I was on a run one late afternoon at English Landing Park in Parkville and noticed something a bit surprising. It is standard practice after I run at the park to walk alongside the rivers edge and attempt to slow my life down a bit; I tend to move at a blistering pace and forget to be fully present in each moment of my day. This day had been no different as I had gone from meeting to meeting and barely noticed anything. As I sat down on a bench in the shade looking out over the river I noticed 3 ducks that were all standing on the bank of the river. As I was watching they all at once jumped in the river and began to swim across. What was most interesting and surprising was they all three swam right next to each other in a “V” shape. There was no separation between them at all. The Missouri River has all kinds of dangers in it, there are whirlpools that will suck you under, there are logs and tree branches that can snag you, and mud so thick you can get stuck in it just by wading in up to your waste.
These ducks were practicing something that many of us have forgotten and that’s relationship. Many of us have isolated ourselves from each other and attempt to live life on our own apart from others. These ducks were beside each other as they waded through one of the most difficult parts of their day, swimming across a dangerous river. Not all of life is like this dangerous river but there are times when we go through very rough stages and many of us attempt to go through these very difficult moments on our own.
Relationships are God given; they are what can sustain us as we move through the journey of life. In Genesis God says; “it’s not good for people to be alone.” For some of us we live at such a harried pace we don’t take time to nurture some of our most important relationships, our friends. Nurturing a group of friends beyond just knowing names and interests takes a ton of intentional work. It takes being vulnerable and honest with feelings and emotions. It takes talking about what is “really” going on and not what’s just on the surface. When a few are gathered together to “share” life with each other God says in Matthew 18:20, “…wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in my name I am there.” There is something supernatural something deeply spiritual when you are part of a group that is open and honest with each other and the best part is God says, “I will be there with you.” Sure God is always present with us but when there are a few gathered in the name of God there is a physical manifestation of God’s presence that is unlike anything we can experience on our own.
In I Thessalonians Paul is writing to a group of believers who needed a better understanding of what life together looks like. Paul writes in I Thessalonians 2:8, “We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.” When Paul was with the people of Thessalonica he not only shared the Good News of Jesus but also his own life. All his hopes and dreams all the ways in which he falls short. In the New Testament book of James (5:16) the writer says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
Confessing sins to each other can release the shame we feel from those sins and when we do this as a part of a group of trusting, caring, and compassionate friends we can experience God’s grace. For many of us we think if I share my sin with someone else then they will run away from me but the exact opposite is true. When we share our sins we share them recognizing that James says we can experience healing in our lives.
The problem with some of us is we feel undeserving of God’s grace so we don’t form these close relationships. We don’t seek to live out a life of freedom and healing because we don’t feel we are deserving of God’s grace.
The question before us today is who are your 3 or 4? Who knows what’s going on within you? Who knows where you fall short? Who is there for you to confess your sins to, to pray for you, to pray for healing? Today God is calling us into relationship with one another, the kinds of relationships that bring healing and hope to our lives.
Here at Good Shepherd we highly value small groups. The goal of a small group is Christian discipleship. Small groups seek to create an environment of care, safety, authenticity, growth and help. You might ask, “How do I join a small group.” We have found the best way to join a small group is through meeting people while taking a short study. Short studies have a variety of topics and have sign-ups all throughout the year. Sign-up for a short study meet some folks and start a small group. Small groups size range from 4-6 people. Once you have a small group have the small group leader contact Jill Hodge at firstname.lastname@example.org