I was quite young when I met my first celebrity.  It was 1974.  My family piled into the station wagon and trekked to the Stuart Theatre in downtown Lincoln.  The movie was the sophisticated comedy; “Herbie Rides Again.”  And when we entered the lobby, there he was, Herbie the Love Bug, himself.  Of course, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Star struck?  Maybe.  Could it have been just a regular VW Beetle someone painted? Nah.

In those days, a weekend trip to the theater was a major event.  People like us made a day of it.  We’d go to the movie, get popcorn, soda, a big box of Milk Duds, and then after the movie, head over to Kings restaurant for a cheese frenchie or Valentinos for a pizza.   It seemed as if everyone had a similar idea because both the theater and the restaurants were always full.

It was a wonderful experience to enjoy something with a community of others.  I was not the only one gazing in awe at Herbie the Love Bug, nor was I alone in laughing at the funny bits of the movie.  And I was one among many enjoying a cheese frenchie or pizza.

There is something to be said about sharing community with others.  When people come together to share a commonality, there is enjoyment even if there are differences.  In 1974 at the Stuart Theatre, everyone was sharing amusement over images of a Volkswagen going amuck.  Laughter in larger groups can be contagious.  A joyful experience was being shared by people who didn’t even know one another.   There may have been differences of opinion on other matters at the time, but for that moment, we all shared a bit of common ground.

While that time in 1974 may seem like yesterday, much time has passed since then. These days, one doesn’t often get to experience a masterpiece like Herbie Rides Again.  But I do still find community.

For example, I often experience it when Alison and I visit the Farmer’s Market.  People of all walks of life sharing the same space and interests in home grown produce, hand-made décor and delicious treats from food trucks and concession stands.

I’ve also experienced community at local music shows.  People tapping feet and bobbing heads in-sync to the music.  We may not know one another personally, but for the moment, we all seem to sway to the same tune.  (I’ve even seen it at my favorite jazz shows although the community is a bit smaller)

My favorite place for community is, of course, church.  Like the places I have just mentioned, church can be a wonderful place to see people of different walks of life, coming together to share common ground. But, to me, church is even more.  When we all gather together to share the love of Christ, we’re not just sharing coming ground.  I believe we are sharing Holy ground.

There is something extra special about the laughs we share, the food we enjoy and the songs we sing.  For me, church has much more than I could ever find anywhere else.  It’s a place and time, where we come together to experience Christ as a community.  A place where we can share our joys and our sorrows with each other.  A place where we can feel free to be ourselves and come as we are.

Church is a place where we witness, both physically and spiritually, a community of Jesus Christ. We are inspired, challenged, enlightened, humbled, comforted, loved… And we witness this individually and together.  We remain separate but also connected.

I have been so honored to share worship with so many wonderful people.  Neighbors Church has grown and continues to grow with more newcomers each week.  And, while the growing numbers are wonderful to see, I don’t think they will ever be my main focus.  When I share a holy time with you, I do not see a number.  I see individuals who have come together to share the love of Jesus Christ.  And it is that love that I see growing in our church as more and more of us gather together.  While attendance and growth are important for our continued mission at Neighbors Church, it will never be all about numbers, but rather about a Christ led community of individuals sharing the love of Jesus together.

As much as I was excited to see Herbie the Love Bug in person, I am much more excited to see the love of Christ within our church community.

From the very start, I have been overjoyed by the people that make Neighbors Church their home church.  We have so many wonderful individuals here.  Everyone unique.  Each one with a different background and story.  We have a variety of thoughts, passions, loves, hobbies, skills, talents… We also come from a variety of home settings, cultures, beliefs, backgrounds… We each have individual identities, personalities, traits…   We also have individual feelings, accomplishments, failures, pleasures, and pains.

And on Sunday mornings, we all gather together to seek, discover, grasp, enjoy, appreciate, and share the love of Jesus Christ.  While each of us remains a special and unique soul, we continue to share a community.  We continue to share common ground.  We continue to share Holy ground.

I was very excited to share a love of Herbie the Love Bug in 1974.  But I am so much more excited to share the love of Jesus Christ with each and all of you.

May we all, individually and together, continue to Love God, Love Ourselves and Love Our Neighbors.

(Oh, and just for the record.  As a middle-aged man, my opinions of movies have changed a bit over the years.  Today I prefer “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo,” to “Herbie Rides Again.”)

(But I still like church even more.)