I really like people - like, a whole lot. I mean that as both, “I am a person who really appreciates and enjoys the fact that God created other people, and I value the entity that is/entities that are each individual person,” but also . . . I just really like lots of people. I think back to the time when my wife and I were preparing for our wedding . . . I had a difficult time choosing the men I’d like to stand beside me at the altar and an equally challenging time choosing the people I wanted to invite to join in our day of celebration. If it were possible, I would’ve wanted everyone I’d ever met to receive an invitation and for every guy who’d ever shared a meaningful moment, conversation, or memory with me to stand by my side!
As we head into the holiday months in this unique year of 2022, there are a number of thoughts in my head that all have to do with large gatherings of people. I consider myself a slightly avid sports fan phan and love my Philadelphia sports teams - especially the Eagles and Phillies. As the Phillies are in the midst of a championship pursuit that has led them to a World Series showdown with the Houston Astros and the Eagles chase down their own title dreams as the team that remained unbeaten for the longest (at the time of this writing, they have yet to lose a game!) I’m imagining the celebrations that could be in store while at the same time reminiscing on those that have taken place already.
Every playoff game for these Phillies has brought together thousands of people, whether inside Citizens Bank Park, across various establishments in the greater Philadelphia area, or in homes, and the same is always true of every Eagles game. Decked out in red, white, and blue or midnight green and black, I bet each person present would respond similarly if you were to ask them this question: “Are you all in on this team?”
Sure, some might respond with trepidation or a complaint about a decision made by a head coach or general manager. Some might point out the potentially fatal flaws of a particular player or position. However, each person there will jump up and shout when the next Phillies’ home run flies over an outfield wall or the next Eagles’ ball carrier races across the goal line. That gathering of likeminded people who are all-eyes-focused on the same goal is an incredible experience, unlike any other for those who’ve been there - and we’re not even talking about the celebrations that may ensue if either (or both - can you imagine that?!) team brings home a trophy in their respective sport.
This past weekend, we celebrated our second Block Party/Fall Festival on the front lawn of our church property, and what a sight it was to behold. We enjoyed some delicious food provided by local vendors in their food trucks; we danced and sang to music together; we decorated our faces (and pumpkins) with paint and our cars with a variety of themes in preparation for our Trunk-or-Treat; we bounced along on an old-fashioned hayride around the property while others bounced all over the lawn in one of our many inflatables - I could go on, but you get the picture. If you were there, you experienced a throng of people gathered together to enjoy a beautiful afternoon, a ton of entertaining activities, and - perhaps best of all - God’s people being together, creating community, laughing, singing, talking, running, and just being there with each other.
We’ve lived through some of the strangest years any of us could have imagined, where phrases and words like “virtual dates,” “social distancing,” and “quarantining” became standard vernacular. We adjusted to “new norms,” where large gatherings of people became few and far between - in some cases, altogether lost. Now, for some, I know the thought of a large gathering of people doesn’t sound quite as intriguing as it would for someone like me, an extrovert who thrives on multiple human interactions. However, whether you prefer a cozy nook and no one around or you can’t wait until the next time you and 67,000+ of your closest friends can fill up Lincoln Financial Field, this statement rings true:
God created you for community.
All throughout His Word, God reminds us of not only our responsibility as part of a community but also our privilege. In particular, much of the New Testament focuses on the blessings associated with gathering together with the people God has placed in our lives:
Hebrews 10:24-25 encourages us to stir each other up to love and to do good works
Galatians 6:2 reminds us to bear each other’s burdens while also reassuring us that others will be there to do the same for us
Matthew 22:37-40 may summarize it best: Jesus Himself sums up the entire Law (the Ten Commandments) and everything the prophets wrote (pretty much the rest of the Old Testament) by encouraging us to love God first, then to turn and love our neighbors - the people God’s placed all around us and in our lives
As we head into these seasons of holiday celebrations and gatherings, let these words encourage you. Remember this: you are not alone! God created you, He knows you, and He loves you. He’s given you a chance to bless others by being a part of their lives, and He’s set you up to receive that same blessing from those in the community around you. If you were there at Block Party this past Sunday, I hope you experienced that in a powerful way.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10: 24-25 NIV
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 NIV
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NIV