Acts of the Apostles 2:42-47 NLT
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
Are We There Yet?
1 – Together
April 26, 2020
Growing up, one of my favourite things to do was to go on road trips with my family. There was something exciting about hoping into the backseat of our 1981 Buick Century, and later on our Caravan to go on a family vacation that was exciting. It usually meant camping along the way to go see relatives in another province. It meant seeing new sights along the way, stopping to do fun things as a family as we travelled, and being out on the open road.
I still love road trips. I still love to get the family in the car and go new places. For me, there is something therapeutic and relaxing about being on the open road. My boys, not so much. There is one phrase that every parent has heard when driving anywhere longer than across town that induces complete frustration: “Are we there yet?” And the more that question is asked, the more likely fighting ensues in the backseat. Reason – because they are bored of the journey. They are excited and just want to get to the end destination.
I can’t help but think we are a bit like kids on a road trip (minus the fighting I hope!). Life feels a bit like a road trip right now in that COVID has come in and nicely taken us from our normal routines and life and placed us inside quarantine which feels like being locked up in a car on a long road trip. We know that eventually COVID will end, but our destination may in many ways look different than where we started. The fear of the unknown has passed, but now we are bored, anxious, stressed, tired, and the longer this carries on the more we want to say “Are we there yet?”
As a church we are likely feeling the same thing. We are not meeting together in person. We are now meeting on Zoom, which prior to this many of us hadn’t heard of. Many of us have signed up for Facebook, and you are watching me live this morning from your home. Some of you are watching through our website now, or will later today. Some of you will be watching this on Saturday evening on the community tv station. Some of you are not even able to watch this, and are resorting to reading the transcript later by email or snail mail. We are making a lot more phone calls, and doing whatever we can to stay connected. And yet, as word starts trickling down from our governments about a gradual reopening of our province and country, we look forward to us being able to do some of the things we did as a church. Yet in the back of our minds, we know that being the church may not quite function the same as it did before. And in this in between time, we find ourselves asking (maybe in frustration, tiredness, and stress) “Are we there yet?”
While this morning, I do not profess to know any of the answers of what the future may look like for us, I do know first of all that we have a God who knows all things and is bigger than our unknowns. We need to go to Him in prayer, trust Him, and follow Him as we walk into uncharted, post pandemic territory. Second, regardless of what life will look like a month from now, even though we wonder in confusion if “we are there yet”, even though this is an all new road for us to drive down, some things stay the same. Our identity, purpose, and calling as the church has not changed. And as we look down the road to our destination, or new normal, our existing purpose, vision, identity, and calling becomes that much stronger.
In January, we unfolded a vision for HMC that I think is even more relevant and important today than it was in January. We want to be, as HMC, Generations Following Jesus Together. I think the vision statement is pretty self explanatory, so I wont spend a lot of time defining it.
How we get there is where we need more help. We have four core values, or mission words that are steps in helping us be Generations Following Jesus Together. They are “Gather, Grow, Give, and Go.” I want to practically unpack those words with you over the next several weeks. In order to do that, let’s look at Acts 2:42-47
As you are turning to Acts 2, I give you this thought: the people of God have always been heading into unknown territory. They have always been wondering “Are we there yet?” We have seen it in the Exodus narrative that we have been looking at with Amos. We see it in the New Testament as the church is birthed. We see it since then all through history, and we see it now. Yet remember this, God is unchanging, and He will bring us to our destination.
The church does not yet officially exist – it is still too new. Right now it is just the informal gathering of those who considered themselves followers of Jesus, and they are likely trying to figure out where they are going. Life isn’t what it was; it has changed for them. Yet they also have no idea what is in store for them either – if it were today, they would find themselves saying “ARE WE THERE YET?”. A lot has been going on culturally and religiously in that context that turned their lives upside down. In the last couple months, Jesus has been killed and has come back to life again. He then spent 40 days appearing to many and getting His disciples ready to carry on His work here on Earth. He then goes up to Heaven. Ten days later, as His followers were gathered together, God sends His Holy Spirit down to them, they are filled by this Spirit in a way they have never before experienced, they begin to speak in languages they did not personally speak, the message of Jesus went out, and a new movement was born that was drawing in many (thousands) of new followers.
Like us, they were in new and uncharted territory. Yet there were some values that came out of this new community that was changing culture, changing the religious scene, and changing lives that have carried on through the ages and God wants to be a part of our church today.
These verses give quite a list of what the first followers were doing. We need to remember that these verses are less about being specifically prescriptive (as we are sometimes tempted to take them as a method for instant church growth), and more about being descriptive of what was happening. That being said, there are some principles here that I think we need to pay attention to; some foundational principles that the church (in general) often forgets, but needs to embrace more so, especially in these times. As we look ahead, these things will help us make it through this time of transition and will help us be stronger as we arrive.
We need to GATHER; we need each other!
Practical faith happens in community.
As we look at this list of practical things that the followers were doing, I want you to notice something specific that comes out through this whole passage: practical faith happens in community. Community was natural and foundational to practical faith in Jesus being lived out. As we look at the example of the early followers, we see that faith is a community affair that finds its expression as people of faith come together and practically live it out. We see three different examples in this passage that stress the natural value of “community togetherness” as the early followers practically lived out their faith in Jesus.
