Stephanie and I talked this morning, as we often do, while I was out early walking Howie. We met 23 years ago, when I applied to attend the seminary where she worked, and forged a bond surprisingly quickly. Although we haven’t lived near each other for the last 18 years, we have stayed connected through regular phone calls and occasional visits. Our families are what I call chosen family, in spite of the distance between us. We know each other and our stories, having journeyed together through wonderful times as well as challenging ones. There is nothing quite like a soul friendship, where you know you are loved just as you are and also nurtured into being your best self, your true self.
Who are the people in your life who really know you, love you and nurture you? Who are your soul friends, your chosen family, those with whom you can be real? While we may find and develop those amazing friendships through any area of our lives, I’m very aware that at its heart, this is what a Christian community is intended to be. Those who walked with Jesus shared such a bond together; and it is the energy of that close connection, that sense of abiding with one another and with God, that precipitated the incredible spread of the gospel, the good news, in the early decades of the church.
Those early followers of ‘the way’ experienced something profound in the communities of love, and they wanted more of it. That changed when Christianity became the state religion, thanks to Emperor Constantine. After that, people became Christians to succeed in business or get ahead in the machinations of the Empire or for all kinds of other reasons. Today fewer people go to church at all, and it’s certainly no longer something you’re expected to do!
We are intended to share the journey in community as we seek to follow Jesus, deepening the bonds of love and connection with one another, that we might share that love out into the world we encounter. As with anything worthwhile, this takes an investment of time and energy—to move beyond surface connections into true community, into soul friendships, into chosen family. It also takes some risk to move beyond yourself and into unfamiliar waters, opening space to know and be known. Soul friendships cannot be forced or manufactured, but we can put ourselves in places of possibility by sharing in conversation, in meals, in ministries together.
This coming week is Holy Week, when the body of Christ gathers together to walk with Jesus through death and into resurrection life. We come together, to hear the stories, to break bread, to open ourselves to a deeper connection with God and with one another. I hope you will share in the journey, but I would really like to hear about how and in what ways you would like to strengthen the bonds of affection, foster opportunities for meaningful connections –– and the possibility of soul friendships –– here at St. Simon’s.
Hope to see you Sunday,