35 It was very early in the morning and still dark. Jesus got up and left the house. He went to a place where he could be alone. There he prayed. 36 Simon and his friends went to look for Jesus. 37 When they found him, they called out, “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let’s go somewhere else. I want to go to the nearby towns. I must preach there also. That is why I have come.”
What is the first word that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘connection’?
I wonder how many of you thought of ‘Wifi’?
That is certainly one of the first things that comes to my mind.
Wifi … we can’t see it but we know it’s there. When it does what we expect, we love it and probably take it a bit for granted.
But what happens when there are wi-fi issues? What happens in your house when the wi-fi is not working?
In my house, over the years, I have heard yelling, stomping and many other expressions of frustration! Including the words, “I need to be connected!”
We certainly do depend a LOT on wifi these days, and what it allows us to do, but we can actually manage without it if we have to.
However, there are other kinds of connections we really can’t manage without. These are the connections we have with others, ourselves and God. These are all really important ingredients in a good and happy life.
There has been lots of research on this – including the work of Brené Brown, an American university professor (social work) and now world-famous speaker. Brené has said in an interview that, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are … wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to.”
There are a number of medical and scientific studies that show that if you are lonely, you become more stressed. This can affect mental and physical health in all sorts of ways. But, on the other hand, studies also show that having more relationships that are strong and positive can bring all kinds of benefits to our health.
So, it seems true that positive connections with others are an important ingredient for a good and happy life.
And if we look to the Bible, we find this modelled and taught many times over.
In fact, the Bible seems to teach that connection or (to use another word) relationship are what humans were made for!
Jesus himself is a pretty good role model for this. There are so many stories of him connecting with other people. We read about him going to a wedding, having dinner with people, walking and talking with people, teaching small groups and crowds, healing people, going fishing with friends, cooking breakfast for his disciples and more. We see how he made time to talk and connect with individual people, even when he was busy. He made time for children, the disabled, older people, people who were outcasts, people with terrible diseases – the kind of people who often would not have had strong connections with others. But he connected with them, he showed he was interested in them and that he cared deeply for them. He is a wonderful example to us.
However, he didn’t spend all his time connecting with other people. Jesus also spent time alone. We all need that! Even if we love being around people, we still all need time to connect with ourselves, to think, to be quiet and to connect with God.
Jesus modelled this too. There are a few occasions in the gospels where we read of him taking some time to be by himself and to pray. Being closely connected to God was something that was vitally important to him.
Once Jesus talked to his disciples about this using the example of a vine and branches. Grapevine branches, of course, grow and do well if they are connected to the vine and therefore to the roots of the plant. This way, all the water and nutrients flow through to them and they can grow and make fruit. But obviously, if they are cut off from the vine, they will soon dry up and not be able to make fruit anymore.
I think Jesus was saying it is like that with us. Christians believe if we stay connected to God, then God’s love, kindness, grace and strength will flow to us and then be able to flow through us to others. A bit like the nutrients flowing through the plant. However, Christians also believe that if we choose to cut off our connection to God, then the flow of life and love to us and through us gets blocked. We can’t grow in our ability to love if we’re shutting ourselves off from receiving it.
So, connection to others, to ourselves and to God is a hugely important ingredient for a happy life.
Love God, Love others as we love as ourselves— the two great commandments. Christians believe this is what we were made for!
And these are three of the Connects in the Connect Four theme that our College community is focussing on this year.
Time for a Check-in! How are you going with your connections? Are there things you could do to improve them?
- Are your friendships and relationships with others positive and supportive?
- Are you making time to check in with yourself and become your own best friend?
- Do you need to make more time to connect with the numinous? With God?
As we consider these things, my challenge to all of us is to think of one step we can take to improve one area of connection/relationship and do it this week.
May God give us insight, courage and the desire to invest in our connections.
Rev Liz Flanigan