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The Bliss of Being Missed

We all get down. We all need support when we do. This hit me again last night when I heard about the death of Anthony Bourdain, the well known chef and host of CNN’s Parts Unknown. Why he took his own life was not clear, but the lack of hope and the experience of loneliness can often be a factor. We all need encouragement. There’s the encouragement we experience when we have partners who stand with us and thoughtfully affirm us. From a dank prison cell, Paul says to his Philippian friends, “I thank my God every time I remember you…because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:5).

There was another thing Paul experienced, as did his friends in Philippi – the encouragement of being deeply missed. “For God is my witness” Paul says, “how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:8). Perhaps you’ve had the experience of missing someone so much, it physically hurt; and the only relief was to hear from them, to get some form of communication. Epaphroditus risked his life to make the dangerous trip from Philippi in order to bring Paul their gift. He almost died. Paul knew beyond a doubt that he was deeply missed, and he wanted them to know how much he missed them as well.

For a number of years, three women at St. John’s who lived alone decided to try calling one another…not occasionally or once a week, but every morning; to make sure each one was OK. As it turns out, one of these women had a fall in the night and could not get up from the floor. She lay there through early morning. When she didn’t respond to her scheduled phone call, one of her friends proceeded to go check on her, opening the house door with the key she had been given. She found her friend helpless on the floor, and called the paramedics who soon arrived to render aid. In a big city, when people miss you, when they notice that you are absent, when people care to check in on you, it not only feels good…it can save your life.

Now here is a thought: When Paul said that he longed for his friends with the compassion (lit. the guts) of Christ Jesus, it didn't just mean that he missed them a whole lot, it meant that Paul’s longing was similar to the way Jesus longs for us, and misses us. Some may find that idea overly sentimental, but we either believe in a God of steadfast love or we don’t. Again and again the Word tells us that our God is a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46); that he is our good shepherd (Psalm 23; John 10: 11-18); and that he will be with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). We all need the encouragement of friends who check in on us, who notice when we don’t show up at class, at work, on a Sunday morning. The truth is that our Lord is such a Friend, and wants us to be such friends. Imagine if each of us took the time to consider one person who we’ve missed at St. John’s lately, and gave them a call or sent them an email, a text, or even better…a card. I can hardly wait to hear your stories when you do…

On a related note, I will be traveling with my family to the Holy Land next Friday June 15th with 35 other friends, mostly from St. John’s. We will certainly miss you…and we covet your prayers. I look forward to sharing a part of our experience on Communion Sunday July 8th. While I am away, Canadian pastor David Cragg-Kim (6/17), our own Andrew Kriske (6/24), and a son of this church, Rev. Travis Overbeck (7/1) will be preaching. For occasional posts from the Holy Land go to, “May the Lord watch between you and me, when we are absent one from the other” (Gen. 31:39). Hope to see you this Sunday…


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