Hi all you lonely congregants,
Here is my video devotion on the Plagues. Today is Plague 9: total darkness.
[Play the video for a while regardless of what you see.]
Also, here is a link to Eleanor Rigby from Yellow Submarine mentioned below.
The musical tastes of my parents consisted mainly of entertainers like Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Buck Owens, Patsy Cline, Roger Miller, Brenda Lee, Ed Ames, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, etc. I picked up those tastes as well even though The Beatles were still the most popular band worldwide in 1968. I watched teeny-bopper girls shriek, fawn, and faint while the “Fab Four” regaled their audiences, and I wondered what was all the fuss about? They appeared crude, rude, and lewd to me. Hoping to see a good movie in July 1969, I went to a Saturday morning matinee at the Richard Bong Theatre on the Misawa AFB in Misawa, Japan. I was so disappointed Yellow Submarine was playing that day, but I decided to go in since I was already there. Perhaps you saw this surreal animated feature. I didn’t like it. Too weird. However, the Eleanor Rigby segment haunted me. It did then, and it does now. Perhaps because it is too close to home.
The song tells the story of two lonely people. First, there is Eleanor Rigby, an old church-going lady who is seen cleaning up rice after a wedding; she “lives in a dream.” The second verse introduces the pastor, Father McKenzie, whose sermons "no one will hear, no one comes near." The third verse puts these two characters together, “Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name. Nobody came. Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave. No one was saved.” Then of course, the chorus! “All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”
The world is full of lonely people. Many were lonely before the government ordered social isolation in efforts to fight the coronavirus. I don’t know if the health measures had all its desired effects, but what I do know is how all the lonely people have come to feel their lonesomeness all the more. Robin Wright of The New Yorker confessed, “As the new pathogen forces us to socially distance, I have begun to feel lonely. I miss the ability to see, converse with, hug, or spend time with friends. Life seems shallower, more like survival than living.” And surprise: Socialists are learning in this pandemic that “virtual hangouts” are no substitutions for real physical contact! Humans were made to be social creatures, andsociologists have established links between social relationships and health outcomes. Isolated individuals eventually suffer psychological and physical disintegration and so it is no surprise that captors have long used isolation to torture their prisoners. In fact, a 2010 meta-analysis confirmed that the lonelier a person is, the risk of dying increases.
Before Paul McCartney wrote his song, the Church of England abandoned historic orthodox Christianity in favor of a liberal theology that can be summed up by Richard Niebuhr as believing in “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” Such a religion has nothing of importance to say to anyone. It has no authority to pronounce hope. Thus, a Father McKenzie can write a sermon no one will hear, and when a person dies, no one will be saved. The nagging loneliness continues on and on and on. And on (to Strawberry Fields?). McCartney is not a Christian and he wrote those haunting lyrics as an outsider. Maybe there is a wistful disappointment in them, however. Perhaps he was wishing that the church he had looked to for answers had an answer to loneliness. Perhaps he hoped it could actually do something more than put a lonely person into a lonely grave. I share that disappointment. But the Church does have an answer. Too bad many churches have discarded the ancient Biblical answer as “irrelevant for modern times.” In exchange for the truth they get a song dedicated to all the lonely people. Where do they all belong?
As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, they practiced social distancing. They made aprons of fig leaves for themselves and hid in the bushes when God came down. Sin produces isolation. But did you know that the Son of God left heaven and became a man to give the answer to loneliness and to undo the isolation sin creates? Christ’s Apostle wrote, “The life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us —what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” (1 John 1:2-4). Jesus came to bring us into a true fellowship with God. This God is omnipresent, and so wherever you go, He is there. As Christ’s blood washed away our sin and as his righteousness become ours, His Father is now our loving Father. We were made for Him in fellowship and so he gives peace, joy, and purpose in that fellowship we have with Him. Paul also mentions how Jesus is our peace and how He brought us into fellowship with one another (Ephesians 2:14). That is a glorious thing.
People can be lonely even in a large crowd. But we can also be separated from one another and not be lonely. It is a matter of fellowship with God. Now, I know just how hard this forced isolation is hard on us because we long for the fellowship the Spirit has created, but this isolation cannot conquer us because we are in fellowship with God. Use this time to draw near to God in fellowship and be patient as we will soon be meeting again.