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Looking Forward to Sunday, May 7, 2017 - The Beloved Community
During the Easter season our first reading is from the book of Acts. It provides us with a kind of a time warp to life after the Ascension. This coming Sunday our first reading is Acts 2:42-47. I invite you to drill down into these five verses and consider your life in Christ and our life together as God’s people.
These verses describe the first Church after Pentecost: the Church in Jerusalem in about 29 or 30 AD (give or take, depending on which commentary you read). It is helpful to see this as descriptive and not prescriptive. In other words, this isn’t a formula for success as much as it is a picture of what this Church looked like. I would like to fly over that text with you and I invite you to let these few verses roll around in your mind for a while.
Let’s deconstruct these verses:
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching – This Church was a learning Church. They didn’t have the New Testament yet, but they focused on what the Apostles (who would later write the New Testament under the direction of the Holy Spirit) had to say.
and the fellowship, - This was a loving Church. Fellowship is church-speak; it is a word we use no other place than the friendly confines of a Church or a Church group. Yet, the word speaks to the depth of how we, as God’s people, connect to each other and love each other.
to the breaking of bread – This was a communing Church. They celebrated the Lord’s Supper as a part of the rhythm of their lives together. Holy Communion was a “mark of the Church” from the beginning.
and the prayers. – This was a praying Church. It has been suggested that we can’t get to verse 47 without prayer; this means that God adds to our number as an answer to prayer. The takeaway is pretty clear: pray for your Church.
43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. – The Church of every time and place is a miracle worked by God. Only God can bring diverse people with different backgrounds and points of view together into one body.
44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. – This was a generous Church. As you read the book of Acts, you see this communal life disappear. The account of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 paints a totally different picture of life together as the Church. What doesn’t change is that generosity is woven into the fabric of God’s people.
46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, - This was a worshipping Church. People will often say: “I can be a good Christian and not go to Church.” Whatever you may think about that statement in 2017, it is pretty clear that the Church in Jerusalem would disagree. It wasn’t so much that they were in “Church” (they were) as the Church was in them.
they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God - This was a grateful Church. It is likely that, even with their pooled resources, these people didn’t have much. But, they received what they had with thanksgiving. Lord, make us a thankful Church!
and having favor with all the people. – This Church was different from what people had seen before and in a good way. How different is our Church?
And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. – This Church was growing because God was growing it. I don’t want to get all grammar geek on you, but I invite you to look at the subject of that sentence. The Lord was adding to their number, not their programs or personalities. To use a gardening word picture: we cultivate and scatter seed while God gives the increase.
I have posted a question on our Facebook page for this sermon; if you use social media, could you take a moment to respond? Please also take the time to comment on this BLOG post.
Pastor Dan Czaplewski