Lean On Me

Sunday, May 1, 2022
Featuring: Rev. Richard Maraj
Week #2 of the 6-Week Series, "The Songs of Life"

Click HERE to download this transcript.

Click HERE to view Rev. Jimmie Scott’s guided meditation during the service.

Lyrics – “Lean on Me” (Bill Withers)

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me
When you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on…
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill
Those of your needs that you won’t let show

You just call on me, brother
When you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me
When you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on…
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

You just call on me, brother
When you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road
I’ll share your load
If you just call me
Call me!



So this very rich 70-year-old guy walks into the country club and, on his arm, was his new 25-year-old, drop-dead gorgeous wife. And needless to say, it turned the head of every single member in the club that day. Later that evening, one of the club members pulled him aside and said, “Hey; how did you get such a young, beautiful woman to fall in love with you?”

And the 70-year-old said, “I lied about my age.” [Congregation laughs]

The other member said, “So, you told her you were 50?”

He said, “No; I told her I was 90.” [Rev. Maraj and congregation laugh – drummer does “rim shot” drum roll]

Okay. [Laughs]

So … We are on the second week of our six-week annul “Songs of Life” series. Because we love music so much! It can uplift us, and help inspire us in so many different ways. So I always find songs that kind of inspire me to share some spiritual message with you.

Last week we started with “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman. It was about being proud of who we are. About loving and accepting ourselves just the way we are. Because we all struggle at some level of wondering if we’re “enough.” And so that song shared and taught us that wonderful and important lesson.

Today we’re going to look at the 1972 Bill Withers hit, “Lean On Me.”

So can you remember the last time you went through a really difficult time? You had to lean on someone for some support to help you get through it? And do you remember how good it feels to know that someone’s got your back? That someone is there for you, believes you, and supports you?

And can you remember the last time that you had a friend or someone, and they had to lean on you? And can you remember how good it felt to know that you were there for them? That you had their back? And that you were there to love and support them through it?

Bill Withers wanted to write a song about love, but he didn’t want to write a romantic one. He wanted to write of a love that he said was more consistent and wide-ranging, in that we can share that love with anyone and everyone. It is the love of being there for someone, particularly through the times of challenge and loss.

And this being there, and leaning on someone, comes in many forms. It could be to just hold their hand. It could be to hold them while they cry. It could be to smile or give them a hug or an encouraging word. It could be helping them carry their groceries or fix a flat tire. I mean, there are all kinds of ways we can have people lean on us. All kinds of ways we can be there for others, and to help support others.

And the thing about this song: I think it teaches us we absolutely need each other. Not just to get through the tough times — which is huge — but we need each other to feel greater levels of love. To feel what compassion; to feel what love; to feel what intimacy; to feel what belonging; to feel what connection; to feel what community and oneness and togetherness really feels like. We need one another! That’s what this song, “Lean On Me,” is all about: it’s about the giving and the sharing of our loves and ourselves with one another. Because that’s what makes us stronger. That’s what makes us all better.

The first lines are:

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow

And that’s true. We all experience pain. And whether that pain is from loneliness or disappointment or being mistreated or going through some misfortune, we all feel pain in life. And we all go through sorrow, whether it’s the loss of a loved one or feeling a level of hopelessness or sadness, or feeling like our life’s falling about. We all feel some sorrow.

There are all kinds of Scriptures that share the depth of pain and sorrow we can go through. One of them from Psalm 6 says, “My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord; how long?” And we’ve all felt that depth of pain and sorrow … and maybe going through some of it right now.

And my question is: Why do you think there’s pain and sorrow in our lives? Why do you think pain and sorrow in our families; in our communities; in our country and our world?

You know, when Jesus said, “In this life, there will be trials and tribulations,” what he is saying is that pain and sorrow is a part of the deal. And the truth is, some of the pain and sorrow is self-induced — self-created — and yet it is still important. Why? Because pain and sorrow is there to help teach us. It is there to help us; to open us; to guide us; and to transform us.

So think of something that you’re feeling some pain and sorrow about. And think to yourself: What is it there to teach you? How is it there to help you? How is it there to open you? And I’ll tell you the single thing — if I had to say one word — of what it’s there for to open us to: it is to open us to love. Sometimes the pain and the hurt forces us to open our hearts to love and be loved. To support one another. To care for one another.

