We live in a time in history that is unique. In many respects we are more connected than ever, and at no other time in history have humans been more aware of what is going on elsewhere. We pick up our phones and we’re suddenly confronted with messages, articles and clips from all over the world, shouting at us about all that is going on. We are overwhelmed with information and by various forms of connection… constantly available, able to wake up and check our emails before we even get out of bed. We’re constantly connected.
But there’s also something numbing about it all. We’re hyper-connected… but we’re fragmented.
We’re fragmented because the individualism of Western thinking has convinced us that we can think about ourselves in isolation from God and one another. We’re fragmented because our anthropocentrism has convinced us we are separate from the planet we inhabit. And we’re fragmented because the information and technology age splits us from ourselves and distorts our ability to be present in one place at one time.
All of this leads to increases in anxiety, in loneliness, in depression… as people struggle to find authentic relationships and space to breathe in the modern hectic world. There’s a rising gap between rich and poor, rising tribalism and racism, environmental crises, and political crises.
But whenever we talk about big global problems, we’re also talking about our own internal world. It is all connected. In many respects I think the agitation we’re seeing in wider society is reflective of the internal agitation that many people are feeling at the present time.
So what does our faith mean for us in the midst of all of this. This Jesus story that Christians are centred around; does it have anything to offer us in this moment in history? In many respects, that’s what our new series is exploring. What does it mean to both find solidarity and be a source of solidarity in the world?
Solidarity, as a theological virtue, is about seeing ourselves as connected, as belonging to each other, to the earth, and to God. And because we belong to each other, there are implications for how we live in the world, and the pursuit of justice and peace. When we think about the story of Jesus, the claim of the Christian tradition is that this is Immanuel: God with us. The ultimate expression of solidarity. This is the divine solidarity of God. God demonstrates solidarity with us. God becomes one of us. God is one of us. And so the grounds of any Christian sense of solidarity with the world beyond ourselves, begins with a sense of divine solidarity with us, here and now.
In John 14:27 Jesus says “Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you; I give to you not as the cosmos gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Jesus says this in the context of talking with his disciples about the fact that even though he’s going to be killed (and leave them), his Spirit will be with them. The invitation is to live out of this place. To live out of this place of peace that comes from a sense of God with us.
This offers a profound sense of deep belonging and ‘God with us’ becomes the ground beneath our feet.
Now sometimes, when religion is unhealthy, it can serve to withhold that peace and belonging, and even threaten you with the idea that God might not be with you (especially if you haven’t been very “well behaved” lately). But Jesus consistently pushes back against this idea. The people he saves his judgement for are those who try to withhold God from others. These are the people he is most upset with.
The way the gospel of Matthew tells it, Jesus begins his ministry with a proclamation: “if you’re poor in Spirit – God is with you and God is for you… if you’re meek and quiet and powerless and sad and hungry and persecuted – God is with you and for you”
The gospels are this compelling story of divine solidarity.
Jesus lived and died in solidarity with his people. His life, given as a Eucharist for the world.
And then, having demonstrated this kind of affirmation and calling them into a place of belonging, the followers of Jesus are encouraged to demonstrate this kind of solidarity with others. To help be the grounds of belonging and a community of meaning for those around us.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”