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Concerning Our Life Together
The Second Sunday of Eastertide
“Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.”
Every three years, the lectionary places, in the path of the church, throughout the world, those words to be read on the second Sunday in the sacred season of Eastertide. And, every time they roll back around, the communal way of life they describe sounds, at first, very different from our life together. And yet, in some ways, our life together, now, does bear a strong resemblance to their life together, then.
For example, today’s passage from Acts chapter four says that the early church was “of one heart,” which is also the way we are with one another.
Which, one imagines, is not the same as being of one mind. This morning’s lesson from the book of Acts does not say that the early believers were of one mind, and neither are we. We cannot know how diverse they may have been in their thinking, but we do know how diverse we are in our thinking. When it comes to what we think about the various political and public policy questions of our time, for example, our congregation has never been of one mind, which is probably why our first interim pastor, Dr. Whaley, admonished us, all the way back in 1967, to “agree to differ, resolve to love and unite to serve”; the Northminster version of what today’s scripture lesson calls “being of one heart.”
But, while we may never have been of one mind, but we have always been of one heart; loyal to, respectful of, grateful for and in love with people who do not all think, vote or say the same; which is part of the wonder and beauty of our life together. In fact, for some of us, in this increasingly partisan and polarized world, the church may be the last place left in our lives where we get to be of one heart with people without having to be of one mind with them.
In that way, the “of one heart” way, we are like the church this morning’s lesson from Acts describes. And, also, we are like the original early church in the way we share, with one another, our possessions.
Needless to say, unlike the early church, we have not relinquished all we own to be redistributed. But, we do something similar, in miniature, when we pool our resources by giving our money to support the work of the church through the budget of the church.
I found myself thinking about all that Wednesday evening, as I watched dozens of basket-wielding children hunting Easter eggs throughout Northminster’s backyard. All of us who give to the work of the church through the budget of the church helped buy the burgers, paint the faces and rent the train that made the night so magical and fun for so many little ones. Not to mention the new playground which soon will be finished; paid for by all of us sharing our resources, with one another, in the family of faith; which is also how we fund the presence of the deputy who slows the Sunday morning traffic on Ridgewood Road, and the nursery workers who keep our babies safe and well, as well as the breakfast we prepare each week for Billy Brumfield, the sixteen chocolate chip cookies we serve every Thursday morning at the Yellow Church Bible Class, the thirty-five pizzas we purchased for the Spann school children on Friday, the one hundred and ten chicken sandwiches our youth group served at Stewpot yesterday and the tiny, shiny, silver dove Lesley placed over the head of little George Smith a few moments ago. All of that happens because all of us, together, pool our resources to help undergird and support everything our church does, within our walls and beyond our walls; our faint, distant echo of the egalitarian economics of the early church, where, according to this morning’s lesson from Acts chapter four, no one thought of anything they owned as theirs to keep, but everyone held everything in common.
All of which calls to mind, for me, something Anne Lamott once said. When asked why she made her son go to church even when he didn’t want to, the famous writer replied, “I make Sam go to church because I want him to grow up around people who live by a larger light than the glimmer of their own little candle.”
Which is exactly what happens in a family of faith. It doesn’t happen perfectly anywhere, including here. But, a lifetime spent breathing in the Spirit we breath in together in the family of faith, listening to and learning from one another, holding in our hearts people we do agree with and don’t agree with, and loving all of them, and each of them, so much we would gladly lay down our lives for any of them; and, giving our money, together, to causes which transcend our own personal opinions or self-interest; all of that does shape and color and stretch our lives, in powerful and wonderful ways, for God and the gospel.
And, it happens here, in the family of faith, Northminster Baptist Church; our life, together.