Some folks love Facebook. Others don't want anything to do with it. Does it cause us to grow even more isolated, sitting alone with our computers, rather than getting together with real, live friends to share time together? One thing that Facebook does well is connect people who live far apart from each other: old college classmates, cousins who share a family history but who live so far apart that they can't easily get together. And just as kindness and compassion can be extended between friends who live in the same community, it can also be extended through cyberspace.
In one case, a group of college classmates hooked up who hadn't seen each other in 30 years. As this group connected through Facebook, one woman shared the recent loss of her husband who was an airplane pilot killed in a crash. She had posted photos of herself and her husband together and told how deeply she missed him. Soon, her Facebook page was filled with kind words, condolences and prayers from people throughout the country classmates who had shared a few years in college together and yet had not seen each other since. But the heartfelt warmth and offer of prayers brought a huge measure of comfort. It wasn't a face-to-face gathering, but the woman felt she was not alone in her grief.
What Facebook does emphasize is our human need to be connected with one another. Jesus, if he knew about the future of electronics at the time he walked the earth, did not mention Facebook to his disciples. But he did speak of vine and branches as his illustration for staying connected.
Rev. Janet Hernes Mathistad
Most basic for Christians is to be connected to Jesus. As branches on the vine, we are then connected to one another. When a branch is broken off a vine, it loses its life support, and quickly withers and dies. That's how strongly Jesus views our need to be connected to him. It's a matter of life and death.
In describing this, Jesus uses a word that is not common to our everyday vocabulary: the word "abide." "Abide" has the sense of dwelling or lodging, of having a place we can call home. It speaks to a common need for all humans we all need a place that we can call home, a place where we can be safe from the harshness of the world.
Jesus himself wants to be that shelter for us that place of peace we find, even when we do live in the midst of chaos or disharmony. And we bear fruit in the ways that we share our gifts with one another. It might be sharing a common experience someone diagnosed with a new illness can find great help by talking to someone else who has already been living with that illness what helps, what doesn't, what to watch out for and so on. The same goes for many other situations. In going through a divorce, in losing a job, in facing retirement, in dealing with alcoholism or depression, we benefit greatly from the help of someone else who's been through the experience.
Reflections, a mini-sermon written by Minot and area clergy, will appear each Saturday in The Minot Daily News. Clergy interested in writing a mini-sermon should contact Religion Editor Loretta Johnson at 857-1952 or Debbie Sandvold at 857-1950. The toll-free number is 1-800-735-3229.
That is why Jesus says it is a matter of life and death to be connected to the vine. We need the continuing Word of God in our lives. We need the interaction with the community of believers. As we are connected to the vine, we can grow and bear fruit that will benefit not us alone, but our whole community. Not because we are so virtuous, but because it is Christ himself who sustains us through the life-giving energy of his vine.
Rev. Janet Hernes Mathistad is pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Minot and of Deering Lutheran Church in Deering.