About a week and a half ago Elmo took over the internet by sending out a tweet on the social media platform “X” saying: “Elmo is just checking in. How is everyone doing?” Within 24 hours there were 174 million views with thousands of responses from people commenting about the very real things going on in their lives. One headline read: “Elmo's viral tweet sparks an existential crisis among his followers.” Many comments had to do with the fear of climate change, possible civil war, various family crises, and various emotional crises. After a day or two the three-year-old fuzzy muppet responded with, “Elmo has learned that it is important to ask a friend how they are doing.” I found this to be an interesting snap-shot of this particular moment in time as we see various existential crises on display for all to see.
This ‘Elmo Phenomenon’ is interesting for a number of reasons. One is that nearly every generation alive has had some interaction with Elmo, whether you grew up with him, or your kids grew up with him. We all know Elmo! Elmo has the ability to tap into our most primal and even child-like fears in a way that no other icon can access with such ease. He’s safe. He’s 3.5 years old and wants to know how we are, right?
As a clergy person, it begs the question: How does/can the institutional church address these real issues that many folks are feeling? And what aspects of this existential crisis are we missing when we mask ourselves with Sunday morning platitudes?
Sometimes I’d like to think there is a “God answer” to questions like these. A simple, “this is the answer” from the Bible or from what we know about God. But I don’t think this is one of those situations. I think we have much more agency in developing and maintaining deep social connections with one another in a way that supports and uplifts our hearts and minds and furthers Christ’s love in the world. Maybe that is the “God answer”? As technology develops far more rapidly than our own human evolution processes we are tasked with finding ways to still make deep, real-life, in-person relationships in our lives in order to weather all the possible ups and downs ahead of us. But how do we really do this in our Trinity community? One major common theme that emerges in the midst of climate change is that we may come to a point when a natural disaster requires greater teamwork and neighborly care to make it through. I think of Hurricane Katrina as one example when people rode down the street in motorboats to save fellow neighbors from their roofs.
Last week, I spoke with a UU pastor who preached a sermon on this topic years ago. She explained that right in the middle of the sermon she asked everyone to pull out their phones, a bit of a shocking request for Sunday morning. And then directed them to write a message of thanks, appreciation, and kindness to someone they hadn’t spoken to in a while. Then she said, “Now send it!” She explained how impactful it was for her community to set aside time to reach out to someone else and offer a moment of hope, connection, and vulnerability.
My ongoing prayer is that the community at Trinity will continue to find ways to support and be there for each other. I believe that the world desperately needs the deep social connection that we all long for and we have a mechanism for such relationships here at Trinity. A space to talk about what really matters and find common ground with one another. May God be with us all. Amen.
Rev. Julia Matallana Freedman+