Preaching to the Choir

These are some sermons, but mostly lectionary discussions. It also has prayers for some Sundays.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter 2B, Acts 4:32-37

-Karl Barth once said the following: The Christian community is the Easter community. Our preaching is Easter preaching, Our hymns are Easter hymns,Our faith is an Easter faith. When you read the Acts passage for the lectionary this Sunday, you get the feeling he was basing what he said on this very passage.

Acts 4:32-37 32Now 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. 33With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34There 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. 35They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). 37He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

How far we have come from those early days of the Christian Community. Dan Clendenin reminds us of the findings in the book the UnChristian, which is a must read for all of us. David Kinnaman of the Barna Group presents statistical research and extensive interviews from a three-year study that document how an overwhelming percentage of sixteen to twenty-nine year olds view Christians with hostility, resentment and disdain.

broadly and deeply negative views of Christians aren't just superficial stereotypes with no basis in reality, says Kinnaman. Nor are the critics people who've had no contact with churches or Christians. It would be a tragic mistake, he argues, for believers to protest that outsider outrage at Christians is a misperception. Rather, it's based upon their real experiences with today's Christians.

According to Kinnaman's Barna study, here are the percentages of people outside the church who think that the following words describe present-day Christianity:
* antihomosexual 91%
* judgmental 87%
* hypocritical 85%
* old-fashioned 78%
* too political 75%
* out of touch with reality 72%
* insensitive to others 70%
* boring 68%
It would be hard to overestimate, says Kinnaman, "how firmly people reject — and feel rejected by — Christians" (19). Or think about it this way, he suggests: "When you introduce yourself as a Christian to a friend, neighbor, or business associate who is an outsider, you might as well have it tattooed on your arm: antihomosexual, gay-hater, homophobic. I doubt you think of yourself in these terms, but that's what outsiders think of you" (93).
Gabe Lyons of the Fermi Project who commissioned the Barna research remembers his first look at the data. "I'll never forget sitting in Starbucks, poring through the research results on my laptop. As I soaked it in, I glanced at the people around me and was overwhelmed with the thought that this is what they think of me. It was a sobering thought to know that if I had stood up and announced myself as a 'Christian' to the customers assembled in Starbucks that day, they would have associated me with every one of the negative perceptions described in this book" (222, his italics).
Acts 2:47 says they "enjoyed the favor of all the people". I don’t know that it matters that we enjoy the favor of all the people, because we know that the early church was persecuted and martyred as well. But I do believe that if we are living in Resurrection Faith and as Easter people the community is more of a community that it is now.

I think that you can not take this Acts passage out of chapter 4 and present it on its own standing. I think you have to read it in context. Peter and John were temporarily held for their preaching and then released. They come back to the group and report the events. They all then join in prayer. Read the prayer.
After they are through praying, the place where they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God's Word with fearless confidence. The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind!

This kind of community cannot be forced, cannot just come from NCD or doing what all the other famous so called successful churches are doing. This kind of community comes from the courageous leadership of the leaders, prayer, and most of all from God through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the members being willing to receive what God has for them. Then they can be of one heart, one mind, and one community.

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