OF One Heart and Soul

Acts 4:32-35

This is Formation Eucharist Sunday, I am going to start the ‘grown-up’[1] sermon with some of the points that I made to the children in the first service.

This is the first Sunday after Easter, and Jesus is no longer there to lead the disciples or the people. They are all sad and kind of lost and missing Him. We heard in the Bible reading from the Acts of the Apostles today that the people who followed him began to live together like one huge family. The way they could share stories of Jesus so they wouldn’t miss him so much. Stories always remind us of a person who is no longer with us, and makes us feel better. In this new big family they created, no one owned anything, everything anyone had belonged to everyone. They shared food and clothes and all their possessions. That is pretty amazing!

Think for a minute about all your toys and things that you like. Can you imagine sharing them with every other child? Think about how your little brother or sister may get peanut butter in the hair of your favorite doll, or break your favorite car or truck. That doesn’t sound like very much fun, does it?

Well, one of the main things Jesus taught us was that we are to care for and share with each other. Do you remember the verse in Matthew:

Do unto others are you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12)

We all want to be good followers of Jesus, showing other people the love of Jesus. Sometimes we do a good job of it, and other times not so much. But you know what? God loves us anyway. Isn’t that great? As long as we try to be good examples, even when we don’t quite make it, we are all beloved children of God, even if we are 95 years old!

And Jesus asks us to share. I have a flower for each of you. Aren’t they pretty? Flowers are the sign that Spring is here(or at least we hope) – and another sign that, like all living things, Jesus rose from the dead. Lots of people really like flowers because they brighten up a room, smell good, and make people happy.

Don’t you like to be happy? Who doesn’t like to be happy?

So, like Jesus taught us, we should share with others. I want you to take a flower, and when you go back to your seat, give it to someone that you would like to make happy. It could be your parents or sister or brother, or maybe someone that you think could really use it to cheer them up.

This is what sharing is about and what our community here at Saint John’s should be like: some place where we care for each other and share our love. We hope, by doing that, we can help the whole world to learn to love and share.

So, pick out your flower – there are so many kinds in the vase. Take one that makes you happy, then give it to someone else – and make them happy!

Sometimes children, and adults, don’t grasp the significance of striving to live as one large family. But, as we heard in the reading from Acts, that is what we have been commanded to do. And I would add to that, that we need to live together in a Christian community which lives out the teachings of Jesus. We all need to put our faith into action.

But, what does “faith in action look like?” Fortunately, we have the acts of the early church recorded for us in Scripture alongside the words and deeds of Jesus in the gospels. So, if we want to see what we ought to be doing today and why, we only need to look at Scripture. In the fourth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we heard:

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. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35)

When the early followers of Jesus, before they were even known as ‘Christians’ lived together, they were a small number and it was easy for them to do this. But there are fewer communes and intentional communities today, an exception being the group of Episcopalians and AmeriCorp interns who work and live together in Franklinton, which follow these instructions. Most of us can’t go as far as that in our modern lives. We don’t all feel called to pool our money and move in together. But this picture of the early church should still move us to be a certain kind of people. These verses in Acts 4 should challenge us to carefully consider what it does mean for us to be a community that shares life together – taking care of one another and those less fortunate – the homeless, the abandoned, those suffering.

When we pray the Prayers of the People, we ask

“comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles”.

We pray this weekly, but what do we do to help God accomplish this? How do we reflect God’s love in our personal and communal lives?

So, what does it mean for us to be a life-sharing community? First of all, it means that we embrace a common purpose. Acts 4:32 tells us that

All the believers were one in heart and mind.

A ‘Christian’ sense of purpose. A determination to spread the gospel of Jesus, and try to live into his teachings and commandments. And very casually inserted in the middle of these passages is the reward for living a shared-life:

And much grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:33)

So today we must ask ourselves who are Christians living here in America: “How are we reflecting this model in our churches today.” Are we preaching and singing one thing, and doing the opposite? Is the Kingdom of God furthered by our service? I would think, if this were so, there would be great power in the church today. There would be powerful witness to the resurrection of Christ in the life of the church. There would be great grace flowing from her to a hurt, rebellious and dying world. There would be people added daily to church membership. There might even be true miracles in the church. But if our churches are divided by race, riches, and culture, then what are we preaching? Should we expect great power in a church such as this? It seems to me that we need to seriously reconsider who we are as a church. Another word for reconsider is “repent.” Do we really want a powerful spirit-filled and led church, or are we happy just to be a fading mirage of what the church once was?

We all need to search our hearts and decide what we want to be, personally, and what we want Saint John’s to be for our community and world.

Let us pray together as the children prayed.

Dear God, you have created a world that is full of beauty, which you tell us to share with others. Thank you for sharing this beautiful world with us! Sometimes, when we don’t feel like sharing, forgive us. Help us to be nice to all those whom we meet and show them the love of God that you showed us!  Amen.

[1] Emphasize with fingers in air
Note: except for scripture, text in italics is part of the children’s sermon, “Jesus Tells Us to Share”, Saint John’s Episcopal Church of Worthington & Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 8 April 2018
Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church of Worthington & Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 8 April 2018

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