The Folks Around You

Given the day on which I’m writing this article, I think it’s only fitting for me to say something about the Super Bowl! First of all, I’m a big fan of football—college and professional. Even if the Panthers are, well, “in a rebuild,” let’s say, I always look forward to football season. And I’ve got to say, the game this coming Sunday has two incredible stories coming into it. On the one hand, you’ve got the Rams led by Matt Stafford, who has managed to get his team to the Big Game in his first year with them. And on the other hand, you’ve got the Bengals, a Cinderella team led by their second-year quarterback Joe Burrow who just appears unflappable.

But typically when I think of past Super Bowls, I don’t remember too many of the games themselves. The Eagles vs. the Patriots a few years ago was compelling, as was Kansas City vs. San Francisco to years ago. Typically, when I think of Super Bowls, I think of who I watched the games with. In 2003, I watched with my church youth group at a friend’s house where we played games, ate good food, and, at the very end, watched the Panthers lose a field goal. In 2006, I watched again with my church youth group as Tony Dungy became the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl. In 2016, I watched with close friends as Denver’s defense tore the Panthers apart from the opening drive. And last year, I watched with my family as Tom Brady became the oldest starting quarterback in league history to win the Super Bowl—he was 44 years old.

Now, that last paragraph makes it sound like I actually do remember the games, but I can assure you that the only reason I can recall them is because I can think back and remember, “I was with this group for that Super Bowl,” or, “Yeah, I remember sitting on this person’s couch as we celebrated this win.” The games themselves were not all that important to me, even though I do love football! What mattered was who I was with. The Super Bowl is one of those events that has a way of drawing people together. Whether the game is good or bad, the commercials are funny or not, or the halftime show is memorable, I remember the people I took in the Super Bowl with.

In the Christian life, we don’t always remember the exact things we did at various places—specific Bible studies that informed our faith or specific special events that we enjoyed. But I bet we can all remember specific communities of people who were important to us. I bet we can all remember the folks who were there with us during seasons of joy and celebration! And I’m sure we can all remember the people who came alongside us during difficult times in our lives. At its best, a community of Christians can come together and support each other in such beautiful ways that a person can look back and remember that they are loved. So, take a look around you this Sunday as you’re watching the game and let the folks around you know you’re grateful for them. If you’re not planning to watch the game or you’re just relaxing at home on your own, take a moment and call someone you care about or send them a text to let them know you care. Being part of a loving community is a wonderful thing and we shouldn’t wait till the final football game of a season to remind folks we appreciate them!

Grace and peace,
Pastor Ben