Rev. Mona F. Denton, Westworth United Church, May 11, 2014
Acts 2:42-47; John 10:1-10
All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Acts 4:32a)
In addition to being Mother’s Day in much of the world, today is celebrated as Christian Family Sunday by many denominations. It is a day when we pause and reflect on the things that make the church a family. It’s a time to celebrate all the blessings we have known by being part of a family of faith.
Today is also the fourth Sunday of Easter on our liturgical calendar. These days after Easter are a gift to us. They help us to focus on wheat it will mean for us this year, that we are an Easter people – people shaped by the power of the resurrection and call of Jesus. This is a time to redefine the vision of our church.
Last Sunday after worship, over forty people gathered to listen to the needs assessment for our local community. We also began to reimagine the outreach opportunities these needs present. This is a time of discernment for our church family.
We recognize that a family approach is a more faithful response. A family has varied gifts and talents that no one member could ever possess. We recognize that together we must discern the work that God is calling us to do. We must answer the question: What are the unique gifts we possess and where might they be most needed at this time?
The vision we share for outreach, and how we live it out, will determine whether our family will grow – not necessarily in number, but in depth of commitment. People will do amazing things when they believe that God has called them to action.
The early church we read about in the book of Acts is a clear reminder of this truth. The apostles were given a powerful message to share, a message of life after death. That message went far beyond words and became embodied in the community of believers itself. Not only did the claims they made make people sit up and listen and believe, the way they lived in community was inspiring and unique.
All who believed were together and had all things in common. (Acts 2:32a) This degree of sharing and common purpose is difficult for us to comprehend. This group of believers had a power behind them that united them in a way that made people take notice. In this new community of faith, each person’s needs were met. Selfishness was replaced by selfless giving; the faith that had ownership over their hearts and souls became more important than the houses and land they had previously owned for themselves. They were family.
This early church chose to express their common faith, commitment and mission in terms of common goods and households. God may not be calling us to this exactly, but there is a need for us to stop and look at the things we do “hold in common.”
Where are the riches in our church community to be found? What needs around us keep tugging at our hearts so that we cannot let them go? We cannot meet all needs, but the needs we long to transform will transform us, if we risk enough to grab hold of them and allow them to grab hold of us.
This morning, I held a beautiful new life in my arms, the newest member of our church family – Lilianna. I couldn’t help but wonder what dreams and visions she will grow up to share with us and with the world. Surely our children we hold in common as we dream of a world where they are free to be fully human and grow up in peace and safety.
What are the gifts you hold today? Have you found a place to bring them to life and make God’s love and justice real? Might God be drawing you in to offer those gifts in community within this church family? What are the most powerfully transformative gifts that we hold in common?
Last Sunday, many of us felt a little overwhelmed by the needs all around us. It is impossible to be all things to all people. But God has a way of tugging at our heartstrings and planting seeds deep within. The things we hold in common together will find their way to opportunities for making God’s love and justice visible and tangible in our community.
But we have to risk being family to one another in this calling to self-sacrifice and action. Being a family that serves is not always easy, but the blessings of a shared passion for God’s vision for us will not disappoint us.
When those early Christians found a unity of faith and vision, they became totally committed to having an impact on the people around them. They put their lives on the line, they contributed all they had materially and they found a new perspective that changed them forever. They “held everything in common.” May it be so for us. Amen.