College football season is underway. Alex and Elizabeth are pumped up for Florida. Sara is rooting for Alabama. Sonni, I believe, is hoping that Oklahoma will make a great showing this year. Shannon and Pam may be wondering about Auburn. How about Maryland? I have no idea!! I didn’t catch college football fever until I drove to Cambridge with a bunch of rowdy students from Yale. We went there to watch "The Game" - as they call it - between Harvard and Yale. I couldn't believe the many busloads of students who traveled from New Haven to The Game that Saturday morning. When I arrived at Cambridge with my friends, we found parking and walked to lots that were dedicated solely for tailgating.
This was my first experience at a tailgate. There were so many people, so much food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, music, cars... you name it. I was totally blown away. We had so much fun. Some time in the afternoon, we walked to the designated Yale area of the stadium. There were lots and lots of alumni from both Harvard and Yale with their families, students, and many community folk who came to the game wearing all kinds of school-related gear. The stadium was packed, and you could tell people were simply having a great time. That was the last (and only) time that I have ever been to a tailgate.
What is it that draws people of many different persuasions and tribes to rally around a particular team? For many of those who came to watch the game, it was possibly a one-off event and, for a short time, they create memories with others through their shared experience that day. But it is something else to follow any sports team with the same group of people who look out for each other week in and week out, and experience a camaraderie without which their lives are all the more empty. Shared experiences, if you will, deepen human connections.
Whether it is thousands of people or only a few hundred who follow a particular team, it appears that there’s a deep spiritual bond between a team and its supporters. No matter how disappointed we are with our team, the ties that bind us to them are often so strong that we refuse to walk away, even when our hearts are ripped apart by their performance. Our shared experiences of a team - our history, if you will - connect us in so many intangible ways. We hold out a kind of hope that assures us that we are not alone, and that the following season can be much better than the past season, or this present one. Our shared experience with a team is one of enduring the ups and downs with other supporters with whom we are yoked.
Christian tradition is also deeply rooted in shared experience.
The Old Testament, for example, is littered with stories where the shared experience of a people who simply gathered together and were inspired - often in dramatic ways - to find a much richer meaning to life, one more enriching than their present circumstances.
In the New Testament, it is through gathering, sharing, and offering mutual support from one to another that churches grow, and people are inspired to embrace the task of redefining human history from the lens of a shared experience rooted in their knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Through fellowship, or neighborliness - being warm with others - we create avenues where we can gather, and be inspired or uplifted to create new and enduring stories that give meaning to our lives. Among the many avenues for fellowship at Christ Church is the upcoming Parish Festival. A wonderful celebration that is fun, welcoming, and pleasurable. For me, each annual picnic is a reminder of my first celebration with you as your new Rector - that is also our shared experience.
Football season is underway. Parish Festival is also here with us. It may not be just like a tailgate party at Cambridge or anywhere else, but we will have lots to offer and to share at our special picnic on this Sunday, September 8th.
Remember, celebrations like these are some of the precious moments where we can create new and enduring narratives for ourselves and our parish community.