Radical Hospitality – Social Isolation

Radical Hospitality – Social Isolation

Sunday 1st July – 9am Worship

Sermon Series: Radical Hospitality

Theme: Radical Hospitality – Social Isolation

Bible Readings: Ecclesiastics 4:7-12

Preacher: Rev Phil Swain


For three weeks (over the past month or son) we have been exploring what Radical Hospitality means.  As we explored countless scripture verses and pondered this question we have realised that hospitality is more than inviting a friend out for coffee.  Radical Hospitality is about reaching out to the stranger and vulnerable.  Radical Hospitality is about making sure we move beyond a warm welcome at the door of the church to a point where people are connected and integrated into the life of our church.  Radical Hospitality is being creative in the way we show love, care, support and bless others through our words and actions.

The common image that we keep coming back to in this topic has been the table.  There is something about gathering around a table and food which resonates so deeply with this idea of Radical Hospitality.  A month ago we gave out little welcome mats and asked you to consider what you might be able to do to show hospitality to someone else.  Did anyone put this challenge into action?

Last week when we considered the complex issue of immigration and refugees and found that when we put the biblical passages about hospitality against some of these social issues – the result was challenging.  Really challenging.

Last week was supposed to be the last week in this series but I shared how as I wrote last week’s sermon, I kept on being prompted about this idea of social isolation or loneliness in our communities.  So with your encouragement – that what we are looking at this week.  How can this idea of radical hospitality speak into the issue of social isolation?

Are you ready for this?

[Play Elvis – Are you lonesome tonight?]  Elvis pondered the question – are you feeling lonely?  The 2017 Australian Red Cross Looniness Survey found that 1 in 4 Australians feel lonely quite often – with 1 in 12 saying that they feel lonely ALL the time.

Is loneliness a problem in Turramurra?  I am going to ask you to ponder this for 60 seconds.  You might like to chat with the people around you (or if you don’t want to chat, just look at the floor).  Ponder these questions…

  • Is loneliness a problem in Turramurra?
  • What are some of the reasons that might lead to loneliness or social isolation?
  • What is the hardest part about being lonely?

[sixty seconds – play to bring back … All by myself Eric Carmen or Celine]

Get some feedback …

To add,

  • “Social isolation denotes few social connections or interactions, whereas loneliness involves the subjective perception of isolation – the discrepancy between one’s desired and actual level of social connection,” (Julianne Holt-Lunstad.  Psychologist researcher at Brigham Young University)


  • Death, divorce, loss
  • Moving to a new area
  • Health … lack of mobility
  • Changes in street interaction, knowing your neighbour, playing outside à fear of bad things happening to our kids
  • City design … high rises

Research has shown that loneliness or SI is bad for our health – even life threatening.  Major social issue.

So … what does scripture or our faith have to say about loneliness?

Genesis 2:18, Then the Lord God said, “It’s not good that the man to be alone. I will make him a suitable companion.”

We are created in the image of God which means we are created to be relational.  We are designed to be in community, not to be along

Our bible reading from Ecclesiastes 4 (of which I have part of it inscribed on my wedding ring … or was).

  • Two is better than one.
  • They can help each other, keep each other warm, protect each other.
  • There is strength in a cord which has more than one strand … 2 is good, 3 is better yet.

We are created to be in community, in relationship … and so when we are socially isolated, it is not good for us.    (Acknowledge that God is with us always … and that helps …  but I think that we need more.  We need companionship)

So, does the bible give some insights into how to address loneliness?

Psalm 68:6 – God sets the lonely in families.  What family is the Psalmist talking about?

  • God’s family (1 John 3:1)
  • The Church (1 Cor 12)

But sometimes we don’t feel like we have a family.  Remember loneliness is the perception of not having anyone.  Reminds me of the story from 1 King 19.  Elijah the prophet just defeated the prophets of Baal at the showdown on the mountain. But instead of doing a victory lap he runs off into the desert.  There he laments with God that he is the only one left who believes in God – I am all alone.  Do you know God’s response?  1 Kings 19:18 … actually there are 7000 believers in Israel.  You are not alone!

I think we need to be reminded that while our feelings are real – that there are always people in the church who are there for you … and are probably feeling just like you.  We just need to see each other and reach out to each other.

So … if we focus back to the local community … Paul (as in McCartney) asks an important question…

All the lonely people, where do they all come from
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

Really interesting article in the Sydney morning Hereld – Feb 2018.  Loneliness is a problem we can only tackle together. Writer Loiuse Pratt wrote:  … all of us are better off when we act as a community, not just a collection of individuals.

Note that this is a secular writer affirming the work of charities, community groups in the battle against loneliness (but does not mention churches).

Tony Matthew (Lecturer in Urban planning) writes about the need for “third places”. These are public or commercial spaces that provide informal opportunities for local people to mix socially on neutral ground.   A “third place” is comfortable, accessible, inviting, and conversational.  It has a mixture of regulars who are local to the area and new people.  They are informal where people can come and go without obligation.  Where your status or story is optional.  He wrote examples of “third places” are community gardens, libraries, public swimming pools, cafes, men’s sheds, farmers’ markets and dog parks.  But once again … does not mention churches.

I think that Church are the ideal “third places” aren’t we?  To me, this is the challenge… what do we need to do so people see us as a “third place”?

One last question for you…

What is one thing that you think we as a church can do to help with loneliness or social isolation in our local community?

(Sixty Seconds … ) [Play Beatles – Elanor Rigby]


It is hard to wrap up this talk because the problem seems so large and complex and has so many things working against it – that it does not seem like we can do much.  So why even try…

It reminded me of that well-known illustration about the daughter and the starfish.  I am sure you have heard before but incase you haven’t…

A man and his daughter were walking along a beach together when they came across tens of thousands of star-fish all washed up on the beach.  There were thousands of them, and since the tide had gone out, they were all slowly dying in the hot sun.

The little girl picked up one starfish and ran down to the water and threw it back in.  Then ran up the beach to get another.  Her father watched as she threw in one, two, three, four starfish back into the ocean.  “Daughter”, he said, “it is useless.  There are tens of thousands of starfish.  There are too many. You cannot make a difference.”

“Father”, the daughter replied as she picked up another starfish.  “I cannot save all of them, but I can make a difference to this one.”

We are not able to solve the loneliness issue in Sydney … or even in Turramurra … it is too big.  But you can make a massive different to one lonely person.

Though one may be overwhelmed,

       And two can help each other.

     A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.