One of the sadder and crueler repercussions of the coronavirus lockdown is that it has exacerbated a pre-existing condition for many Americans. Before the virus struck, there was already an epidemic of loneliness in America.
More Americans than ever live alone, and social isolation can be more challenging for them than for those of us who sequester with those we love. Even some of us who are surrounded by companions feel alone in a secluded uniqueness which may be hard for others to connect with.
The news media are chronicling this phenomenon in a spectacular way by reporting movingly on stories of Americans who are weathering quarantine alone. And as I read all these stories about the challenges of isolation alone, it struck me that the Scriptures have a lot to say about loneliness.
I started thinking about all the Scripture passages about God’s near and unfailing presence for God’s people, and reminded myself that the Biblical witness to this promise is frequent and pervasive (one web page is entitled “One Hundred Scripture Passages about Loneliness”), so I decided to preach this sermon series with Jo Forrest called Only the Lonely (with gratitude to Roy Orbison, one of America’s greatest song-writers).
Happily and conveniently, many of the Scripture texts assigned to Eastertide Sundays in 2020 by the Revised Common Lectionary (a three-year cycle of Scripture readings which allows the Christian Church to get through most of the Bible in 156 Sundays) address this human problem and God’s response.
That isn’t surprising, because on the Sundays from Easter to Pentecost every year, we look at that part of Jesus’ story in which he is saying goodbye to his friends and preparing them for life without his physical presence.
So for what it’s worth, here is the schedule for Scripture texts and sermon themes for the next several weeks. I thought these texts might help sustain some of us during this unprecedented human experience. The texts are linked to the online New Revised Standard Version of the Bible so that you are able to consult these texts devotionally.