Before COVID-19 ever happened a Harvard study of 7,000 people found that isolated people were three times more likely to die than those with strong relationships. Reporting on the study, John Ortberg writes that “people who had bad health habits (such as smoking, poor eating habits, or alcohol use) but strong social ties lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits but were isolated. In other words, it is safer to eat Twinkies with good friends than to eat broccoli alone.
What is true physically is also true spiritually: if we want to maintain a healthy, lifelong walk with Christ, we need community. I believe that’s why God gave us the church. One of the reasons I believe God wants His people together is because we develop and grow better in groups. This is not only true with education, sports, and socially but also spiritually. I love what Paul says in the message in Ephesians 4:15-16 when he says “God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. The Old Way Has to Go.”
Simply put, God wants us to grow up to be like Jesus. That happens better with help, accountability, and other people encouraging us along the way. That’s why Jesus went out, found his disciples and brought them together.
Simply put, amazing things can happen when we come together with other people. Chush is a school in Brooklyn, New York that caters to learning disabled children. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school career. One father told the following story about his son Shay: One afternoon, Shay and his father walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, “Do you think they will let me play?” Shay’s father knew that his son was not at all athletic and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shay’s father understood that if his son were chosen to play it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging. Shay’s father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said “We are losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning.”
Shay’s father was ecstatic as Shay smiled broadly. Shay was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay’s team scored again and now with two outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning run-on base. Shay was scheduled to be up. Would the team let Shay bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible because Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay should at least be able to make contact.
The first pitch came, and Shay swung clumsily and missed. One of Shay’s teammates came up to Shay and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay and his teammate swung at the ball and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have ended the game. Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond reach of the first baseman. Everyone started yelling, “Shay, run to first. Run to first.”
Never in his life had Shay run to first. He scampered down the baseline wide-eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out Shay, who was still running. But the right fielder understood what the pitcher’s intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman’s head. Everyone yelled, “Run to second, run to second.” Shay ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shay reached second base, the opposing shortstop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third base and shouted, “Run to third.” As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, “Shay run home.” Shay ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit a “grand slam” and won the game for his team. Amazing things can happen when we people come together!
This Sunday at South Side we will unpack the final week of our new series entitled “Together.” On-site worship begins at 10:15, and our Children’s Ministry offers children’s classes for all ages. We are continuing to practice social distancing at our services. If you are unable to attend our online services will be available at 3 on Facebook and our website. If you would like to give generously text: 84321 then the word “help” and follow the simple instructions. We would love to have your family worship with us! For more information visit us on our website at: www.southsidewch.com or on Facebook.
South Side Church of Christ