I'm playing commuter today. I feel all grown up, in my suit, heading into London to catch a train North. I'm taking a funeral in Preston this afternoon.
The last couple of train journeys I've had have been a great joy. Today I sat next to Andy from church and we chatted about life, the Lord and nothing in particular. We know each other better as a result.
The last time I was in a commuter train I was reading my Bible, whilst sitting on the seats near the door that face into the middle. I partially did this to see what would happen. A huge young black man got in and sat down beside me, we occupied 3 seats between the 2 of us! He was sternly studying his phone. After a short while he looked over to me with a broad smile on his face and asked, "What are you reading?"
"The Bible." I replied.
"I know. Which book? I'm reading Proverbs." He said.
"Leviticus." I replied. Ben and I proceeded to have a really encouraging chat about how he became a Christian and where he went to church. The train was pretty full. At one stage a man looked hopefully at what was left of the seat beside me. I shoved up a bit and offered him 3/4 of it.
"I'm not even going to try." He said. I suggested that he looked like he only had 3/4 of a bottom and he should have a go. He declined. This seemed to amuse the folk opposite us, which was when I noticed that one man had his Bible and study notes out. I was in a triangulation of Bible study! I suggested that I announced the first hymn! When I got off the man opposite simply said, "Preach it brother!"
Funnily enough the man who squeezed in beside me today, also made a gag about the lack of space. I assured him I was starting to diet, so next time he sat beside me it should be easier! He said he was glad about that and wished me well.
All this train banter is sadly a rarety. Most of the time people are fixated on their phones or looking intently at nothing. This morning Andy and I were chatting about how weird that is. Within 5 yards of us was such a rich tapestry of humanity, each person with their own story, which we would never know.
So much potential relationship, yet so little of it realised. This isolation from one another is because of the fall. People who were created to look outward in love for God and one another, now look inward in self-love. Shut in our own little world risking relationship with a fraction of the folk we might know.
God is changing this. When he brings people into relationship with himself he brings them into relationship with each other. Paul says in Ephesians 2:14 "For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility..."
Through the cross Jesus is uniting people. The church should be a demonstration of this. A group of people who prioritise relationships with each other. Relationships that seek to care for others. Those relationships will be perfected in the New Creaton that the Lord Jesus will bring about on his return. There we won't be on our phones on the train (Like I am now! ). We'll all be chatting away about how great life is and how wonderful it is to dwell in the presence of God.
Ironically, whilst I was writing this I was too busy to leap up and help a woman who suddenly realised that she'd left her suit case on the platform. The woman opposite me sped to her aid. When she sat down I congratulated her and repented of my selfishness.
It got us talking anyway! I think I'll continue that conversation now.....