Tag Archives: Acts 2.44

Who is my neighbor?

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The early Church shared all things in common; but, the Church in North America remains stingy and divided, only willing to see our differences (Acts 2.44).  One community: in Christ.  One confession: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4.5).  Still, the divisions seem to intensify as the Bible is politicized and the people we have been called to serve are increasingly demonized. 

Questions like “What would Jesus do?” and “Who is my neighbor?” are harder to answer without starting an argument.  While Jesus’ story and subsequent record are clear, our explanations often are not.  It’s complicated by a national narrative that continues to keep its citizens in conflict.  But, living as Christ did and calls his disciples to doesn’t just lead us to church on Sunday mornings.

Instead, he leads us into places and among people we are called to love but whom the current administration of American government and its leaders prejudice as dangerous and a threat, who argue that their presence attacks and eats away at the very fabric of American life.  But, things seem to be unraveling.  It feels that we are hanging on by a thread and on the verge of chaos.

Chaos or community, these were the two options offered by civil rights leader and preacher, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  As the nations rage and the kingdoms totter, every tribe is for themselves.  Moving farther apart, we know the answer to the questions.  We know what Jesus would do because of what Jesus has done.  And in a nation that prides itself on individualism and independence, we know how to love ourselves if no one else.  The problem lies in seeing our neighbor as ourselves.

Because this would require the acceptance that we are all neighbors, all tenants and not the owners of the earth we pretend to be.

Segregated Sundays: Questioning Community

Image result for community“Community life is martyrdom by fire: it means the daily sacrifice of all of our strength and all our rights, all the claims we commonly make on life and assume to be justified.  In the symbol of fire, the individual logs burn away so that, united, its glowing flames send out warmth and light and again in to the land.”

| Eberhard Arnold

“One reason why Christ’s followers did not remain organically bound together, as at Pentecost, is that they wanted to draw into too many foreign elements.  The members wanted to convert the whole world before they themselves were fully converted.”

| Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

Some say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  But,  I would beg to differ when it comes to Internet searches of the word community.  I was shown stock photos, clip art and logos.  According to Google, community is staged, simple or a symbol used to identify an organization.  I’ve given the entire collection nine words.

Sure, there were pictures of persons holding hands across cultures.  Cue a rendition of “Kumbuya” and in cases of social injustice, “We shall overcome.”  We know what community, that is togetherness, should look like and the songs most appropriate for such a commitment.  We know where we should stand but only after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated.  We tell ourselves that we would have marched with Dr. King.  We tell others that our parents did.  Both are lies.

But, this is not totally our fault because we have had too few examples, models of inclusive community that do not seek to overpower and take, compare, critique, challenge and then change persons not made in our image.  So often, we cross cultures only to bring them to our side.  The life of Jesus and the church that followed after is talked about as the good ol’ days while we pray, “Your kingdom come.”  The power of Pentecost is bottled up and sold by televangelists, sold for five monthly installments of $19.99 plus shipping and handling. The countercultural and prophetic witness of the early church that shared all things in common is reduced to a fellowship hour of cookies and coffee (cf. Acts 2.44; 4.32).

Though we have Christ’s message and example, we still find it difficult to repeat after him and to follow in his footsteps on a daily basis.  Instead, we have reduced discipleship to one hour increments on Sunday mornings.  We take up our cross and leave it stuck between the pages of our hymnal or pew Bible.  We come to church to do Christian things and then leave to return to “the real world.”

And the church is not a Christian hideout.  It is not a place where we go to be a Christian.  Because Christianity is not practiced in a building– but in our bodies.  Our faith must be embodied, expressed and experienced by others.

Somehow discipleship is viewed as disconnected from reality and our daily life.  The warning has been heeded as we can be “so heavenly- minded that we are no earthly good.”  But, could the warning be reversed now?  There seems to be no need to take the sermon home with us.  Surely, there will be no follow up call to ensure that we followed through and there’s no official homework assignments after Sunday School.

But, what do we do with Jesus after church?  Because we can’t just leave him in the sanctuary.  What is he supposed to do all week inside the building?  No, he should go home with us.  He doesn’t require much and needs no sold out crowd.  He’ll show up for two or three people (Matthew 18.20).  He is content to spend time with us around the dinner table.

I mean, what kind of Christians would we be if we didn’t invite Jesus over for dinner or better still, ask him to move in with us and to share in our lives?  How do we separate our lives from our love for him?  He’s family.  And so are the people that we share a pew with.  How do we go home after church on Sunday and have no desire to see them during the week?  How do Christians have church friends?  We don’t.  We are a church family.

How do we say that we love God while secretly hating and consciously hiding from the persons who don’t share our cultural heritage after Sunday morning worship (cf. First John 4.20)?  Because it is not enough to sit next to each other for an hour.  Instead, we will need more time if we are to share in life eternal.  So, I want to see some photos of us sharing a meal together, walking our dogs or exercising together, celebrating new life and mourning the death of loved ones together, shopping and planning family vacations together.

Because what kind of community is being practiced in segregated churches?  And how would we describe these images to God?  Google does not have great pictures of community and sadly, neither does the Church.

 

The Jesus Community

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“All who believed were together and had all things in common…”

|Acts 2.44, NRSV

These past few weeks, I, along with my Young Adult Sunday School class, have been in conversation about what Christian community looks like– not in appearance but application.  We don’t just want to talk about it; we want to experience it.  Sunday morning does not count.  A community does not meet once a week or exist in one hour increments.  That would be more of a community meeting.

Without our cultural expectations and familial traditions, we are looking for a way into church that does not involve a velvet rope and long lines, that is desirably unfamiliar, that places us on the heels of Jesus and allows us to practice what he preached every day.  We are in search of a community not tied to political party affiliations or geographic location but bound together by the love of Christ.  And this is not the sweet and sappy stuff.

There were no teddy bears and roses left at Christ’s cross.  There is a song that asks, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”  I can tell you who was not– Cupid.  Jesus was not pierced by his arrow.  No, this love is sacrificial and will cost our very lives in ways both meaningful and painful.

But, we want to belong with people authentically, deeply and truly.  We don’t fit anywhere else– without cultural and social assimilation.  And we lose more than our selves, exchanging our souls for some semblance of similarity and sacrifice that which makes us unique individuals.  Because we don’t want to upset the image that a chosen few have in mind.  Apart of this kind of group, we are separated from ourselves, unable to be who we are for fear of losing our membership.

Joined with Christ, we are members of his body.  No assembly required on our part, we are brought together and held together by the very hands of Christ.  Builder meets material, community is created in ways that cannot be blueprinted.  Life in Christ requires no hard hat, no gloves– because this life does not require our labor.  No falling debris, the Jesus community is a safe space.  (But, if you need a plan in case of emergency, we could hide in his empty tomb; there is “plenty good room” there.)  The Jesus community is supported by the beams of his cross and is sustained by his blood, sweat and tears– not ours.

Not an ideal, this is the life promised to all who believe.  It is not a gated community and requires no passcode.  There is but one door, Jesus and entry is shared with all.  For God so loved the world that he gave us… community in Jesus.