As a public speaker and teacher, I am often in front of a large groups leading them in a worship setting or in a teaching time. I have even been known to do a bit of “stand up” from time to time. What many people don’t know about me is that I am by nature an introvert. I find great comfort and strength in being alone or with a very small group of close friends. On the flip side, I find great stress in being in a room full of people who I do not know, whether it is a large or small group. A couple of years a go I was at a gathering of Directors of Christian Education from across Minnesota. While I was serving as president of the DCE Conference, there were many DCE’s I did not know and many I knew only by face. On Friday night we opened our hotel room to a reception for any DCE’s and their spouses at the conference. It was a time that put me out of my comfort zone. As the evening moved along I introduced myself to many people I did not know but was very uncomfortable in the process.
As I was talking to one young man, a new DCE in our district, I was trying my best to make small talk with him. One of my stock questions “Where did you grow up?” merited a response I was not expecting. His answer was, “Fond du Lac Wisconsin.” My jaw might have fallen at that point, I’m not sure. I do know there was great surprise. I asked him what church he went to before leaving for college. His answer again made me smile. He simply said, “Hope Lutheran Church, right there in Fond du Lac.” Now if you have not figured it out I grew up in Fond du Lac Wisconsin and was a member of Hope Lutheran Church until the end of my college days.
In that moment something amazing happened. While I don’t know the brain chemistry that was going on – I was suddenly comfortable. The two of us, who had never met, found an instant comfort level in what we shared in common. We had instant affinity with each other.
Have you ever experienced this? Have you ever been surprised by a stranger in an elevator, or standing in line for an event who in a brief conversation discovered something you have in common? Maybe you both played baseball in college, maybe you both went to the same college. Maybe you both breed and collect guinea pigs, in which case I know a good therapist.
Sometimes the people with whom this instant affinity developes are people you see often, There is an unexplained comfort in the familiar when you are together. I am a parent of an adopted son who struggles with Autism and I know several other parents who have walked the journey of adoption, or Autism and we enjoy and seek support from one another. There is something wonderful in a common journey.
As I was driving to work the other day, I heard a verse from Hebrews read on the radio and I could see the light go on. I discovered an instant affinity.
Hebrews 4:14-15 (NIV)
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.
Do you see it? I underlined it to help. Go ahead and read it out loud. “we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are” TaDa – Instant affinity with Jesus who is the great high priest the writer of Hebrews is talking about. Take a moment and ponder that thought. “every way, just as we are.” Do you feel your self relax? Do you understand the depth of these words. This is someone who has so very much in common with you and I. The next verse holds the treasure of this instant affinity.
Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
WOW! – This affinity allows us to draw close, up to the very throne of God with confidence. We are known to this King, and we have a common journey that puts us instantly at ease. What a joy! What a God!
Now take a look on Sunday at the person sitting just ahead of you in worship, the person you don’t know. Well, maybe you know their name or recognize their face, but you don’t really feel at ease with them. You are both Children of the King, you have the same heavenly Father. Both of you are living as members of the same kingdom, serving the same Lord, awaiting the same joy of paradise…
Ephesians 4:4-6 (NIV)
4 There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
More instant affinity…. but what else would you expect from a God who created us for community!