New Relationships – January 1, 2006

Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Galatians 4:4-7

January 1, 2006

Life is all about relationships. People were created to be together. Do you believe that? I know there have always been monks and even hermits who have lived lives of monastic isolation for religious or meditative reasons. And I know it’s good for all of us to be alone ourselves from time to time. Even Jesus did that. But having said all that, I am still more convinced every day that we people are wired to be together.

Now, I know there are people who just don’t get it. They live in isolation because they simply can’t get along with others. And I think there are many people these days who have lost their social skills. We live in a society where people are more and more self-centered and live lives more isolated from others. In many neighborhoods, people don’t know their neighbors anymore. But that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. That’s not the way we were made!

Have you seen the movie, “The March of the Penguins?” (Hands?) What did you think? Incredible, wasn’t it? Was it not amazing the way those animals have learned to survive the winter in the harshest place on earth? They huddle together and become like one giant living organism. They take turns being in the center of the group where the core temperature is around 60 degrees, while the outside temperature is well over that below zero, and the winds are blowing in excess of 100 miles per hour! All the while each if them shelters new life. They stand for months with an egg on top of their feet! The fact is, though they have done this for thousands of years, they simply would not survive by themselves! People are like that! We were meant to be in relationship with others!

Poet and preacher John Donne, wrote these famous words in 1624. “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less… Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (Meditation XVII, 1624)

In contrast, Paul Simon sang these words in 1966. “…I am a rock, I am an island. I’ve built walls, A fortress deep and mighty, That none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and loving I disdain. I am a rock, I am an island.”

“I have my books and my poetry to protect me. I am shielded in my armor. Hiding in my room, safe within my womb, I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock, I am an island. And a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.”

Who was right? Donne was right. Simon would agree – he was saying the same thing sarcastically. We are wired to be in relationship. Think of the people in your life. You were made to be in relationship with them. Look around you. We worship together. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s the way God designed us.

Oh, I know we don’t always get it. We don’t always do right by people. Sometimes we hurt the ones closest to us. Sometimes we experience brokenness in relationships. And when we do, isn’t that the source of life’s greatest heartaches? Yes, we might experience disappointments in careers; yes, we sometimes fail to reach goals; and yes, we go through times of physical pain. But the biggest hurts we experience in this life are around people. Because we were created to be in relationship with people!

Besides that, and perhaps more importantly, we were created, to be in relationship with God. That is why we were made! We are “wired” that way, too! Just think, every civilization we have ever discovered has had some kind of deity. People have been searching for God for as long as there have been people. Some have even used that fact as a proof for the existence of God.

Yet people have missed that connection, too. It is becoming more and more apparent to me that that’s the reason for so much of the brokenness we see in our world. So many people are living life without purpose and without hope because they have a broken, neglected, and even avoided relationship with God. So many people have retreated into a self-centeredness existence where there is no room for God. Many people need to rediscover – and I believe many are – that we are most human when we are in relationship with the one who made us.

That’s not all, though. Because our relationship with God is not simply one of “connection.” It is more than just that of an acquaintance. We are “children” of God. And when I say that, I want you to think not just in the sense of children as offspring. I want you to think of the loving, nurturing, sharing, sacrificial nature of the relationship with our children! That’s how we are children of God! We’re not just children because God gave us our life! We are children in terms of family relationships. That’s what Paul was implying in that description of us as “sons of God” or “children of God.” But it’s even more!

This scripture comes from Paul’s letter to the Church in Galatia. It was written around the year AD 55, at the height of a controversy they were having in the early Church. And yes, they had controversies then, too! The controversy was about whether a person who was a Gentile – a non Jew – had to become a Jew first before they could become a Christian. Since Christianity grew out of Judaism, this was a very important question. And at that time, this was beginning to affect the life of the Church. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t understand their relationship with God in connection with the religious structure. So, in this crucial letter, Paul sets things right! And he does so by helping them to see this new relationship they had with God.

As I said, he tells them, as well as us, that we are sons – that is children – of God. And notice he clarifies that. He tells us that we’re not just children, in the sense of “offspring,” but children in the sense of being heirs! That was saying something very specific about in families in those days. The heir was the child of greatest importance. That’s the relationship we have with God. We’re not just sons. We’re not just any son. We’re not just children. We’re not just any children. We are the heirs of the family. That’s how God sees us! That helped them to put their lives in perspective. It helped them to see that all of them were important, and that lines drawn between people were a thing of the past. From now on there was neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, but all were one in Christ.

Here we are in a new year. Anno Domini – “The Year of Our Lord” – 2006. That’s hard to believe. But I think it’s great! Because the new year is a good time to think about our new relationship with God. We too are not just children of God, but heirs of his kingdom. And it’s also a good time to think about the year to come. This is the time we make resolutions – promises to ourselves to make improvements in our lives.

Perhaps we could use this as a time to “resolve” to think more about relationships in the coming year. Perhaps we could resolve to see the importance of being connected to people around us. Perhaps our resolutions could focus on finding new ways to showing others our love and our caring.

At the same time, I would also hope and pray that this would be a time to think about our new relationship with God. Maybe we can think about making “spiritual resolutions” as well. May we resolve to see even better this year that we are indeed children of God. But not just children, rather “heirs” of his kingdom. May we seek to find new ways to serve him and each other, and new ways to rejoice in our new relationship with him.

We are children of God. And not children only, but heirs of God’s kingdom. Happy New Year!

Prayer.

Eternal God, we stand at the threshold of a new year, thinking of the new life we have in you. Help us to rejoice in our relationship with you and each other in the coming year. We are grateful that you have made us your children, heirs of your kingdom. Help us to honor that in all we do. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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