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Lonely People Sermon

Never has society been more connected to the global Village.  Yet never have people been more alone.  Standing at a book fair two months ago I saw a book entitled "The psychology of loneliness".  At the time pastor Wayne had just asked me preach.  I was in that sensitive stage where I was waiting for God to guide me to a topic for today's sermon. I didn't pick up the book and I wish now that I had.  Usually when I am preaching I select a passage of scripture and let it speak to me and that becomes my sermon.  But this time there was a certainty that this was the topic.  I often get caught up in the writing process and stand amazed as I watch the hand of God moving, preparing the sermon and the preacher.  Books that I read, incidents in my life, movies that I watch all become fodder for the sermon.

As I thought about loneliness it struck me that there were two things that had to be looked at. The first was individuals and secondly how we react to lonely people.  Then I want to look at what the scripture says about loneliness and lonely people.  And finally I want to talk about our reaction to all of this us from the practical perspective.  What do we do about all this.

Preachers are never scared to ask the big questions. They may not have the answers and and they may not be able to stuff the worms back in the can but they ask the questions anyway.  What is loneliness?  The dictionary defines lonely as solitary, companionless, isolated, unfrequented.  Obviously it is a feeling an emotion.  Sometimes we desire it. We interact with people all day all week and we just want to be alone.  Psychologists have a trait of personality or temperament that they refer to as introvert-extrovert.

Keirsey who wrote a book called "Please Understand Me" talks about it this way.  When someone is observed to be talkative and sociable (the so-called "extravert") he or she can be described as "expressive." In contrast, people who are more quiet and private (the so-called "introverts") can be described as "reserved." ...Of course, everyone is expressive in some degree, but not in the same degree. Those who are more expressive appear more comfortable around groups of people than they are when alone. Thus they can also be thought of as socially gregarious or outgoing. On the other hand, those who are more reserved seem to be more comfortable when alone than when in a crowd. And thus they can be thought of as socially seclusive or retiring. Remember, however, that these distinctions are not clear cut: each individual surely varies from time to time in his or her desire to be expressive and in company or reserved and in seclusion.

For example, if an Expressive person goes to a library to do research in the stacks, he or she may, after fifteen minutes or so, feel bored and tired, and have to exercise strong will-power to keep from taking a short brain break and striking up a conversation with the librarian.

If Reserved persons go to a noisy party, after a short period of time -- say, half an hour -- they are ready to go home. For them, the party is over, they are drained. This is not to say that the Reserved do not like to be around people. They enjoy socializing with others, but at large social gatherings or professional meetings they tend to seek out a quiet corner where they can chat with one or two other persons.

Most people fall some where in between the two extremes.  Different people need different things.  In this is natural its part of temperament or personality.  The kind of loneliness that concerns us here though is not kind that we seek out.  But rather companionless.

There are lots of people do that fit the definition of companionless and that is what concerns us today.

Another big question So why are people lonely?

So why are people lonely?

Insert poems of depression here

It's not a new thing.  The Psalmist experienced it.

Read Psalm 63

Maybe the question isn't why are people lonely.  Maybe it's how do we react to the lonely people. 

One of my favorite stories is found in Luke. You probably heard the story has a child.  Remember Zacchaeus?  He was a wee little man a wee little man was he.  We don't pay much attention to him as adults.  Zacchaeus isn't mentioned by the other gospel writers and so all we have is the little story in chapter 19.

Read Luke chapter 19

There are some interesting things happen.  First of all recognize Zacchaeus was not only a tax collector but a chief tax collector.  If tax collectors were despised them surely a chief was even more so.  Not only was Zacchaeus hated as all tax man are but he was seen as a flunky for the Romans doing their dirty work.  He was short. All in all he was not very likable man.  But Jesus saw him in decided to stay with him.  People of course recognized that Zacchaeus was someone that Jesus shouldn't be spending time with.  All in all Zacchaeus was a lonely man, socially isolated, and not a very tall stature.  To the simple action of Jesus staying with him Zacchaeus responds.  Now it's almost certain that he was a rich man and it's almost certain that he had cheated people so rather than seeing the reaction of people Jesus other reaction of lonely man the generosity.  And he tells us that Zacchaeus was saved and then he tells us his purpose to seek and to save the lost.

It's a simple story but it contains a profound truth.  Very often we don't take time to find out what people are like.  By virtue of our own bussiness or because of some perceived difference we ignore people, we miss the lonely ones.  The ones who may be seeking a savior.

So how do we react to them? How do we make Jesus example real?

I finally watched "Patch Adams" this week.  I'd been told that was a movie about a brilliant young man who had trouble with authority.  That was true if but was also story about a young man who listened to people who wanted to help them.  I was struck by his statement that if we changed a few parameters we can make people react.  It was done in fun but it was also done to show us the ruts that we get in.

We need to learn to listen to people.  Becky Pippert has some excellent suggestions in her book "Out of the Salt Shaker"

  1. investigate stimulate relate
  2. relax
  3. ask leading questions
  4. general interest questions
  5. more specific questions
  6. philosophical questions 
  7. theological questions

May God bless as you apply these lessons.