There are a lot of issues connected with social media these days. I recently read that Mark Zuckerberg has become kind of disgusted with the way people have used social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. He wanted Facebook to be an instrument that brings people together, but it is unfortunately often being used to spread a message of hate, to embarrass, or to bully people, and, of course, as a source of fake news.
I read about Mark Zuckerberg’s road trip, in which he hopes to visit all 50 states. The title of the article was On the Road, Out of his Bubble. I saw pictures of him on a tractor, at a civic center, feeding a cow, as he and his wife traveled through states that are far away from his experience in Silicon Valley. He made an observation that I find interesting but have known for many years is true. He said he had come to realize that churches, civic centers, and other organized meeting places are intricate to building and maintaining a strong sense of community.
One picture that struck me was he, a good Jewish boy, visiting Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, the site of a mass murder committed by a white supremacist. Though his background is different, I could see that he appreciated being in a Christian church. He was also right in his observation that churches are part of the deeply rooted fabric of a community. Once the churches go, your community goes as well.
Though his observation about churches and civic centers and other meeting places for people is true and almost states the obvious, perhaps it needs to be said to all of us who seem to attend church as something we take for granted and in many ways don’t even appreciate. Maybe we don’t appreciate it until it is taken away from us, as in Nazi Germany, communist Russia, China and many other parts of the world. In fact, at this writing about 30 Coptic Christians were murdered in a bus bombing in Egypt. This is just one to the many incidences where churches have been bombed, burnt, and Christians martyred by ruthless people of hate.
The article about the founder of Facebook talked about his being “out of his bubble” on his trip. It’s a great illustration that is valid for all of us – we, too, as Christians, need to make sure that we move outside of our bubble. This is especially the case given our current world situation, with Syrians, who have died in the hundreds of thousands; with bombings and acts of terror in many places, most recently in Manchester, U.K.; with an opioid addiction, which is reaching epidemic proportions in our own country.
OuThe church is not meant to be a bubble in which we live in safety and security from what is happening outside our doors. It is supposed to be a sanctuary for those who are weary and broken by the world. It is supposed to be a hospital for sinners who have lost their way. It is supposed to be a place of renewal where we gather each Sunday to reaffirm what we are all about – being followers of Jesus, who encourages his disciples to always move outside the bubble they are living in and the “comfort zone” where they want to remain.
Without knowing it, we are an important fabric of our community that holds it together. We are an important resource that each of us can turn to for help. We provide many opportunities for service that make a difference in our community and sometimes in our world. I think of the pumps we gave to Ruvu in Kenya, the school we built in Swaziland, the donations we have made to keep medical help flowing to poor Palestinians on the Mount of Olives, the giving of clothes and food to the homeless for the Midnight Run, and, of course, the food and financial donations we bring to the food pantry in Mamaroneck.
At the end of the day, as I contemplated Mark Zuckerberg, a very young billionaire, taking a trip to connect with everyday people on their own turf, I began to see with new eyes the importance of what our church does on the corner of Fenimore and Cortlandt. Every Sunday we connect to our past through liturgy and ritual that we call worship. It is there that we always hear a positive message. It usually involves forgiveness, redemption, second chances, and more opportunities to live out a life of grace and hope. Every Sunday we are called upon to love the unloveable, to forgive those who have caused us pain, to support those who grieve the losses of loved ones, and to “suffer the little children” to come forward and find affirmation, true values, and encouragement for their lives. You are right, Mark Zuckerberg, this doesn’t happen everywhere.