Revival Revisited: Kathy Mattea & John Prine (364)

In what sounds like the title of an excellent John Prine song, the British government has recently appointed a “Minister for Loneliness” to tackle what Prime Minister Theresa May calls a “sad reality of modern life.” According to U.K. government figures, more than 9 million people there “always or often feel lonely.” An increasing body of research has found that feelings of social isolation can have profound, negative health effects. Loneliness, we’re now seeing, is simply bad for people’s health, not to mention bad for the social cohesion of any society. This calls to my mind that wonderful Kathy Mattea song, where she sings:

And I guess we never learn
Go through life parched and empty
Standing knee deep in a river and dying of thirst

It’s the irony of modern life that even though we’re surrounded by people, so many of us are lonely. We’re all “standing knee deep” in other people and yet we’re “dying of thirst” for authentic relationships with others. Some of this is self-imposed, to be sure. We’re afraid that if we risk being in relationship, then we’ll be hurt or rejected. So, some people just choose not to take that risk. Others simply don’t know how or where to make those connections in order to have deep relationships. Still others, and I think they’re a minority, actually believe they have no need of other people.

At our Revival, our Presiding Bishop taught us about self-centeredness; it being the opposite of love. In a way, loneliness is the by-product of self-centeredness. One reason some people are lonely is that they can become so self-oriented that no one wants to be around them. But these folks are few and far between. The vast majority of lonely people are lonely because they don’t know how or where to make authentic relationships. And I’m not only talking about people who live out in the woods by themselves. People can be “knee deep” with others and still be “dying of the thirst” of loneliness. And, sadly, there are not people around them who are committed to help them get out of that trap.

And this is where you and I come in as people of the “Jesus Movement.” Love, as our Presiding Bishop has taught us, is the opposite of self-centeredness. If we’re to love as Jesus loves us, we’ll break through the loneliness of others and invite them, as our Presiding Bishop says, into a “loving, liberating, and life-giving relationship with God.” And that can only happen in the fellowship and love of the church; for it is only in the church where one learns the merciful, unmerited Gospel of Jesus. It’s only in the church where we’re fed and formed by God’s Word & Sacraments, so we might go into the world together with the grace-filled Gospel of Jesus.

As usual, John Prine sang it best:
So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello”



Comments are closed.