Vs 42 – Fellowship: Koinonia This is the idea of a community built around a joint share or participation in a cause, where there is intimacy, mutual contribution, and association. As the believers got together, and practically lived out the teachings of Jesus, there was a sense of identity, community, association, and participation together that was natural and engrained into those teachings, that was foundational to those teachings.
Vs 44 – They were together, and shared what they had – The believers chose to be together physically, and share with each other everything they had with those who had need (which was a teaching of Jesus – but more on that in weeks to come). While this is not a command for us to embrace communism, there is a value here we can’t ignore. Following Jesus, when lived out in community, allows us to share life and what we have with each other, it allows us to love each other the way Jesus commands.
Vs 46 – ‘together’ – Of one accord, passion, mind, heart – What united the believers wasn’t a Costco or fitness club membership. It wasn’t an all access pass to the local country club. It was a deep, life changing, heart altering, direction changing set of beliefs in and obedience to the person of Jesus Christ. As they lived out the teachings of Christ, grew closer to Him, and devoted themselves to all the things listed in verse 42 (the apostles teachings, fellowship, sharing meals, remembering communion, and prayer), they did so together, united together because of Jesus. It was in the setting of community that their public faith practically happened.
Does the Bible back this up elsewhere?
1) The Old Testament law expected it: Lev 19:18 – Contained in the Mosaic Law that the Israelites followed, passed down from God, through Moses. What does it say? Don’t bear a grudge or live in bitterness against your neighbour but love them. Practice community with your neighbour. It is expected as a natural part of your faith.
2) Jesus endorsed it: Matt 22:37-39 – When asked by an expert in the law which was the most important command in the OT Mosaic Law, Jesus summed them all up in two ideas: community with God, and community with others. Love God, love your neighbour. Community is expected as a natural part of your public faith expression.
3) We need it to reach our God-given potential: Heb 10:24-25 – The early followers, the early church wasn’t to stop meeting together. It wasn’t so that they could get people to give to an offering to pay the bills. It wasn’t so that they could compete with the other churches for the amount of people they had. It wasn’t to create a social convention or club. It was because it was understood that as we live out our faith publicly and practically, it is hard. There are days where we will want to throw in the towel and quit. We need the support of a community to encourage us on as we live out our faith, and follow Jesus in love and good deeds. Community is expected as a natural foundation of your public faith expression.
We feel like we are on a journey. We feel like we have been ripped out from all that was safe, and all that we knew, and now we are on this journey to ‘who knows where’. It is stressful, it is confusing, it is uncertain, we feel anxiety, and we want to know “are we there yet?”
First of all, find comfort! Psalm 46 says “Be still, and in that quietness from all the calamity around, you will find out who God is.” Psalm 23 (which Matt read this morning) reminds us that we have a Good Shepherd who is guiding our journey and will take care of us.
Second, isolation reminds us of who we were meant to be, and how we were meant to function as the church. It reminds us of our identity. If isolation has done one thing for us, it has reminded us that we need community, we need each other, we need to GATHER. That reality doesn’t take a break because of COVID; it just looks different.
If we want to live out our faith publicly (which is a major part of it) in the way that Jesus taught, the way that brings hope and life change to others, the way that delivers joy and comfort in times of stress and fear, we need each other. The public expression of our faith in Jesus does not have a solitary option. Jesus, through his life, death, and life again, has invited each of us to be a part of His body, all united together, and functioning as one. For us to be who He has made us to be, we need to be there for each other, we need to encourage each other, we need to be involved in the lives of each other. We need our family, our community. We don’t work right otherwise. We need to GATHER; we need each other! Practical faith happens in community.
So the challenge to you is invest in others. Be involved in our Zoom Rooms where we share life, we share our needs, we encourage each other, we pray for each other. Call someone up on the phone this week who you need to encourage or reach out to. Maybe even (all be it virtually), find someone this week that you can mentor and shape, and they can mentor and shape you. Maybe you can do a Bible study with someone these next several weeks. If you need more help with that, talk to Pastor Kristina.
Find strength, purpose, and identity in community. Maybe have a virtual coffee over skype or Facetime with people from the church you haven’t seen before. Maybe today, after this service, download the family curriculum that Pastor Amos has made and as a family practice community together as you grow in your faith together (and pastor your homes). Maybe this week, as your individual household family, find another family that you don’t know as well but you can ‘adopt’ – you can get to know them more, talk to them, pray with them and for them, share life. Here is the encouragement: a pandemic with isolation measures that could threaten to tear apart a community because we can’t physically gather could actually be an amazing opportunity to build deeper relationships, and maybe with someone you do not know.
Maybe today as you listen to me, you feel lost, on a journey with no idea where you are going, but you also feel very alone. You hear me talking about being the community, being the family, and us needing each other because that is how Jesus designed the church to function. You want to be a part of something like that, but you don’t know Jesus, and you don’t know how to be a part of a community like this.
Jesus invites you today to find Him, to open your life to Him, to let Him in. Jesus invites you today to let Him transform your life and give you a new hope, purpose, identity, and a sense of belonging. And in so doing, Jesus invites you to be a part of His body, His family, and find community with Him and us. And if this is something you want to know more about, please send me (or any of our pastors a message) on facebook, find us on our website and send us an email, reach out. We would love to tell you more.
Remember, that even in the times of uncertainty where everything looks different, our purpose and identity does not change because Jesus, who our foundation is built upon as His community, His body, His family, does not change.