This week all of Kansas City is captivated and energized by the Kansas City Royals. As of this afternoon, the Royals have won the first two games of the World Series, and seem well on their way to their first world championship in 30 years. Around the region, people are staying up late to watch the games, consuming record amounts of coffee, and are happily unproductive at work. Why work, when you can talk baseball?
The postseason is also the time during which stories emerge about the players. With only two teams playing, media types intensify their focus. This year, for instance, the pregnancy of Ben Zobrist's wife has been the subject of numerous stories. I'm sure there is genuine concern for the health and well-being of mother and child, and not just anxiety about whether or not Zobrist will be available to the team in the event of an early delivery!
Among the human-interest stories surrounding the World Series, Royals fans have learned that three players on this year's team have lost parents during the season or postseason. Mike Moustakas' mom died on August 9. Chris Young's dad died on September 26. Edinson Volquez' father died on Tuesday of this week, just before game one of the World Series. Based on what we are learning from these events, I want to offer an observation about the unique ways humans handle challenges, and to offer some general advice about how we can respond to others who are hurting. I also want to make a connection to the importance of intentional community as a healthy discipline of the Christian spiritual life.
First, the observation. In just one small test group, the roster of a major league baseball team, events of the last two months show us how differently people react to different circumstances. The Moustakas family grieved privately, but decided to wait before releasing news to the greater public. The Young family made a decision to announce the death, and just hours later Chris Young pitched in a game before traveling to be with his family. The Volquez family requested that Edinson not be told of his father's death. He pitched in game one, and (we think) only learned of his father's death after having pitched. None of these reactions are inappropriate. All are within the range of experience during times of grief and loss. Each reflects something of the families and personalities involved.
The advice in times of crisis? Be present. Demonstrate love and encouragement as you are able. Be patient. Don't be surprised if someone reacts differently than you did when facing a similar circumstance.
Making the connection with the spiritual journey, the stories of other lives remind us of how much we need community. Even a church of our relatively small size is far too large to bring everyone together for every event and every need. Our lifestyles, and schedules, are too diverse. No one person can meet the friendship and support needs of more than a few. Even Jesus focused on a group of 12, and seemed to narrow his focus and attention to three of the 12.
We encourage participation in small groups at New Springs Community. We do this because we want everyone to grow as followers of Jesus Christ, and because we know that participation in intentional forms of community provides some of the most fertile soil for growth. We also encourage groups because we need intentional forms of community. We need people who will ask how we're doing, and patiently wait for a genuine answer. We need people who will hold us accountable. We need people whose personalities will clash with ours. We need people who are grieving and celebrating, even when we aren't. We need people who will point us in the direction of Jesus Christ, and walk with us as we follow him.
If you're a baseball fan in Kansas City, I hope you're getting every last drop of excitement and energy from the Royals right now. This is fun, isn't it? And, as we hear the stories of the players on the team, I hope our hearts and minds are drawn to the players on our team, and the one we follow together. May our expressions of community demonstrate Jesus Christ to those around us.