Because love is the thing that we seek more than anything else. There’s no accomplishment or achievement in life that can ever fill the place of feeling loved and cherished and cared for; appreciated and valued.

Paul said, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” And love is the thing that fulfills us; that fulfills life. And “Lean On Me” is about sharing dimensions and aspects of that absolute love.

And so could you imagine life without any pain or sorrow? You’re probably thinking, “Yeah! It’d be fabulous!” [Congregation laughs] But here’s what I think it is: If we had no pain and sorrow, I think we would have less compassion; less kindness; less consideration and thoughtfulness and generosity. I think we would reach out to each other less. I think that pain and sorrow are opportunities that we are given to demonstrate deeper levels of love and kindness and compassion and care for one another. To say, “Lean on me” is to say, “Let yourself love and be loved.”

And so we’re going to look at, today, the message that the song, “Lean On Me,” is here to show us. And I think what it is here to show us is how to transform our pain and sorrow into expanding our capacity to love and be loved.

So after “Sometimes in our lives / We all have pain / We all have sorrow,” it says:

But if we are wise
We know there is always tomorrow

And what I love about that line: to me, that sounds like a line of hope! That no matter how much pain and sorrow you’re going through, there’s always tomorrow. There is hope!

Ever had a time where you felt like you lost your hope? When we lose our hope, it’s like we lose our belief that life will ever get better. We think that it’ll never get better; it will only be this way, or even get worse.

You know, somebody once said that, if we could bottle hope, it would be more powerful than any anti-depressant drug. There is something about hope that lifts us up; that can see beyond whatever is going on right now and know that there’s something better. That my broken heart will heal. That I will find love again. That, even though I feel lost, there will be clarity and direction. I will have greater understanding. I will get greater confidence and strength and belief in myself again. All the things hope lets us believe and open the door to greater possibilities and greater joy and greater blessings.

You know, hope is the difference between feeling like a victim and feeling like a survivor and a thriver. “If we are wise, we know there is always tomorrow.” Yeah, there’s pain and sorrow, but there’s always hope. There’s always hope that things will get better. There’s always that available for each and every one of us. That, even in the midst of pain and sorrow, we need to live with hope.

The second thing I think converting pain and sorrow into expanding our capacity to love and be loved is to listen to these words:

Please swallow your pride
If I have anything that you need to borrow
For no one can fill
Those needs that you won’t let show …

So just call on me, brother, when you need a friend …

And so all of those things are talking about opening up and reaching out. And, you know, swallowing your pride and saying, “Hey; I need some help! Hey; I’m struggling!”

One of the toughest things for most of us is to ask for what we want. And you know what’s even harder? Is to ask for help. We don’t like it. We have a culture that teaches self-sufficiency, independence. You’ve got to do it for yourself and make it on your own. And that’s fine and beautiful and wonderful. But we take it to the extreme to the point that we’re embarrassed to ask for help. That we think that we will look like we’re needy; that we’re weak. We think that people will look down on us and think that we’re not competent or capable or successful.

And especially when it comes from wanting some emotional help, then we’d rather suffer in silence. We would rather continue saying nothing and feeling stuck, empty and hurt than open our mouths and ask for help. That we really do need to swallow our pride. How can someone help us when we won’t show what we need help in?

You know, it’s interesting: we live in a world where communication — instant communication — is right there. Bing, bing, bing with our phones. And we’re passing selfies back and forth. You would think the bonds and connection and closeness of people and relationships should be incredible with all the technology we have! And yet, studies show that we are feeling more lonely and isolated than ever before.

I saw a thing with a family sitting around at the table with all of them on their iPhones. And it said, “Being alone together.” And the fact is: depression is at a high rate; addiction’s at a high rate. Using those types of drugs; suicide. And why would that be in a world of such wealth and abundance and so many ways to connect with each other? It is because we won’t ask. It is because we’d rather pretend we’re doing okay than allowing ourselves to ask and share what’s going on.

