How do we care for each other in this community? - Vince Brackett
Intro: My Men’s Group
So I have a Friday morning men’s group through this church. We get coffee at the ::same coffeeshop every Friday::, and sit at the same table, and most of us can make it at least one or two of the Fridays in a month, and we share how we’re feeling about life — stressed? grateful? overwhelmed? angry? happy? ashamed? And then we pray for each other.
I asked some of the guys if they’d share a bit more with us, because I thought that would be fun. So let’s give Rob Erickson and David Bell a hand…
Questions for guys (should add 2-3 minutes)
- Rob The description of this might sound intense or, like, not easy to participate (sharing feelings and then praying)… Does it feel intense or not easy to participate?
- Rob Can you tell us about why you knocked over a table in anger?
- David What’s an example of a time you felt cared for by the group?
- David Why does Mike, one of the guys in our group, always want to go last?
Thanks so much guys!
So my men’s group provides just a very small percentage of the many examples of how people care for each other in this community.
::There are so many examples. [Blank screen]::
It’s when someone here brings another person a meal because they just had a baby and they’re exhausted and overwhelmed and have to go back to work sooner than they want to.
It’s when someone here has a family member who is dying, and they don’t have to process that alone, because friends from this church are there making this other person’s grief a priority to their lives, checking in on them and praying with them.
Or, it’s the little things, like last weekend, we hosted this big family Easter event here at the Davis on Saturday, and afterward I was tired. It was a great event but I was tired. And I walked over to the bar afterward to have ::a celebratory drink with the Easter Bunny:: for a hard-morning’s work (as one does), and there were some other friends from the church there, who just insisted on buying me a drink and relaxing with me and laughing with me. Small thing, but that really spoke volumes of care to me. I was tired, and wanted to wind down. And they took care of me.
::These are the things that make me proud of this community. [Blank screen]:: People being in each others’ lives, showing love in tangible ways. Because life can be demanding and relentless and sometimes very hard. And no one can do it alone. No one should have to do it alone.
Easier said than done
But, like most good things, this doesn’t just happen by accident. A community that cares for each other in all these ways requires intentionality and effort — from the people that make up the community.
For one thing, the kind of experiences we’ve been able to have in my men’s group require a heck of a lot of vulnerability to get to. It takes vulnerability to ask for help, to reach out to a friend when you’re in need, to share a joy (::Dr. Brené Brown:: suggests joy might be the hardest because most of us feel more comfortable dress rehearsing how something will turn tragic than celebrating what’s gone great).
For most of us, it takes a palpable feeling that a community cares for each other to make vulnerability feel safe enough to lean into. Especially for those of us who have been hurt in the past by communities that claimed to be safe, but it turned out they weren’t. That can be a real obstacle to experiencing or building community again.
Or sometimes, strangely enough, for many people an ::idealized picture of community from when we were young:: can end up becoming an obstacle to us experiencing or building community as an adult. We’ve done some informal polling here at BLV and we’ve been fascinated by the fact that it seems that almost everyone who is asked to share about a good experience of community in their lives hearken back to a time when they were younger than 23 (so something like college roommates or a school team or theater group or a church youth group). And we’re so glad for those stories we’ve heard, but because nothing in adult American life can ever live up to such wonderful and care-free experiences of community (living with all of your best friends, or being an integral part of a team or youth group where the only thing that matters is hanging out with each other), we can sometimes give up on pursuing adult community, because nothing seems to work like it used to. But maybe it’s not that adult community doesn’t work, it’s just that we have to be intentional in different ways as life changes.
Or I think another obstacle to experiencing or building community is that it requires us to focus on what is “Important But Not Urgent”. Anyone familiar with the ::Importance-Urgency matrix? [picture on screen]:: It’s okay if you’re not, I’m just a nerd who likes things like this. The idea is that most of us spend too much of our time responding to the urgent (some of which is important, but a good deal of which is not important, it just seems important because it’s urgent), and what we end up neglecting most of all is box number 2 “Important, But Not Urgent”, which is arguably the box that should be priority number 1 — it’s the box that encompasses our hopes and dreams.
I think community is usually in the “Important, But Not Urgent” box for most of us. We feel community suddenly become urgent when we’re in crisis or when we’re in transition (which is when we feel most grateful for it when we have it or feel most lonely and isolated when don’t have it) but most of the time, when our life is just plugging along at our status quo, we don’t feel the urgency, so community is in that “Important, But Not Urgent” box that is so easy to neglect, but really should be among our biggest priorities.
This feels true, right? Everyone says they want community, but when the need doesn’t feel urgent we can neglect that without realizing it. And as a result we can miss the opportunity to foster the relationships we might need in place someday when we are in crisis or transition (and suddenly we’re that person who feels isolated, lonely, and trapped in self-pity: “why isn’t community more there for me?!”). Or as a result we may miss the opportunity to be there for someone else when something is urgent to them (even though it may not be urgent to us).
::But if we can press through the obstacles, experiencing community — and particularly community like ours: organized around the way of Jesus — can be life-changing. [Blank screen]::
In the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus was asked to sum up the whole of the wisdom of his tradition in one commandment, he answered with this (reading from Luke Chapter 10)...
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind… and love your neighbor as yourself.”
In other words, loving others and loving yourself are linked. Self-care and others-care are linked! They are not mutually exclusive. We don’t choose one or the other. They need each other. I can’t care for others without caring for myself, and I can’t care for myself without caring for others.
And before that, Love God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength — perhaps linked to both self-care and others-care is our ability to experience a flow of love back and forth with God.
This is such a masterful response to the question he was posed, isn’t it? What is the greatest commandment? What is your summary of your whole religious and social tradition? Love.
It’s like the ancient equivalent to our modern “what is the meaning of life?” question.
