Fall Community Fair - Vince Brackett
I want to share today about friendships in a spiritual context — that’s been friendship on a whole new level for me.
Friendships in my younger life were, in most ways, totally fine! We could laugh together well, and we could show up in crisis (like after my mom died friends called me and came to the memorial, or after one of my friend’s dad died we all went to be with him). BUT, that all said, there seemed to be a sort of low ceiling for these friendships — no fault of our own, really, there just weren’t any models I knew for different.
Like we didn’t make each other better people, if you know what I mean. I wasn’t more loving, more willing to serve others, more open minded, more convicted to grow for having these friendships. We didn’t make each other worse people i don’t think (although I had some of those friends for seasons in my past), we just were.
This was my experience until I first experienced friendships in a spiritual context — mainly through connection to a church (like this one), but also through other random connections made with neighbors, college, family, etc. in which I found shared faith.
A couple memories come to me.
Lightning taking a walk with me when I felt like a failure during my experience as a student teacher — and not speaking trite phrases to me but just seeing me and believing in me fiercely. That cared for me, and it burned in me a desire also to pass that on. One of many experiences with this friend that has made me a better person.
Troy & Heather praying for us, providing dinner for us and telling us: “it gets easier” — again I want to pass on the same to people in the stage of life before me.
I think there was something unseen going on in these experiences, beyond just what I could see, beyond just the surface level of a nice story of connection.
It’s what in spiritual settings we call the presence of Jesus — because of a degree of shared faith with these people, the person and teachings of Jesus become a sort of additional party in the experience, shaping us in the moment, and guiding us with a shared vision.
A big part of what I mean is that in both these examples I was prayed for… out loud. But even the words someone uses to pray aloud are still just an on the surface thing - underneath the surface, there was some deeper than is visible connection happening, which is the reason I felt so connected to those prayers I think.
::There are a number of promises God makes along these lines, according to various writers in the Bible:::
- "how good it is when God's people..." PSALM 133
- "where two or more are gathered... there I am..." MATTHEW 18
- “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting..." HEBREWS 10)
It’s as though the human condition is to only see the visible stuff in friendships. And the invitation for us all is to trust that something bigger, something unseen, the Spirit of Jesus, can happen in addition when we engage in friendship, when we push for connection.
And when we can trust that and name it, and explicitly welcome more of it (like through praying for each other — regardless of the words used or how long the prayer is or whether it sounded eloquent), the connection becomes even more potent. And the impact is greater — people are transformed for the better, become more loving and open and resourced to serve — become more like Jesus, in short.
I love that. That feels true to me. It’s like if Stranger Things was about not malevolent forces, but a force for good, and we are all the “Will” character who has access to that upside down world.
So, as adults in 21st century America, it's unfortunately really hard to end up in a situation like I’ve ended up in — feeling resourced in terms of deep friendship and reliable community — and even more difficult to find yourself resourced in terms of spiritual friendships and community — because organized religion is, by and large, so abhorrent to so many of us (and for good reason usually, I’d say).
So one of the primary reasons we started this church was to address this difficulty — to make deep friendship and spiritual community easier and more accessible, and hopefully redeem for many that it’s even possible — not that other forms of community (like through your gym or your work or your interest groups or whatever) are bad — not at all! those are awesome! — We are just passionate here about the promise of those unseen Jesus things that spiritual friendship and community can provide.
::So today we’re doing again what we do multiple times a year: a community fair.::
We’re going to hear about each community option we have open this fall from a representative (Come on up back here if you’re one of our reps.)
By no means are all of these options overtly spiritual -- some are just drinks with great people! Or volunteering in some way — By spiritual community I just mean being in a context where if you were in need, you could get prayer in addition to practical help. And if you were asking deeper questions about life, you could get a Jesus perspective from someone, not just an American one.
My simple charge is this: I think you need community, we all need it... But, more than that, I think some of the community we all need needs to be spiritual.
This church can help if it feels like there is a deficit in your life along these lines. It can be through one of our efforts you’ve heard about here, OR it can ALSO be you taking with you into the communities you’re already a part of something spiritual!
I mean that! I want to say this: it is in your power to be a part of making deep friendship and spiritual community and the spirit of Jesus more accessible for others. And that is, maybe, the most powerful way to experience the unseen spiritual benefits we’re taking about (in the sort of “it is more blessed to give than to receive” sense of life).
The human condition is to see things too simple, too plainly, to believe that too little is possible, but what if your efforts to connect with others had big, unseen, spiritual impact? — to bring Jesus into already lovely connections, so that they have an even greater potential to transform us for the better.
Again, whether it is through this church’s efforts to help or not, believe in the unseen spiritual significance in your efforts to connect with others!
Okay, I’d like to pray for us. Would you stand with me?