But here’s the good news. We can do something about it! Two important things we could do is — number one — to ask! The Bible says, “Ask and ye shall receive.” “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it.” “Ask God, who gives generously to all.” We need to ask!
Percy Ross says, “You’ve got to ask! Asking, in my opinion, is the world’s most powerful and neglected secret to success and happiness.” We’ve got to reach out and ask!

Martin Rutte says one of my favorite quotes. He says, “You’ve got to do it for yourself, and you can’t do it alone.” You’ve got to do it for yourself, and you can’t do it alone!

Here’s probably the best Biblical example I can give; it’s in 2 Kings. It’s the story of the widow’s oil. And so she … Her husband died. There are a lot of debtors coming after her. She’s got two sons. She’s afraid that the debtors will come take her sons and she’ll be alone. So she goes to Elisha and says, “Hey, could you help me out?” Here’s what he says:

“Elisha said, ‘What have you got in your house?’ She said, ‘Nothing except a little oil.’ Then Elisha said, ‘Go and ask all your neighbors for some empty jars. And don’t just ask for a few. And then go inside and shut the door. And then, with you and your songs, pour the oil into the jars, and each will be filled. When it is, set it aside, and it will not stop flowing until all the jars are filled.'”

But here’s the thing: it was her oil. She had to do it for herself! And she couldn’t do it alone; she had to go ask her neighbors for help and support. It’s a perfect little analogy of life. Nobody does anything by themselves. We need each other! And the more that we lean out and ask each other and work with each other and develop a level of support, the better and better and better our lives will be.

So where in your life do you need some support? And are you willing to ask and open a path for that support to flow and come?

You know, sometimes we’re all very good at helping more than allowing ourselves to be helped. And so it’s great to be able to, but it’s also important that we’ve got to go a little deeper. Because sometimes we can find ways of not dealing with our own stuff by helping other people with their stuff, if that makes sense. It’s good and important, but there’s a point at which we might not be looking at ourselves.

And the next step that we need to use is to be willing to be vulnerable: sharing ourselves; sharing our feelings; sharing what’s really going on with us. Because sometimes we don’t like admitting even to ourselves that we’re feeling hurt or lost or lonely.

This one patient said to his therapist, “I get so angry, and I hate it that you’re always saying, ‘And how does that make you feel? And how does that make you feel?’ I just can’t believe that! It just irritates me!”

And he said, “Hmmm. And so how does that make you feel?”

And so … [Laughs along with congregation] And it’s a silly little joke, but it brings a point. So how does that make you feel? One of the things: we’d rather take actions than really go look and feel and accept and acknowledge what it is that’s going on with us. We have this fear that if I acknowledge that I’m weak — or this or that — that we’re going to be stuck there. Especially New Thought, positive people, because sometimes we don’t want to go there. And it’s important to go there to shine the light on it, so thta it doesn’t control us as much.

And so my question is: Where in your life can you be more honest and more vulnerable with yourself to acknowledge what’s really going on? Because I tell you: it’s like bringing down a wall to create more openness and intimacy and being able to be — and willing to be — vulnerable. Because it creates connection. It creates closeness. It creates intimacy when we share more of ourselves, and not be afraid that we’ll be judged or seen as weak.

You know, developing that skill of vulnerability takes practice. It’s not an easy thing! We have to be willing to trust ourselves. Willing to trust others. And willing to lay it out there and know that we’re going to be okay, no matter what.

“I am willing to be vulnerable and ask for what I want.”

Together: [with congregation] “I am willing to be vulnerable and to ask for what I want.”

“It is safe for me to ask for what I want.”

Together: [with congregation] “It is safe for me to ask for what I want.”

“It is safe for me to feel and share my feelings.”

Together: [with congregation] “It is safe for me to feel and share my feelings.”

“It is safe for me to give and receive love.”

Together: [with congregation] “It is safe for me to give and receive love.”

And that’s what it comes down to: asking and vulnerability to expand our capacity and our willingness to give and share love, and to accept and receive love.

And the final thing is the lines when it says:

Lean on me
When you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on…
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m going to need somebody to lean on

And one of the things about this: it is powerful — the reciprocal blessings and benefits — of what happens when we allow someone to help us, and allow ourselves to help others.

