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rip

This sermon was delivered at St. Paul United Church of Christ, Old Blue Rock Rd., Cincinnati on March 10, 2013.

Last night, the following was trending on Twitter: reasons we stopped talking.  For those new to Twitter, trending in social media means that it’s a very popular topic, and many people respond with their own answers and tweets.  So people were giving reasons why their relationships had ended.  Reasons included: “You didn’t make an effort to talk to me or make us work.”  “You changed.”  “You shattered my best friend’s heart.”  “We weren’t making the effort to communicate.”  “You doubted my intelligence.”  “I couldn’t trust you.”  “Because I always tend to push people that care away.”  “I was treated like a fool.”  “I really wish I knew, no clue.”

While some of these reasons are commonly found in romantic relationships, I think they can apply to any broken relationship.  A relationship breaks apart, and the person who you love and care for is no longer part of your life anymore.  And your mind goes through all of the possible reasons this happens.

Have you ever endured a broken friendship or relationship of some sort?  Specifically I’m talking about the kind of relationship with someone close.  Whether its parent-child, brother-sister, best friends, boyfriend-girlfriend, spouses – ending relationships hurt.

So who is affected?  How are they affected?  Our broken relationships ripple into the rest of society.  Not only are we hurt to our very core, but the negativity that is created by those relationships seeps into all that we do.

Luke 15 reminds us of those who have been affected by the ripping of a relationship: the story of the lost (or the one who wanders away), the story of the one who has lost something or someone and those affected by this broken relationship.

Today I give you reflections on three perspectives:

I start from the perspective from the one who was lost.

If you see me in Luke 15 – I’m the lost sheep.  I’m the coin – although coins typically don’t react to being lost.  I’m the son who wants to experience the wild and crazy life from home.

And now that I’m far from home, I’m scared.  Now that I’m away from those I love, I miss my previous life.    How would it be if I go home?  Would they curse at me or give me the cold shoulder?

Do I dare go back?  How would they take me if I go back?  What would my shepherd or my family think if I were to go back now?  I’ve messed up so much by leaving.

I’m holding on to so much shame from the past.  I don’t deserve love after leaving.  I’ve messed up so much with my life.  There is no way I could go back or dare to go back.  Maybe I’ll just stay here – away from everything.   But I’m not good being so far away from home.  They may have lost me, but I’ve lost myself too.  I don’t know who I am now that this relationship is over and I’m in this place of exile.

Maybe you’ve been like me… a friend who decided to walk away from a friendship.  A significant other who left their love.  A child who walked away from a parent.

Could it be that it’s not too late to go back?  Could it be that they are looking for me?  Might they rejoice when they see me again?  Dare I risk my heart by contacting them?

Now let’s look through the eyes of the one who has lost.

When you see me in Luke 15 – I’m the shepherd who has lost the sheep.  I’m the woman who has lost her coin.  I’m the father whose son has left home.

Have I said something to make them leave?  Have I done something to sever this relationship?

I keep going over and over in my head to see where I’ve messed up.

I don’t know who I am without this person in my life.  I live with the guilt that I did something wrong.  Should I spend all of my time trying to repair this relationship, or should I just love them and let them go.  If they love me, they’ll return when they are ready.  Which is best?

So yes, not only have I lost the relationship with my loved one, it’s starting to affect the relationship I have with myself.  I blame myself.

And it’s starting to affect the relationship I have with my other loved ones.  They think I’m obsessing over this.  I’m not spending enough time with them.   Let them go, they tell me.  I wish I could.

Might my loved one come back?  Or should I go after them?  These decisions are horrific to make.

In Luke 15 – the shepherd went after the sheep while leaving the others behind.  The woman frantically searched for the one coin.  But the father allowed his son to leave, knowing that loving someone means letting them go.  Which of these examples should I follow?

Finally, I give you the perspective of the one affected by the broken relationships

When you see me in Luke 15, I’m one of many sheep, left vulnerable by our shepherd running after just one other sheep.  I’m the son, faithful to the very end and angry that my father doesn’t appreciate me and my steadfast commitment to him.

I feel left behind.  To the one grieving their loved one, you aren’t the only one left.  All you do is spend your time thinking about the one who walked away.   From where I’m standing right now, I feel so much less important in your eyes.  And I’ve been by your side the whole time.  I’ve been trying to stand by you while you grieve this relationship.

So now that he’s back, you want me to rejoice with you?  He left you behind!  I never left your side and you can’t give me the time of day.

I feel lost too.  I don’t feel safe in our relationship.  My trust is lacking because you have decided to spend your energy on someone who deserted you.

What could I have done to make you love me more???

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It’s tough to celebrate life when we’ve lost a relationship.  It’s tough to rejoice when we see our loved ones return to a relationship with someone who hurt them terribly.  Here’s a few points to think about when building and grieving relationships.

  • Loving another person in any capacity is risky.  When we love someone, we have no idea if they will leave or crush our hearts at some point.  Is it worth the risk?
  • Broken relationships affect so many.  When someone walks away from us, how do we react?  How do those reactions affect the friendships we still have?  Do we lose a string of relationships because one relationship ends?  Does that feed into our loneliness?
  • Broken relationships call for a period of grieving.  One thing I wish is that we could escape grieving in our life.  But that’s not going to happen.  We will grieve when we lose an important item or a way of living.  And we will definitely grieve when a relationship is lost, a friend, family member or significant other leaves or dies.   Are we setting aside the proper time and space for that grief?  Are we honoring our friends’ times of grief?
  • We often can lose ourselves and others trying to deal with broken relationships.  Again, we go over and over in our heads what led to the severed friendship.  How is this loss making us doubt ourselves?  How is this robbing our committed loved ones from our love and time with them?
  • Is it best to run after a person when they leave, or if you love something let it go?  I guess it all depends on the situation, lots of prayer and time to listen for God.
  • It’s tough to find trust after it has been lost.  How do I know whether or not you are going to leave me again?  How do I know you still love me?  We don’t know.  That takes faith.
  • If abuse is part of that relationship, then sometimes our only option is to walk away.  Yes, we will still grieve, but we each deserve the dignity of being physically, mentally and spiritually safe.  And being made in God’s image, none of use deserve abuse as part of our lives.  There are times when broken relationships are unavoidable, and safety is a primary reason.
  • Lastly, God is the God of broken hearts.  Our God walks with us when our relationships break and we try to piece together how that relationship ended.  God gives us the grace to throw aside our shame and repair relationships when they can be repaired.  If a relationship can not be repaired, God walks with us in our grief.  God gives us seeds of trust when all trust is lost.  And in one way or another, God will help us see resurrection once again.
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