Solitaire – A Life Well Connected

  • Solitaire – A Life Well Connected
  • Ephesians 1:4; Romans 12:15; Hebrews 10:23-24; 1 John 3:16
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • November 19, 2017
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11-19-17 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

This morning we are wrapping up our series on “The Games of Life” as use various games as a creative hook to examine what God’s word has to say to us about how we should live our lives.  Today we are looking at the game Solitaire. Oh, the hours that have been wasted playing solitaire. Who here has played it at work on your computer? Be honest raise your hand. I am so ashamed of you guys! I can’t believe that.  Just kidding! Those who didn’t raise your hand probably have a problem with lying.

I don’t know if it’s true, but I heard that the entire work force in the government offices in the state of Virginia had Solitaire removed from their computers in order to increase productivity.

Solitaire is a good way to pass the time when things are a little slow. Think about the game for a moment with me. You play it by yourself – obviously. You can play it for hours. You can cheat and no one knows. If you do win, there is no one for you to give a high five.

David Letterman is king of top ten lists. Number seven on his list of “The Top Ten Signs You Have No Friends” is if you are an expert solitaire player! If you get right down to it, Solitaire is a great game to play, but it’s a terrible way to live. It’s not God’s plan for you either.

When we look at the Bible, in Genesis 1 when God created the world He said, “It is good.” Over and over and over and over again God said, “This is good. That is good. This is good and that is good.” But then in Genesis 2:18 it says, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone…’”

Everything else was good, but the very first thing that God said was not good was when he looked at man and said, “It’s not good that you’re alone.” So if God said it wasn’t and isn’t good to be alone, you have to ask yourself, “Who do I think is lonely?”

I’m guessing that most of you would probably say, “A lot of other people.” You would tend to think that those who are lonely are the older people, maybe someone who’s been widowed or a widower.

What I want to do is expand your thinking for a moment on who actually might be lonely, who battles with loneliness? In fact, there’s a newer term that’s really intrigued me. It’s the term “relational poverty”.

Chicago Tribune columnist Marla Paul, confessed in one of her columns a few years ago, “I am lonely. This loneliness saddens me. How did it happen I could be forty-two years old and not have enough friends?”

She asked her husband if there was something wrong with her. She wondered if people were just too busy for friendship. It seemed to her that all of the other people she met had fulfilled their friendship quota and there was no friendship to be had.

She finished her column by writing, “I recently read my daughter’s Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling. I felt an immediate kinship with this bird who flies from place to place looking for creatures with whom he belongs. He eventually finds them. I hope I do too.”

Subsequently she wrote about the unexpected nerve her column struck. This column elicited seven times the normal amount of mail she received from other columns she had written.

It seems that people all over Chicago were coming up to her and saying, “I thought I was the only one who felt that way.” It seems that letters poured into the newspaper from all walks of life, from CEO’s to homemakers.

It isn’t just women who feel this way, a study was done that showed 90% of men in America lack a true friend, but being typical males, we don’t want to talk about it because quite frankly loneliness is something we tend to associate with losers.

 

Reality is that you can be with a lot of people and yet feel very, very alone. You can sit in a crowded church building and feel very lonely. You can be a stay-at-home mom and feel a deep nagging sense of loneliness. You can work around a lot of people and if you don’t feel close to any of them, even though you may enjoy what you’re doing, you don’t really like your work. Why? You’re plagued with the sense of longing for something more. You may be a college student and you’re surrounded by people in your dorm or on your floor. Yet, if you don’t feel like you can open to someone and there’s no one that you can really trust, what do you feel? You feel desperately alone.

 

What is the difference between material poverty and relational poverty? Well, material poverty is lacking the essentials to get you through the day. What is relational poverty? Relational poverty is lacking the intimacy and the connections to live a meaningful life.

 

So the question becomes, how do we love the lonely? There are so many ways that we can do that. We’re going to look at three that were probably the most common that Jesus himself employed. The first, if you’re taking notes, is we’re going to love with touch. We’re going to love with touch.

In Matthew 8:2 it says, “Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. ‘Lord,’ the man said, ‘If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.’”

Now, let’s understand a little bit about what leprosy is. It’s not super common in our culture today, but in the time of Christ it was incredibly common. It starts with muscle aches, joint pain and fatigue. Now, recognize that when someone becomes a leper they have a lifespan of about ten years. What happens in that ten years is just utterly unthinkable.

The muscle and the fatigue goes to scaley rashes on the skin, which then become lumps filled with puss. Everyone say “Eww, terrible.” Then it goes to their vocal cords and the vocal cords begin to change and literally the sound of that person’s voice alters. Then the structure of that person’s face begins to contort. With a little bit of time, they no longer even resemble a human. Their cheekbones get very inflamed and they don’t look like a person anymore.

It is one of the most contagious diseases there is. He says, “Lord, if you’re willing, you can make me clean.” What does Jesus do?  V. 3 reads, “Jesus reached out and touched him. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be healed!’” Instantly the leprosy disappeared.

