“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but to encourage one another.” [Hebrews 10:23-25a]
It all started with a t-shirt. My husband and I, then in our mid-20s, were walking out of the sanctuary one Sunday morning and noticed that a man ahead of us was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a Virginia Tech logo. The man was also in his 20s, a rare sight enough in church; but, the logo on the shirt from my husband’s university gave us the nudge to talk to the man. What started as a conversation on the lawn at church quickly morphed into a lunch invitation, and then gathering to watch Hokie sports. Within a couple of weeks, we and our new best friend were having lunch together after church most Sundays and, as we were standing talking on the lawn one Sunday, we saw another couple in their 20s, so we invited them to join us at lunch. We all started attending a weekly evening Bible study together at the church, and then going out to dinner together afterwards. Soon, a woman in her 20s showed up at church and we invited her to join us, and then her husband joined us once he was back in town from a business trip. Finally, another man in his 20s joined us; he was often in town on business for a few weeks at a time, away from his young family and was glad to have a community away from home. This small group of eight people became our dearest friends, closest confidants, dedicated prayer partners, and boy, did we have a lot of laughs. And food. A LOT of food.
I have such tender memories of this time with our small group in our early marriage. We navigated so many big life events, difficult trials, and significant transitions together. We felt so known and loved and supported by these friends. We are spread all over the country now, but the women, especially, still keep in touch. I can pick up the phone and call the ladies and no time has passed. We share such a deep understanding because of our shared history; but, more than that, we share deep understanding because we recognize that we are all part of the same Big Story. The story of a God who loved his people so much that he didn’t leave us to figure out how to follow enough rules to reconcile ourselves to himself. Instead, God sent his Son, Jesus, to live among us, in community, to set an example of how we should minister to one another. God loved – and loves! – us so much that he sent his Son to rescue us, not to condemn us. Jesus didn’t leave us alone, either: he sent his Holy Spirit to be with us to move among us and unite us in community, to keep us living out God’s kingdom, here on Earth. In community we support and encourage each other, and we keep each other accountable to our shared story: that we are beloved people, rescued and redeemed, and out of our deep gratitude we serve, we learn, and we ever seek a closer relationship with our Savior.
Come continue this conversation about community with me this Sunday in worship. See you in church!