It is still Easter. Though the events of Easter Sunday have been buried under a mountain’s worth of weekly activities, it is still Easter. Christ is Risen! It seems an odd refrain given our disembodied response to time. Often it is hard to maintain connections. Yet, we are called to be a community of faith living with the knowledge that we follow the Lord of Life.
In short we are called to live like a Resurrected Community.
Text: Acts 4: 32-35
I was going to do a children’s story on the notion of seeing as believing and the necessity to have faith through life. But then I thought, no poor Thomas. He always takes a beating when today’s passage from John’s gospel rolls around in the lectionary. I thought I would give him a break today.
Besides the notion of teaching on the passage from Acts and how that first, early Christian community shared with one another was too good to pass up. Using a cookie to do it, well let’s be honest, I just wanted a cookie.
It seems to me that all the other disciples got to share in an experience, seeing Jesus in the upper room, but Thomas is left out. For some reason or another he is out and when he returns he is told what happens. His response, “I don’t believe it!”
However, all Thomas really wanted was the same thing the others got. Like Mary, like the other disciples, Thomas wanted to see Jesus. That’s it. I know we like to apply the adage ‘Doubting Thomas’ but we all know that we are no different. We too, just want to see Jesus.
This morning, one week after Easter Sunday, the words Christ is Risen have faded from our lips. That was last week, surely there must be a new word from the Lord. Except we are still in Easter and Christ is Risen.
Our readings this morning demonstrate an interesting shift in the life of the early church. In John’s gospel our reading takes place that first day after Easter. The disciples are fearful for their lives and are hiding out. They don’t want to end up on a cross like Jesus. They’ve heard the good news from Mary that Jesus has risen, but you know that doubt lingers.
Then we have our reading from Acts where we witness a bold early church at work. All the believers, not just the disciples, but all the believers. Based on what occurs in previous chapters of Acts, we are talking about 5000 people. This group of early believers in the Way of Jesus have decided to come together, sell their possessions and live communally. Not a one of their number was needy.
These two readings demonstrate a startling contrast in the life and journey of the disciples and the early church. The reality is our passage from Acts is very challenging for us. We are immediately drawn to the sharing of possessions in this passage and we have difficulty with it. If we are honest it is because we are selfish and vigorously protect our stuff. Which reminds me of a great George Carlin bit on ‘Stuff’. But I digress, we are slightly selfish, we don’t always like to share our possessions or our time.
We all have a possession, or two, or three that are very precious to us. Think about it and you know the item I’m referring to. This is the item, that when no one is looking you hold it out and look at it. You might stroke it like you’d pet a dog and perhaps you even say as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings did, “My precious!”
It’s easy to laugh, but most of you are laughing because you know it’s true. The rest of you are hoping that no one asks you after the service what your precious is.
We select the things we like, we participate in things we like, we associate with people we like. All true. All individual decisions based on our own needs that are made in isolation.
At home, after the kids are in bed I put the game on. Any game, baseball, hockey, football whatever. Because that’s what I like and maybe, just maybe the game will get left on. Or, the game will get turned off and something Kate likes will be put on. Or perhaps, we will select something we both like.
How often have you gone out and tried something new? Maybe it was an exercise class, social activity, introduction to a new hobby and you came home your response to being asked how was it, was “It wasn’t really for me. I don’t think I’ll go back.” Nothing wrong with that, we tend to participate in things we like and which give us fulfillment.
We are drawn to the matter of possessions in this passage, probably because we work hard for the things we have and exercise a degree of ownership on them. The result is the idea of sharing or selling all our possessions and living communally is very challenging.
What we might ask is how do we use the resources we have for the common good? Can the food in my pantry be used to feed someone else who is hungry? What aspect of my time am I willing to sacrifice or offer in order for someone else to have a higher standard of living?
As people of faith and as a community of faith, we need to name the grace filled moments in life when true community happens.
The key to this passage in Acts, is that after 2000 years we still have Christian community. As a community of faith we are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. To model ourselves after those early disciples.
This morning we heard from Kelly about the HomeShare project. An easy, and innovative for our time, way to share resources. A way to partner women who have a home with women who do not or who are at risk of losing their housing. I will tell you it is shocking the number of senior women who are precariously housed in our community.
What we witness in Acts is the generosity of the early church. And let’s not kid ourselves, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. We know from reading further in Acts that sometimes those early beleivers and the disciples themselves had disagreements. Some disagreements were so bad that people simply had to go their own way. But they were willing to try, to set their possessions apart and dedicate things to holy living.
A key aspect to holiness is that we set certain things apart for God’s use.
What the reading from Acts tells us is that the resurrection was still at work. We see resurrection as relationship. People are drawn closer together through mutual love, trust and belief. If we are brave enough, if we are willing to trust enough we can also participate in this aspect of resurrection by sharing those things we call precious.
Think of what might be accomplished if this community of Cobourg saw us act out of compassion and love. If Cobourg witnessed us living out the resurrection? Then think and dream bigger and realize what might be accomplished in the world if we lived as children of the resurrection. Not doubting, but believing and working together in concert as a community of faith. Amen.