Note: This Sunday was incredible! We had kids singing with tambourines, a Shofar being blown as a call to worship, testimony, songs in Spanish and Korean,
authentic clothing from other countries, a parent-child dedication, communion, and a pot-luck lunch! Needles to say, I’m exhausted but my heart is full. A huge thanks to all my brothers and sisters at Gallery Church Patterson Park who helped us celebrate the renewal of our covenant membership to one another. It was beautiful!
Text: Acts 2:42-47
Iif we are to properly covenant with one another, we must understand and commit ourselves to this final value. We have saved it for last, largely because it is key to fulfilling and honoring the others. It is the relational context in which we work through these values together.
We value authenticity. To be authentic is to be who you really are with those around you. It is to be vulnerable, to share yourself with others, warts and all. There are no perfect people, and we don’t want to waste precious time and energy trying to convince others (or even ourselves), that we are better or more put together than we are.
At its best, the early church got this and modeled this for us. As we see in our passage today, we can learn from their authenticity in a few ways. First, to be authentic…
We must be together.
(v. 44a, 46)
This word together, is a phrase of a gathering of people, with the emphasis being on unity. This is more than going to a concert together or working together. It is about fully being with and for one another.
Remember, we talked about the triangle and how our “IN” relational dimension is not in to ourselves, it is in with one another. As Mike Breen says, the indivisible unit of the kingdom is two. We do not and CANNOT follow Jesus alone. We must be together.
And that takes time. More than just a couple hours once a week.
I could say a lot about this, but our lives culturally work against us in some ways. We, through technology, have been given a substitute for community through TV shows and social media. Community is already naturally hard because of rampant individualism, and that is reinforced everyday by how we engage with the world (another conversation for another day).
Community takes time and effort and sacrifice. Some of us will have to think, is it more important for me to spend time with my community or to take that extra trip out of town. Should I go be with that friend or brother or sister or should I just stay in and watch 3 episodes of my favorite tv show.
All I can see is that the early church was drawn to spend much time together. More than 2 times a week. It was a lifestyle of consistent engagement. What could that look like? We will come back to it.
But for the time being, let’s just see at this point that authenticity happens when I chose to be together with others. This is about quantity of time and who you are spending it with. We don’t get to know each other through short, casual interactions.
We must share fully.
(v. 44b, 45)
- Share what you have and share what you need.
The early church shared their possessions. They even sold things to make sure others had what they needed. Their sharing was based on an understanding of what others need. How did they know what others needed? They told them! They were honest about their needs and did whatever they could to help meet those needs in the family. The big question about generosity and giving to those in need is a conversation about those outside the walls of the church. And this is important. We ask whether we should give to someone who is panhandling or believe the stories of some people or only give away food. These are important conversations and it is important to obey God in these moments.
We receive quite a few benevolence requests from people outside of our church family. People will call the office or stop in and ask for help with rent or food or bills. One of the very first questions I ask is whether or not they are involved in a church. And there is a reason for this: I want to know what their church family has done to help their own brother or sister.
These believers shared what had been given to them in order to meet others needs because they ultimately understood that what they had did not belong to them.
Example of Gen 3 and Adam and Eve hiding from God because they were naked.
When they saw things as they were, they responded by seeking to cover themselves and hiding from God, our of fear and shame.
Who told you that you were naked? Who told you that being naked was a bad thing? God created you that way…
Notice that the reason for hiding is not, explicitly, that they disobeyed God. Their sin, their disobedience, is not the reason they give. They have a completely different perspective on who they are. They are ashamed of who God made them.
Who told you you should be ashamed of who you are?
Kara and I went to a friend’s wedding this past Friday night. It was so much fun. I love people watching, seeing the dancers come out of their shells. There is always that one guy that just owns the floor, right? I mean, he is drenched in sweat and has all the moves. This past Friday, too, there was the flower girl, right in the middle of the floor and she was owning it. And I’m over being a wallflower freaking out about what people will think of me! Many of them were my friends, and many who weren’t my friends were halfway drunk anyway and wouldn’t remember the next day! So Kara and I tore it up!
I think that this is a core part of the result of the entrance of sin into the world; we have this inherent shame about who we are and how God has made us. As a follower of him, you are a gift to this church. The Spirit has empowered each of you with gifts. Those gifts are not for you. They are for the church! And if you allow fear to keep you from sharing who you are, we are missing out on what God has for us. We need you to share all that you are and all who you are!
Which leads us to this last idea…
There is always room at the table.
As the early believers shared themselves, their lives, and their stuff with one another, they found themselves drawn together in worship and in meals.
Here is the thing we can miss: who was at the table.
Imagine what those meals must have been like! Imagine the foods, the conversations, the languages, the cultures, the differences….but all worshiping together and all eating together.
I guess, in a moment, we won’t have to imagine!
In our context, think of how we would be described if Luke was writing about us and the different people who were there: Mexicans, native-born Americans, Guatemalans, Koreans, Salvadoreans, Colombians, Africans, African-Americans, recovering southerners, Yankees, Balmers, mid-westerners, Californians, Orioles fans, Ravens football fans, Real Madrid “football” fans, and yes, even Steeler’s fans (who we can pray for to be sanctified!).
Jesus wants his table to be diverse, and there is always room for more.
How many of you grew up having family dinner as a kid? We had certain meals that we ate because different people in our family liked them. We also would eat burgers so that mom didn’t have to cook. I like to think of our times together in worship as a family dinner. We are all gathered because we need to eat, but we get to celebrate each other’s tastes. Today has been a wonderful mix of different languages and styles. It is like the meal that we are about to have. I love that! And this is coming from a guy who could eat the same 5 meals every week for the rest of my life! But this is fun! I don’t expect you to like everything that we do here, just like there will be some dishes downstairs that you won’t like. But we will have it as a part of the meal, because Donna made it, and we love Donna and Donna loved making it. We will eat it because we love Lorena and Lorena loved making it.
And this honors God. And it is attractive to others, because it says to them “we value people for being authentic: for being themselves and bringing what they bring to the table.”
And so, we are about to come to the table of Jesus. Jesus’ table is a diverse table. When he first gave us this holy meal, it included the loud-mouths and the nobodies. The self-focused and the swindlers. The betrayer and the “one whom Jesus loved”. The hot-heads and the opposing political parties and the back-woods rednecks. This is what Jesus’ table looks like. Because as different as we are, and as much as we disagree and debate, we come to the table because of one simple truth: we are hungry. We are people who need the sustaining grace of the flesh and blood of Jesus. We are bound together by his blood and his love.
This week, may you say no to fear and shame. May you take time to be “in-with” the family of God. May you share yourself and your stuff with others. And may you seek to expand your table, all for the sake of our King Jesus and His Kingdom. May you be more fully you this week to the people around you.
Grace and Peace be with you…