We are very trendy as a culture. Someone starts talking about a concept, or activity, or musician, or… whatever… it catches hold and finds an audience. Until it no longer is new and through sheer repetition it becomes boring and loses meaning. Current words that are “hot”:

Bail out
Reaching across the aisle

Community. A concept that discribes our need for other people. A sense of belonging. The church is great at being trendy these days. Church words also trendy are: Missional, emerging, authentic, simple, purpose, mystery… Good words reaching deep into our souls and pulling out the longings of our heart to live out an intentionality that comes from faith.

So I was thinking about “community.” Where have I felt most part of a community? I had to honestly reflect that it wasn’t in church. The deepest sense of community I have felt was in my high school choir and then in the high school and college football teams I played on. Each community was unique but shared some qualities:

A shared love of something larger than us.
In choir, we loved music. We set our individuality aside to develop a rich, full sound that was unified. Our director seperated us from our other voice parts (tenor, alto, bass, soprano) in order to have a full choir sound, rather than pockets of vocalists singing the same parts. We sat next to other vocal
parts several weeks before and then during performances.We learned to really hear the parts surrounding us. In the process, we learned how to adjust our voices to those next to us, lowering the volume of our individual voice and blending our voices with each other. We practiced give and take. In so doing, we could more fully participate in hearing the music we were making. To relish the chord structures and sounds the composer intended.

In football, we loved the controlled violence of physical competition and the risk of competing against a common foe. We loved the pagentry, the sounds and smells of game day. The brotherhood of the team. The value of sweating and bleeding and hurting together.

A shared sense of mission.
Both groups of people shared the goal of performing well. We didn’t want to let down the other members of the group, our choir director/coaches, or our audience. So we put in long hours of  practice and preparation to do the job well and reach a shared goal.

A realization of the value of each other.
No choir member could sing all four parts by themself at one time. Their part fit a larger whole. No player could throw the ball down the field and catch it at the same time. Every position player was needed. In football, that was especially true in practice. Every member of a team has a responsibility to the rest of the team. Each person must do their job so all efforts build upon those of others to reach the common goal.

The truth of the value of every member of the community was defined to me on my high school football team. Lonny was one of my teammates.  Lonny wasn’t big, he wasn’t fast, he wasn’t overly talented. But Lonny LOVED football. He loved to hit. Everytime you lined up opposite Lonny, you knew you were going to get hit. He didn’t win every, or even most contests
against bigger and quicker teammates, but if you didn’t work hard everytime you went against him, he could make you look really bad, because Lonny ALWAYS worked hard. I think Lonny figured out early that the way he could be the biggest asset to the team was by making everyone else better. He never started, but did play on some special teams. His was the loudest voice on the sidelines yelling encouragement and the first to congratulate a player making a great play.

After the season, we always had a team banquet where we passed out awards, and “cussed, spit, and told ourselves how tough we were.” When we turned in our gear, the team would vote on the most valuable player for the year. When I received the ballot, I knew immediately I would vote for
Lonny. His committment to the team was the glue which held us together, and wouldn’t allow us to quit, or fail to prepare each week. I figured my ballot would be the only one, but I was pleased, surprised, and satisfied that my teammates agreed with me. Lonny was elected the most valuable player. We all reailized how important his attitude and passion for the game and our team was. He both pushed all of us to be better and pulled us out of ourselves.

Honestly, sometimes community is uncomfortable. We irritate each other. We let each other down, too. Sometimes the note we sing is out of tune or the player for which we are responsible slides past our block and hits the quarterback. We tire of constantly making up for the shortcomings of others, or battle the disappointment of our own failures. This, too, is the nature of community… Living in the messiness of life.

grounds us and lifts us…
supports us and challenges us…
feeds us and fasts with us…
mourns with us and parties with us…
speaks to us and listens to us…
walks with us and sits with us…

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