“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” John 14:18
Last week the US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, released a recommendation focusing on the “epidemic of loneliness and isolation” affecting the country. Dr. Murthy said, “In recent years, about one-in-two adults in America reported experiencing loneliness. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic cut off so many of us from friends, loved ones, and support systems.”
Dr. Murthy also said, “Given the profound consequences of loneliness and isolation, we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to make the same investments in addressing social connection that we have made in addressing tobacco use, obesity, and the addiction crisis. We are called to build a movement to mend the social fabric of our nation.”
In the first pillar of his framework, Dr. Murthy speaks of strengthening and boosting programs including religious groups, which aligns perfectly with our theme this season... Until All are Gathered at the Table.
Loneliness is an epidemic and is something we can help change. We are called as a community of faith to connect and care for those in our community, and those yet to come. Prayers, phone calls, cards, visits, check-ins, and meals matter and remind the loneliest of us that they are not alone! Connecting with others is part of being a servant of Christ, and all generations have the skills to serve in this important way.
Jesus says in our Gospel reading this week, “I will not leave you orphaned.” God comes to love us in Jesus, promising to be present with us in the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit moves us even when we don’t recognize its power. Though we might struggle with loneliness, we have not been abandoned.
When Jesus promises that he will remain with us in the Holy Spirit, it’s hard to picture how this support comes to us sometimes. The simple gifts Jesus offers in body and blood, bread and wine shared as a community, can help us to see and feel that support. Even when life keeps delivering bad news about how far apart we are from one another, how broken our relationships are, “I will not leave you orphaned” is a reminder that we are not alone.
If you are feeling lonely, I pray that you get the support that you need, and you come each week to receive communion and be reminded that Christ is with you. We are not whole until all are at the table. I pray that we, as a faith community, pay attention to who is missing at the table, who we haven’t seen for a while, and that we take time to reach out, check in and share the message that you are there for them.