Jesus gets it, I think. Love. Love is the meaning of life. Not in the romantic comedy way. This is obviously about so much more than that.
This is about how life runs on connection. On love.
And how does anyone learn to love consistently and from a genuine place except by experiencing love themselves? — From others. From God. And then passing that on. Yes. Of course.
It is when I’m at a deficit of experiencing love that it is hardest for me to show love to others (and to myself).
It is amazing how much my calendar can tell this story! It is when I look back and realize I’ve missed too many weeks in a row of my Friday men’s group, or failed to spend undivided attention time with my kids (who have so much unfiltered love they want to give me — so unfiltered it’s physically aggressive), or when I’ve gotten out of the habit of a date night with my wife, or neglected to have fun with my co-pastor Kyle because work felt so urgent, or not slowed down to spend time in prayer with God so I can just feel okay regardless of my “output” — That’s when I’m cold, short in patience, quick tempered with people — because I’m at a deficit of experiencing love. I can’t offer to others what I don’t have in the first place.
To me, this just drives home one of the heartbeats behind our community: what if what it means to be human is to need help we can’t give ourselves? — and above all the help we need is to experience love and connection.
And what if relationship with God and community are the way any person can access that love and connection?
This in mind, I’d like to leave us today with a few thoughts on how any of us here can care for and love each other in this community.
- ::Show up::
I have a mentor who always used to say: the first rule of leadership is “show up”.
His point was: we all gravitate toward the people who consistently and reliably show up for us… natural gifting or talent or charisma or whatever can only get someone so far… yes, we also gravitate toward talent (that’s why shows like America’s Got Talent are a thing) but, in the end, when the chips are down, we gravitate toward reliability, toward trustworthiness, toward those who have shown up for us.
If you feel at all moved or inspired by the idea of Brown Line Vineyard being a community that cares for each other, the number one way you can help is quite simply to show up.
- Show up here on Sundays.
- Make that invitation to that friend crush you have (does anyone else have friend crushes? you know what I mean, right?)
- Ask someone how they’re really doing.
- Pray for someone.
- Check in with someone the week after you heard about that hard thing they had coming. Carry their burdens with them.
- Celebrate someone’s joy with them, and don’t let them dress rehearse tragedy.
Show up for people here.
Because your presence here matters to this community. Not just for your experience, for the experience of those around you.
And, again, that’s how you have the best experience anyway. (This is what my friend Mike from Men’s Group has discovered and why he always wants to go last.)
- ::Ask yourself: who can you pour into?::
I think in America we so quickly get into transaction mindsets and cost-benefit analysis when it comes to relationships and miss Jesus’ insight that it all comes back to love — to finding within me the space and desire and empathy to consider another, and make them and their needs a priority to me.
- So if you have launched your career, the people here who are still trying to figure out what they’re going to do need you.
- If you have older kids, the people here with younger kids need you.
- If you have no kids, the people here with kids need you, because they are exhausted.
- If you are in your late 20s, the people here in their early 20s need you.
- If you are in your 30s, the people here in their late 20s need you.
- If you are in your 40s, the people here in their 30s need you.
- If you are in your 50s or 60s, the people here approaching midlife need you.
- If you are young and feeling excited to take your place in the world, those of us here who have overtime grown cynical and disenchanted by what we’ve experienced need you.
This is the beauty of a community. We need other people. We need each other. That’s not a bad thing, that’s not a concession or a weakness. That’s a truth. Having a community means this reality of need in me is going to be met, because there are a host of people who can meet my different needs with what they bring to the table here.
You bring something to the table here. Ask yourself: who here needs what you’re bringing?
::This next one is a spiritual suggestion.::
- ::Spend time receiving love from God::
I feel really helped by Jesus’ suggestion that feeling a flow of love back and forth with God and me is linked to my ability to show love to anyone (and myself). This is what my wife and I pray for my kids and ourselves every night. This is like the first building block of theology we want them to learn: “thank you for teaching us how to love each other by showing us love. We pray that you would help us keep receiving your love so we can keep showing love to each other.”
We spend a lot time here at this church talking about assumed pictures of what God is like. Because a lot of people have had formed in them (for any number of reasons) a picture of God that is angry or maybe split-personality: sometimes good-cop, sometimes bad-cop.
Spending time in prayer looking to receive love from God is the best way out of cruel pictures of God. Because I think you’ll find love is all there is to God. There is no secret bad-cop.
- ::Consider investing in Brown Line Vineyard as a stakeholder::
Kyle and I being the pastors here doesn’t mean we are the ones who do all the “caring for people” and you all here are the “cared for”. We all care for each other here, and Kyle and I need care too, because we are far from all-put-together.
Kyle and I are pastors because it takes leadership and organization for this network of care to happen. But the care is actually carried out by all of us who feel particularly passionate about this making investments of our time, energy, and money.
The more formal version of investment here is what we call being a stakeholder. Our church doesn’t have members, in that we don’t ask people to read a “statement of beliefs” and then sign their agreement underneath it to be invested here. For us, the question of investment here isn’t about believing exactly the same things. It’s: do I share in the values and pursuits and spirit of this community, and am I making an honest effort to invest?
To become a stakeholder, we just ask that you start investing, and tell us that!
There are suggestions of how to invest in our program every week, like volunteering, or considering one of our ::leadership roles it takes to run this church [on screen],:: but investing is not a one-size-fits-all thing, so just tell us if this is your heart, and I’d love to grab coffee with you and talk more about what would be best for you and for BLV, and maybe you have a new vision to lead us in pursuing. Later in the service we always have a moment to get some feedback or information from you all with our orange connect cards. So you can just write “I want to invest more”, and I’ll follow up with you.
::[Blank Screen, read room, end on emotional note to invite into prayer]::