May 11, 2014 (Easter 4)
2:42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47, NRSV)
Let us pray: O Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
One of the many quirks of being a pastor is the type of mail you receive. All kinds of letters, flyers and full color high glossy mailings about church growth, stewardship and my all-time favorite church pictorial directories. I guess it goes with the territory, whatever one does in life defines the type of mail you receive. Since I am new here the junk mailers have not gotten up with me but it used to be that, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I used to receive some sort of material about the latest fad in church growth ideas almost every week. These mailings claimed to reveal the secrets of the mega churches and they could teach even me how to grow a church overnight for the low price of $495. The elusive secret of success to growing a church can be mine if I respond to this letter.
We all want our church to grow. We all want to add to our numbers. We want to know that our church is vibrant, vital and faithful to God’s mission. We just had three baptisms which is a big deal but in the book of Acts we hear of 3000 baptisms. Just imagine what it would be like if, as in the early church, everybody was so deeply involved in Christian education and worship? It would be like Easter Sunday every week.
Today we read these five short verses from Acts and it makes me wonder. This description of the early church sounds almost utopian. We have a picture of the early Christian church and apparently they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. This is looking at church through rose colored glasses. Come to think of it…it sounds like a description of home — because at home these things take place, we share, we eat, we pray, we fellowship, we spend time together. Imagine the church as a metaphor for home. This is the type of church we would all love to see. This hope-filled vision represents the best of what God’s people are capable of, guided by and filled with the power of the Spirit,
These verses tell us what can happen to believers when moved by the Holy Spirit to follow our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. The life and work of a Christian community can reflect – even if only dimly – the reign of God that Jesus proclaimed while on earth and secured through his death, resurrection.
But then again, can you imagine any pastor getting up before the congregation and saying, “I sense the Spirit is leading all of us toward a communal ethic of sharing and caring, so if you would, please cash out your savings and trade in your cars and next week we’ll pool our resources to help those in the community who may have need”?
What would be the response? My guess…”the Pastor Nominating Committee will be gathering on Monday evening to begin the search for our next pastor.” I just think we all have limits to what we’ll give to the church. I know I do. I have to think about paying bills, the tough economy, getting my kids through college, and I really need to get one of those new flat screen TVs. I just can’t imagine giving it all away. Because if it were up to us it would never happen.
So, this story shows us what God can do and I think it would take all of God’s power and muscle and might to get people like me and you to part with our hard earned standard of living. It would be some miracle.
But it is exactly that miracle that Luke writes about over and over and over in the book of Acts. The coming of Jesus brings dramatic change!
The early church was not perfect. They did not set out to gain 3000 new members in the next year. They did not seem consumed by numbers, budgets, attendance and such things. Rather they remained focused on Jesus and they simply lived out their faith, as best they knew how:
They spent time together in fellowship
They helped one another in service
They taught and studied in Christian Education
They broke bread together
They prayed for one another and they prayed together
The by-product of all of this was that others wanted to be part of their movement. Others saw their commitment to and passion for God and one another.
You know now that I think about it I have never received any mail that states anything like this; so let us learn from the lessons of the early church committing ourselves to teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer. I pray that God will increase our wisdom and faith.
Let us pray: Mighty God, we pray that we may continue to have the power of the resurrection at work among us. May we be energized by your Holy Spirit to give you joy and praise, to see how much we have been given and how much we can give away. Help us to be miracle workers so that the hungry are fed, the poor are lifted up and everyone has Good News brought to them. In your Son’s names we pray. Amen.