Acts and Mission 10

Pentecost.jpgWhat happens when Pentecost happens? That’s our week’s question. What happens is that community happens? That’s our week’s answer. How does community happen? We’ll begin to look at that today. Again, the passage:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every
day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke
bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

There are a number of elements involved when Luke says the early messianists were “together.” (Again, I hope you can purchase and read Beverly Gaventa’s wise and to-the-point Acts commentary as we work this NT book over the next few months: The Acts of the Apostles (Abingdon New Testament Commentaries)

The first thing we see in the Spirit-created friendship of this “togetherness” is their focus: they are “devoted,” which could be translated “persistent tenacity” (Fitzmyer) or perhaps even better as a characteristic focus, to four things: apostolic teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.

Spirit-come-down communities learn the teachings of the apostles, now neatly deposited in the New Testament, they are committed to living with one another, they enjoy table fellowship with one another (I’ve never been convinced this is simply the Lord’s Supper, though the language is hardly capable of a certain interpretation), and to prayer.

When God moves, God creates community. God-moved communities learn the apostles’ teachings and they…. This again is an act of God.

The second thing I observe here is awe — they are aware that God is at work, they stand back and watch as they participate, and they see the mighty hand of God’s Spirit at work in miracles. Problem? Sure, but that doesn’t make us change what we see in this text.

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  • Jjoe

    Just as without peace there is no justice, so without sharing there is no true communion. The sharing happens joyfully but it isn’t optional. Ananias holds back part of his wealth and falls down dead as a result.
    Acts 4:34 tells us there were no needy persons among them, yet our society is consciously structured around redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich.
    (The concentration of wealth, the gap between the rich and the poor, has *never* been larger in this country. Why? Health care is a great example, where the greater the profit from the working person’s purchase of insurance, the greater the return to the stockholders and senior managers.)
    You could interpret Acts as commanding the churches to provide health care, but do we really think the church can cause this to happen across the population of the US equitably and efficiently?
    Can we realistically join hands and create a national network of health clinics, or pool our funds to offer affordable insurance, or that a local church can step up to help when someone has several hundred thousand dollars in chemo bills to pay?
    No, Acts would have us use whatever tools we need to use to ensure that the ‘least of these’ are taken care of, without regard to political philosophy or party membership.
    I didn’t mean this to turn into a health care essay, but I fear that in the US we have traded community as we see in Scripture for dog-eat-dog, get your hands off my stack Jack, capitalism.

  • I like this line, “When God moves, God creates a community.” These communities learn the apostle’s teachings.” As you point out, all of this is an act of God. A great reminder in this point that God is the mover that shapes things in the church.

  • Table fellowship, in light of Jesus Christ, has two meanings, both of them pointed toward in His feeding of the five thousand: The Lord’s Supper and eating with the Lord’s brethern (the poor, the sinful, the sick, and the faithful). In fact, the Eucharist IS eating with the Lord’s brethern, in as far as we bring souls to the celebration of the Eucharist; not by force but by gentle words, prayer, and, above all, good example. When Jesus fed the five thousand, He fed them bread and fish, which symbolized the Eucharist, and the next day He gave a discourse on Himself as the Bread of Life. That same day, He appeared to the Apostles on Lake Galilee to calm the sea; on the shore of that same lake, He would appear to two Apostles in His risen body, with, once again, bread and fish, the Eucharistic symbols. By feeding man, He not only shows His extraordinary generosity, even unto giving Himself as spiritual food, but also gives an example to live by: to feed the hunger, to take care of the less fortunate, and, to work for justice and peace to satisfy those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace.

  • Basically, the sorts of things that Gibbs and Bolger pointed out were traits of the Emerging Church.
    Not that the Emerging Church is a perfect representation of the early, or any, church. Just that when freed to act on instinct in regards to ministry and emphasis on the Kingdom, these are the sorts of things the Holy Spirit leads towards.