From the beginning of the year, we have been learning about some tools we can use to take care of our souls, and we will need all of these tools to help us along our journey into a deeper life in the Spirit. As we get deeper, however, we may find that it gets hard to keep going alone. We find that we need other people to help us along the way. Thankfully, that is just how Jesus intended for us to live. This Christian life is not meant to be an independent existence. We are meant to be in community with other believers. Church, we are all in this together!
The scripture for today was Acts 2:37-47. It tells about what happened right after Pentecost, when the disciples received the Holy Spirit and began preaching in different languages. Peter gave a rousing sermon, explaining through the Hebrew scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah that they had all been waiting for. This had an amazing result - 3,000 people joined the church that day!
Picture this. All of a sudden there are 3,000 new believers in Jesus. These people have just had their religion and their lives turned upside-down. Everything about their lives suddenly changed. The scripture gives a wonderful picture of people living together in community, sharing their possessions, their food, their knowledge, and their worship. They were truly living as a family, with Jesus as the head. As modern-day disciples of Jesus, we need to get back to this way of life. We are too independent of each other, and as such, are not as effective as we should be. Historically, Christians have been at the forefront of humanitarian aid. They cared for the poor, the sick, the prisoners, and the orphans. They started hospitals and schools and orphanages. These things took resources, and they took people working together.
As disciples of Jesus, we are called to:
1. Worship with each other
2. Care for each other
3. Minister alongside each other
Worship with Each Other
Worship is how we get filled up. Without worship, we easily get depleted and become ineffective witnesses of Jesus Christ. We can worship by ourselves, and there is certainly a time and place for that, but worshiping in community is necessary. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul explains that we are all one body, but each of us is a different part. As such, we need to all be together to function correctly! When we worship, we pray, sing, and learn together. We celebrate the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper together. We are able to contribute our gifts and our understanding to the group, which lifts everyone up. None of us were given all of the gifts, or all of the answers. We need each other to grow spiritually. Together, we are stronger.
Care for Each Other
Just as we have been given different spiritual gifts and talents, we have been given different life assets. Some of us have more time, some have more money, and some have better health than others. There is a great inequality in our world today. This was also the case in the early church, but they had a way of dealing with it. Acts 2:44-45 tells us that the early Christians shared everything they had. Those who had more than they needed gave to those who were in want. It is a sad thing to me that in America we fight over how the government is going to take care of everyone. As Christians, we should be at the forefront of innovating ways to care for our neighbors and our countrymen. We can start by taking care of those closest to us.
Minister Alongside Each Other
You have probably heard "The Great Commission" - Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20a). These are instructions for all of us, not just for missionaries. And really, if you know that you have the secret to eternal life, why would you not want to share it?
Well, it can be scary. What if you don't know how to answer their questions? What if they laugh at you? What if you are persecuted for voicing your beliefs? These are all valid points, but we have some assurances. First of all, we were sent under the authority of Jesus. Whatever happens to us is also under His authority, and He can handle it. Second, there is strength in numbers. This is where the community comes in. You don't need to do this alone. Jesus sent his disciples off by twos! He trained 12 men directly, and had an inner circle of three to help him in his own ministry. We can go back to the idea of the different parts of the body here. Maybe you are good at speaking with people, but are not strong in your knowledge of the Bible. Find a friend who can remember those passages! Maybe you have a great heart for sharing your faith, but are too shy to speak. Bring an outgoing friend to break the ice! Spending time worshiping with other believers will help you to have the tools you need, and spending time caring for others will give you more opportunities to tell them about Jesus.
Friends, if we work together, we can be a force of good for our communities, our countries, and our world. Together we stand; divided we fall.