I’ve cited this many times before. They did this study about giving and sharing and helping people. And they showed that, when we do an act of kindness for someone else, it increases our serotonin levels. It’s a neurotransmitter that makes us — triggers us — feeling good. So we feel good when we help somebody else. And the person being helped — their serotonin levels; they feel good, feel up. But even someone watching someone help someone else — their serotonin levels increase. There are incredible benefits — double blessings; expanding good – that happen when we lean on each other; help each other; support each other; and are there for one another.

They also did a thing that shows that, when you’re comparing talents on teams, it isn’t the team that always has the most talent; it’s the team that plays more like a team. That they trust each other; they support each other; they bring out the best in each other.

You know, when geese fly in the “V” formation: when they fly together, they fly further and faster than if they were to fly on their own.

When Jesus said, “When two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them,” he’s saying when we pull together, we multiply and magnify that Spirit, that energy and that power.

Study after study after study shows that the single greatest factor in determining how happy and fulfilled we are is helping others. That the more we help, support, interact and care for people, it has huge impacts on our health; on our optimism; on our perspective. We tend to be more open-minded by seeing and helping more people in situations. We tend to open our minds and be less rigid. We tend to be kinder; more compassionate; more thoughtful. Life has more meaning and fulfillment for us. It is amazing how leaning on someone, and having people lean on us, how much it benefits our lives.

St. Francis said it beautifully. He said, “It is in the giving that we receive.” That the more we put ourselves out there, the better life is.

And so what I think is: we often hold back, in some ways, of living and loving and risking and reaching out. And so “Lean On Me” is an invitation to lean in to asking and giving and caring and sharing. I mean, it is powerful! Helping and allowing ourselves to be helped; it is the thing that will make a huge difference in our lives.

At some level, I think we think it’s soft and, like, “Oh, come on; that’s not really going to help my life. More money, more success.” No, it’s actually helping other people. It will always come down to the quality of lives, the quality of our relationships, and our willingness to have people lean on us and have us lean on others.

The question is: Are you willing to lean into it? And give yourself whole-heartedly to that experience?

So where in your life can you lean in a little more fully? Where in your life are you being called to lean into love? And to lean into joy? Lean into helping? And lean into allowing someone to help you?

You know, I don’t think there’s any greater feeling in the world than being loved. Knowing that someone’s got your back. That you are valuable and you are important to someone. And the flip side is to know that they’re important to you, as well. It is something – there is something — wonderful and miraculous. Because we are created in the image and likeness of love! And love is why we’re here. And that’s when we feel our best: when we are loving one another.

You know, sometimes in the routine of life, attrition happens. And we lose some connection with some friends, or we don’t feel as close, or they move away. Do you ever look at your life after awhile and say, “Hey, man; I don’t have as many friends or as much social connection as I thought.” And a part of leaning in to leading on is that you’ve got to sometimes maybe renew and get out there and make some new friends. Meet some new people! Go to some Meetup meetings; develop a prayer group; do some volunteering. There are all kinds of ways that we need to open ourselves to new connections.

Here’s one: I give you a little challenge to meet one person and learn one person’s name per week when you come to church. And ask them one question and answer one question for them. And I guarantee you, over time you will feel a closer connection and greater level of fulfillment and sense of oneness and community when you attend church just by reaching out and connecting with someone else.

And so when it says in Scripture that we are here to “build up the body of Christ,” I think we’re here to build relationships and build each other up by supporting and allowing ourselves to be supported. Because in life we’re supposed to be loved — feel loved, supported and cared for. We are not supposed to feel isolation, loneliness and indifference. That is far from what it is. And withdrawing creates that isolation and loneliness. That we do need to put it out there, and to let our pain and sorrow turn into love, kindness and caring.

So even in the midst of your pain, remember there is hope for a better tomorrow. And your job is to be willing to ask; to reach out; and to be vulnerable; and to share more of yourself. And then leeeeaaaannnn into it with an open heart.

You know, the great lesson is to love; to help; to need and care for one another. Because that’s what makes the difference in life. It really makes our lives better. And that’s what the message is in the song, “Lean On Me.”

 [Congregation applauds]

Copyright 2022 Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center/Rev. Richard Maraj

Location and Contact Information

Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center

1500 E Greenway Pkwy
Phoenix, AZ 85022
Phone: (602) 978-3200

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