We've been doing a series at our evening services on the 'one another' sayings in the New Testament, those places where God's people are urged to do something for one another in order to build their communal life. It's helping us to explore what shape Christian community might have.
Last Sunday we were thinking about comforting one another, reflecting on Paul's great statement in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. One of the issues that particularly resonated with people was the need to help one another cope with the times of rapid social change through which we are living.
Some people find the dizzying pace of change profoundly unsettling. Those of us who are gleefully adopting new technology, facebooking and tweeting at every opportunity, are in danger of leaving behind those who struggle to make sense of what's going on. They feel it as a profound loss of a way of being and doing things that was familiar to them, that they felt in control of. In many ways they are grieving a lost way of life with the same intense emotions with which people grieve the loss of a loved one.
Generally when people are bereaved we know what to do. We rally round, bring a comforting presence that is accompanied by few words, we cook meals, do a bit of shopping, create the space people need to work through their grief. Why can't we do the same with people who are struggling to come to terms with the loss of old familiar ways of doing things. We know that the 1950s are not returning; rapid social change, increasingly driven by the revolution in communications technology, is here to stay.
The question for us is how will we comfort one another through these changes. Comfort is about bringing strength, the strength to face changes that unsettle and upset us, to see them accurately and speak about them honestly. Without such seeing and speaking, all we do is live in denial of the effect of change on our lives and the pain continues. Comfort is about facing the things that cause us pain and bringing the strength that comes through knowing the support of a loving community.
And behind all this is God, the one who comforts us through his grace and strengthens us to face events that unsettle us, so that we in turn can be the means of bringing comfort to those around us.