All the Lord’s followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it. Day after day they met together in the temple. They broke bread together in different homes and shared their food happily and freely, while praising God. Everyone liked them, and each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved. Acts 2:43-47 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
I don’t often seek out this passage for inspiration. Up until recently whenever I read it, all I could envision in this description of our early Church is a vision of a hippie hideaway commune. I can see people hanging out with no plan, doing whatever they felt like, wasting time – did I say no plan? Where did they think they were going? How did this early Church ever become worldwide with this model? Where was the programming and meetings and structure? Where was the children’s formation curriculum with craft included?
As I search for how to help rebuild our Church and struggle with how to share my faith with others in this secular world, I now read this passage with a new lens. What strikes me is that these early Christians didn’t do much as a Church in the beginning except hang out, share belongings and stories, worship, and eat together. There was no curriculum with a craft, there were no classes! They were together building relationships around the good news of Jesus; they learned that they were loved, that they belonged to each other and took care of each other and when they messed up (which they did if you happen to keep reading into Acts and the Epistles), they were forgiven. They were committed to be in these relationships. Church grew from this beginning. The Holy Spirit was with them.
Building and remaining in community is hard work, harder today than 2000 years ago. People are busy and there are many things that compete with Sunday morning worship time, never mind with the time it takes to get to know people beyond saying “Hello” on Sunday and entering into deeper, committed friendships. Many of us work long hours, there are commitments to events, parties, and often by the weekend we are just tired – coming to church can be overwhelming. It is hard to build a deep community of followers of Jesus in this environment, but it is so needed. We all need a place to feel safe and vulnerable, where we are known and loved and where we can practice being Christians. We need a community that will show up when we need help and will show up when we have something to celebrate, that will check in with us and that will hold us accountable.
So what should we do? How do commit to each other, to worship each Sunday and to serve each other? We need to hang out together, we need to hang out together long enough to disagree, be disappointed, and get angry with each other and know each other well enough to feel safe, to say sorry, and to forgive one another. This takes time and commitment.
As some of you know, I love talking about the Church by meditating on the parable of the True Vine. I enjoy any opportunity to pull out my vine and read this Scripture passage. This past Sunday, I had this opportunity with a class of second graders who are participating in this year’s Communion Enrichment class. In this parable Jesus says that he is the True Vine and we are the branches. Jesus says, “Abide in me and I in you and you will bear much fruit.” I asked the children to look at the vine and in one word describe what it would be like to abide in the True Vine. “Peaceful, tangled, messy, wild” were some of the words they used. We noted that there is sap running throughout the vine and wondered what sap we needed in order to abide in the True Vine. Right away, they said, “Love”. They got it. Then I got it. I am part of the Church because it is a place where I can learn and practice how to love and then go out into the world and spread this love. This is what it means to be the Body of Christ. I am thankful to these wise children and hopeful that they will keep their sense of wonder with them as they grow into adults and they continue to commit to being Church.
This is what it is all about, we are the Body of Christ on this earth, and the Holy Spirit is with us. Those early Christians were right.
The craft is optional. See you on Sunday.