None of us are God, but just imagine for a minute that this guy is kneeling before me. What would I do, honestly? I would walk backwards because hand sanitizer hasn’t been invented yet. I might say, “I’m going to pray for you from a distance, but I’m not going to touch you.” He is unclean, but Jesus touched him. What blows my mind is that all throughout the four gospels there’s multiple accounts of Jesus healing people without touching them. All he needed was the power of His word.

Could it be that the disease the leper needed healing from the most was not leprosy? Could it be that the disease was in fact relational poverty? A life of rejection can sometimes only be healed by human touch, by a hug.

There are people in this room today who come to church regularly, but the reason they’re so consistent at coming to this place is because this may be the only place where they get a hug or a handshake or a high five, any kind of human connection.

You see, we’re wired by God for human connection. A loving touch and a loving hug can change people. As a church, this is who we’re going to be. We’re not going to violate people’s body spaces, but when someone wants a hug, by golly, they’re going to get a hug in this place, Amen. We love people with touch.

Secondly, we love by listening. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand another person. They listen with the intent to what? Respond/ reply. I’m nodding my head as though I know what you’re talking about, but I’m thinking about my incredibly awesome comeback to whatever it is that you’re saying. People need to be loved by listening.

Jesus was a great listener. There’s this amazing story but I need to build a little bit of context around it. There were two men walking on a street. Jesus had just been crucified and really no one knew that he had risen.

These two men put their entire hopes of their lives on the fact that Jesus was the Messiah and he was going to build a kingdom on earth. They didn’t really understand the heavenly kingdom that Jesus was building. They’re walking along this road, their eternal hopes dashed, shot, they were depressed, they were lonely and Jesus comes up alongside of them.

In Luke 24:17, check this out. “He asked them, ‘What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?’ They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, ‘You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.’”

Now, at this moment, Jesus could have responded very, very differently. They’re bummed, their hopes have been dashed and all of Jesus could say, “Tadah! It’s me, I’m alive.” He could have made their day and said, “Stop being depressed, I’m here.” But he didn’t do that.

What does he do? He starts with a question. He continues with a second question. “What things?” He asked. I think this is huge. Why do you think Jesus did not reveal himself and solve their pain?

Maybe he was modeling for us that we live in a world where there are people that need to know that we love them, not when they have the answer to the solution, but before they have an answer to their problem.

In the midst of my discontentment and my heartbreak someone cares enough to just say, “How can I pray for you?” or “Tell me your story?” Maybe in the lobby later on today you walk up to someone you’ve never met and you ask the question, “How are you?” Then you add one word, “Really.” “How are you really?” Did you love them by listening?

Sometimes, we get in these situations and there are people in our lives right now that the best way you could love them is to ask them an open-ended question and just listen. It’s one of the greatest ways we can love people. Jesus modeled this for us. We love with touch.

We love by listening and finally, write this down. We love with time. Jesus had three and a half years of ministry and he fit a lot into those three and a half years. He was always on the move. He was always going somewhere. He was always going to heal someone. He was always going to preach to a crowd.   He was always moving and going somewhere, but he was never so busy that he couldn’t be interrupted.

One of my favorite stories in Luke 5 is of Jesus teaching in a town that he hadn’t been in up to this point. He’s in this enclosed house and there’s some people that are just intent on every word coming out of his mouth. There was a few Pharisees in there that weren’t big fans of Jesus, but yet, they were there. He’s in this place teaching. Now, four guys get wind of the fact that Jesus is in their town. They recognized that they have an opportunity for their friend, who has been paralyzed, to get healed. They go and pick up their paralyzed friend on his mat and they make their way over to the house.

People are pouring out of this house. There’s absolutely no way these guys are going to get their friend in. Some of you guys know the story. What did they do? They climb up onto the roof and they begin to dig in the mud roof and created an opening.

They lower the man as Jesus is teaching, right in front of Him. What does he do? He stops. He looks at the man and He says, “Your sins are forgiven. Oh and by the way, get up and walk.” Jesus heals him. The power of this is that sometimes we get interrupted. Jesus makes time for this paralytic man.

Could it be that the things we view as interruptions in our day are actually opportunities that God is giving to us to use our time as a way of loving people In a world where all kinds of things cry out for our time. This is a word to us not to let the urgent crowd out the important.

All of this goes to illustrate the basic truth that people need people. Pastor and author John Ortberg said it this way, “The yearning to attach and connect, to love and be loved, is the fiercest longing of the soul. Our need for community with people and the God who made us is to the human spirit what food and air and water are to the human body.”

The truth is that we were created to draw life and nourishment from one another the way roots of an oak tree draw life from the soil. Community – living in vital connectedness with others – is essential to human life.

The highlight of this message series for me has been hearing the testimonies of people from our congregation concerning each of the series topics. This morning I would like for you to hear from Matt Reecer and Jason Owens about the power of a life well connected. Let’s take a look.

Solitaire might be an okay way to pass a few minutes of time, but it would make for an incredibly lonely life. We know that God said it isn’t good for us to be alone. He created us for relationships. He created us for community. His desire for us is a life well-connected.