University Congregational Church
Nov. 17, 2013
“Bearing One Another’s Burdens”
Galatians 6: 1-10
When people come to church, they are typically looking for something. Some will tell you – if you ask – that they are looking for a place to meet the needs of their family. Others will tell you that they are looking for a minister who inspires them. Still others will claim that they are looking for a church where they can serve or volunteer.
All of these reasons are real and truthful. However, if you look to the reality behind the words, you will find that most people come to church searching for a way to make sense out of life. They are yearning for wholeness, purpose, and meaning. A clean and well-staffed nursery, a charismatic minister, amazing music, and a wonderful outreach program ultimately will not attract people of keep them in the church. Those are the added bonuses. People come to church to find the answers to the big questions in their lives and to find a sense of the Divine.
It makes our job a bit difficult. Mostly because all of us are searching for the same thing. We haven’t arrived at that great place where all the mysteries of the universe make sense and where God is fully understood. It would be easier if we could simply focus on something we can control: the number of cookies in Fellowship Hall after church or the time of the Christmas Eve service. But when was the last time we discussed whether or not this is a place for people to experience wholeness in life? And when did any of our boards or council have a discussion about introducing lonely people to a mysterious and omnipresent God?
This is the most critical work of the church…. Connecting with others who walk in these doors Joining with others to search for truth Finding our similarities and differences
Sustaining and building up one another’s lives.
Ancient words from Paul tell us that our struggle to understand and be a part of a community is universal. It is distinctly human. His advice to the church at Galatia was:
“Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.
Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.
So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.” Galatians 6: 1-10 The Message
Perry Noble tells a very personal story: I was employed at Ryans Restaurant and worked every Sunday afternoon. Now, if you have ever worked in the restaurant industry, you know that the absolute worst day in the world to work is on Sunday. On Sunday, people who were fresh out of church would file by me. Many of them
knew my name. I once heard it said this way… and I agree… the problem with many Christians when they go to a restaurant on Sunday is that they are more concerned with their food that they are about the person bringing the food. I watched this – witnessed it – rudeness to servers. And let’s not even begin to discuss how “Christians” tip!
Why is this? Well, it’s quite simple. People with this mindset have an “all about me” mindset. After all, they just left a church where everything was all about them… so why not expect the same out of the people down at the restaurant?
But one day, a person from a church finally took the “risk” and invited me. You see… I mattered to someone… they invited me …. And the church grew one more person. I am so glad that when I went I was not looked down upon because I didn’t have any “church clothes”. Churches that are not reaching out and inviting people are selfish. www.perrynoble.com
Church Central sent a research team to interview people over a two year time period. They went to all 50 states and Canada listening to people who don’t go to church. The results were surprising: 96% of people not attending church said that they were at least somewhat likely to attend church if they were invited. That means more than 9 out of 10 say they would come if they were invited!
There are about 160 million people in the US who attend church less than 2 times a year. We have our work cut out for us. www.churchcentral.com
From another source comes the pie chart in your bulletin. It shows the top reasons people visit a church for the first time. On the right of the chart you will see the possible ways people connect with a church – through radio ads, newspaper articles, driving by the facility, etc. The vast majority – about 72% – visit a church because they were invited by someone. Lyle Schaller
To share one another’s burdens, we must dig deeply into the depths of our own souls and offer our most hidden questions as a gift to others who struggle. We offer our hopes and dreams to one another. We share the visions of God with one another. We must touch without fear; love without manipulation; share without
personal gain; and all the time pray. This is what it means to share one another’s burdens.
Sometimes it is hard for us to grasp what good all of this will do. We may never see a person with whom we shared our souls again. They are like a person seated next to us on the airplane, with whom we visit in an intimate way for an hour and then watch as they fade into the crowd at the airport only moments later.
You may have heard about research being done at an East Coast university with adults who had extreme autism. The people in the study had never been able (or maybe willing) to walk alone. The researchers discovered that if they attached a rope from one end of the room to the other, helped people get to their feet, and put their hand on the rope, the people with autism would hold on and walk across the room. Over time, the researchers used thinner and thinner rope, with the same results. People would hold onto the rope and walk across the room. The researchers put up laundry cord, twine, and then eventually fishing line, which is basically invisible. But people would still take hold, and walk across the room.
The truly inspired part of the study was that the researchers found that they could cut the fishing line into 12” lengths, hand people a piece, and people would STILL walk alone across the room. What a wild, victorious discovery. Anne Lamott, Facebook, Nov. 2013
Most of us don’t deal with autism. But the study, I think, has significant implication. It is difficult and scary to walk through this life alone. When someone takes our hand and gives us something to hold onto, we can rise to the challenge. And once we’ve learned to make it across the room, we can share a bit of fishing wire with someone else, bring them to their feet, and walk with them for a time until they are strong.