This past week-end is one we will always remember.
Not only was it Mother’s Day, but also the day 47 years ago that Norma Jean went into labor. Kenny was born the next day. So for her gift this year, I arranged for a surprise visit for Kenny’s family to come to Tennessee for a few days. Imagine the look on Norma’s face when our grand kids, Miles and Katherine, knocked at the door with a bouquet of flowers.
As she shrieked with joy, and kept repeating “I can’t believe it…I can’t believe it,” laughter resounded through the room. Smiles, hugs, and kisses were the evidence of hearts filled with joy.
Sunday was also the first time we’ve worship together in six weeks. I know for some of you it’s been longer than that. But the obvious joy of being together with the little group where we worship in the Smoky Mountains was apparent. Although we practiced “social distancing” and there were no hugs or handshakes, you could see the joy on everyone’s face. You could feel it. And you could hear it in the song service. After the first song, Jerry quipped, “Well, it think there’s been a lot of pent-up singing inside all of us.”
Together. God created life to be shared together. Family, friends and our church family all provide an important outlet and fill a vital emotional need. “Sheltering in place” for the past several weeks has created in a void in all our lives that we’ve all intensely felt. Even in this era of individualism, most folks feel the need of social interaction in some form or fashion.
Being together, however, goes beyond just being in the same location. Togetherness speaks of a relationship that shares mutual goals, values and priorities. It is being in sync. In agreement. And harmoniously working together.
The Bible describes the first century Christians in Jerusalem this way. “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common” (Ax. 2:44). This doesn’t mean that all had the same hobbies, identical occupations, or pulled for the same sports team. It refers to something deeper. It was spiritual. An inner devotion. A commonality in Christ. And it expressed itself in unselfish sharing, sacrificial giving, and sympathetic comforting.
The 20th century French poet laureate, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, once wrote “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” When we truly love someone, we’re together. Not just physically. But emotionally. Mentally. Even spiritually. Our inward connection expresses itself in an outward focus. And our shared vision and kindred spirit provides a special pleasure we derive from the relationship. This is true in family. A community. And a church.
Real togetherness negates selfishness. Eliminates self-infatuation. And eradicates stinginess. Togetherness is a positive force to be reckoned with that can accomplish great things and share the mutually derived benefits. This is obvious when financial success is achieved in the business world, or championships are produced in the sports arena. But it is no less true in our homes. And in our churches.
The Bible often speaks of being “together” with the “one another” commands. No less than 59 times we’re exhorted to love one another. Encourage one another. Care for one another Comfort one another. Pray for one another. Bear one another’s burdens. And to forgive one another.
Truly being together does not occur accidently. It requires intentionality. Calls for character. And demands time, effort, and focused energy. The rewards of working together and being together are far more than worth whatever commitments or sacrifices are necessary.
In the words of Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu, known to the world as Mother Teresa, “I Can Do Things You Cannot, You Can Do Things I Cannot; Together We Can Do Great Things.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman