Sermon Illustrations on connection
The Guise of Connection
As the speed and choices of the digital age send us hurling toward impatience and shallowness, they culminate in its most damaging consequence: isolation. Social media in particular lures us in under the guise of connection, but beneath this mask is the reality that social media, and digital spaces as a whole, are for the most part lonely places.
This is because social media is fueled by voyeurism—that broken inclination within each of us to peek behind the curtain of other people’s lives. Rather than connecting us, the voyeuristic nature of social media actually detaches and distances us from one another, as we find ourselves running aimlessly on the treadmill of comparison and contempt.
We feel like we can see one another’s lives, but none of us ever feel truly seen. Digital connections often act as poor disguises for our real-life isolation. Sherry Turkle says it this way: “Networked, we are together, but so lessened are our expectations of each other that we can feel utterly alone.”
How Strangers Become Friends
There’s been a lot of talk about friendship because of Facebook and the internet. You can collect friends and “likes” and begin to feel pretty good about yourself, depending on how many you accumulate. Our foundation, the John & Vera Mae Perkins Foundation, has about 3,500 likes right now, and I suppose that’s pretty good. But I’m not sure that’s the kind of friendship that is strong enough to carry us through and across the hard lines that have isolated us from each other. I think you can actually have a lot of those kinds of friends and still be lonely, separated, and afraid.
Columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. tells of a conversation Marc Dunkelman had twenty years ago with his grandfather, a retired salesman. They talked about how to find the best restaurants in an unfamiliar city. Marc was excited about a new app that would make it easy for people to find the best places to eat and that would even show them which restaurants were nearby. But his grandfather was not as eager to embrace this new technology.
He said that whenever he went on a sales trip to a new place he would look for a “friendly looking stranger” and ask him to recommend a good place to eat. In the process this stranger would often become a new friend and someone that he would see when he returned to the city. “That’s how I got to understand the world—by talking to strangers,” the older man said. “With all these fancy technologies you’re talking about, how are people going to get to know one another? You ask me, I think it’s going to make everyone lonely.”
The Slow Line
Have you ever been in a store checkout line and you’re in a hurry and the person in front of you starts gabbing with the cashier? You’ve got a cart full of groceries, the ice cream’s going to melt, you have to rush home and make dinner and these two are talking about how bad we need the rain and my flowers are wilting and you’re trying to be chill but you’re fuming inside, come on, get a move on! Nobody? Just me?
Well there’s a supermarket in Belmont, Canada named Sotheby’s that came up with a brilliant idea. A separate checkout line for people who want to slow down, enjoy life, and gab with the cashier. It’s called the Social Slow Lane. Started when the store manager noticed that one of his checkout lines moved a lot slower than the others because shoppers liked to talk to one particular cashier – Jason. And instead of reaming Jason out, he pondered this and decided to do something positive for his customers and opened the Social Slow Lane.
“It’s a labour of love really, serving our friends and family in the community,” said the store manager. “…It enriches our lives… sometimes we’re bringing people out of a dark space.”
Scott Bowerman, Source Material from Meagan Archer, “Sobeys in Belmont opens ‘slow lane’ to allow cashier chats at checkout,” https://globalnews.ca/news/9428363/sobeys-belmont-slow-lane-cashier-chats/
Trust and Belonging
We were created to communicate, to speak truth fully to one another, so that we might be members of one another. To be members of one another means we must learn to trust one another. Trust, like truthfulness, is a gift that is essential to our lives if we are to live with one another. When the trust that truth makes possible is lost, our lives cannot help but be captured by forms of violence-violence often disguised as order and, for that reason, not recognized for the lie that is at its heart.
Stanley Hauerwas, The Character of Virtue: Letters to a Godson, Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2018, pp.52-53.
When Words Fail
Ronald Rohlheiser tells a true story of a Jewish boy named Mordechai who could not be coaxed into going to school. When he turned six years old, his mother forced him to go, but the process was miserable for both mother and son. The boy cried, kicking and screaming the entire way. Once he had been dropped off, the mother began her return home, only to find Mordechai already there, having run home immediately after getting dropped off.
Each day, the mother would drag the boy to school, and each day he would fight her tooth and nail, then run back home as soon as he could. At this point, the parents resorted to the usual carrots and sticks, bribes, and threats that most parents resort to when no other meaningful path presented itself.
Finally, they decided to visit their rabbi, hoping he might have some deeper wisdom to offer. To their relief, the rabbi was happy to help, telling the parents that if the boy wouldn’t respond to their words, to “bring him to me.”
The parents brought the boy to the rabbi’s study. The rabbi didn’t say a word. Instead, he simply picked the boy up and held him in his arms, close to his heart. He did this for a long period of time, until finally, he set the boy down. This connection was all the boy needed to have the courage to go to school. And go to school he did, Mordechai would grow up to become a great rabbi and scholar. Ultimately, when words fail, a silent embrace may be all that is needed.
Stuart Strachan Jr., Source material from Ronald Rolheiser, Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist
The Way We Answer the Door
The Rule of Benedict is a document that has ordered the life of Benedictine monks for 1500 years. That remarkable document, written by Saint Benedict of Nursia, instructs the monks in how they are to live their daily lives together in community. One of the things that Benedict describes is a particular role, the “porter” of the monastery.
The porter is the one who opens the door to the monastery when someone knocks. Not much of a role, you say? Ah, but there is so much to it, so much entailed, and so much communicated in how one opens a door. Roman Catholic nun and author Joan Chittister goes so far as to say, “The way we answer doors is the way we deal with the world.”
In the Rule of Benedict, the porter is given very specific instructions. He is to sleep near the entrance to the monastery so he can hear and respond in a timely way when someone knocks. Then, as soon as anyone knocks, likely a poor person because they often sought refuge in monasteries, the porter is to reply, “
…Your blessing, please.” That’s before he even knows who is on the other side of the door. Before the porter knows who that person is or why he or she is there, he is to praise God for that person’s presence and to ask for the person’s blessing.
Scott Bowerman, Source Material from Martin B. Copenhaver, “Who’s That Knocking On My Door?” in Journal for Preachers.