus and abiding in his love.
Such moments of abiding are wonderful gifts, but they are not the only way to abide with Jesus: "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. . . . This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." Jesus says that we abide in his love when we keep his commandments. He emphasizes the commandment: Love one another.
This is our Christian responsibility—to “abide” in Christ. The Gospel writer John is fond of this word “abide.” He uses the term over fifty times in his writings; eleven times in this chapter. Underlying the meaning of this term is the idea of belief.
Abiding, then, requires a belief in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. It is a dependence upon His provision of life and strength. It is a belief and a relation with the person of Jesus Christ and His Word.
Bible study is a third vital way to stay connected to God. We can read the Bible on our own and gain a great deal, but there’s something special about gathering with other seekers to study God’s Word together and share what God is teaching us and where God is leading us. Part of our diocesan approach to being a “missional” people is to participate in Dwelling in the Word. It can be used wherever people gather, before a meeting or gathering to Dwell in the Word. We read a designated piece of scripture and give attention to the following questions: Where did you stop? What insight or sense of God did you gain? What question do you want to ask about the text? It is fascinating to hear what each one of us receives from the text.
Of course, the church needs financial support from her members to keep the worship and prayer and Bible study going. I don’t’ think we talk often enough about our Christian duty i to be mindful of the church budget and see it not just as numbers on a page, but as people’s lives being changed, yours and mine, as the church helps us get connected and stay connected to God through worship, prayer, food pantry and Bible study. We, through our buildings and grounds afford a place where people can be connected.
In today’s reading from Peter he expresses our connectedness by saying we have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. He states that even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. The fact is that most of us have not endured any real persecution because of our Christian faith. Nevertheless, it takes place in several parts of our world and was a part of Christian living in the earliest church. Our reading from 1 Peter is written to Christians who are regularly suffering persecution for their faith.
In the United States it is not hard for Christians. We are not persecuted.
In light of this, it might seem as though the words of 1 Peter written to a suffering church would not have all that much to say to we modern Christians.
But this supposition would be wrong. There is a significant teaching that comes from our text that needs to very much play a part in our lives as contemporary Christians.
 We need to always be prepared to give a reason for our faith in Christ. The text reads, "Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you..." The world may not demand an accounting of our faith and a renunciation of faith -- but there is very much a need for Christian people who can articulate the faith in terms of how it brings great hope to our lives. It is true that we do this with our words - but it is also important (maybe even more important) to do it with the actions of our lives... important that we bear a sense of hope in Christ even in the tough times.
Remain hopeful in the face of trial and be ready to express or articulate that hope when people want to know where your strength comes from and our continual praise of God.
In psalm 148 today we hear Things Celestial Praising God vs. 1-6
But now to an unusual feature in Psalm 148 " namely the call for non-human creatures, that is, for nature to join in praising God.
The psalm begins by calling for praise "from the heavens" (1-6), continues with a call for praise "from the earth" (7-12), and concludes by tying "earth" and "heaven" together with a final call for all to join in the praises (13-14).
Let us Sing
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power and love
Our God is an awesome God.