Act 2:42-47 They spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and the prayers. (43) Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles, and everyone was filled with awe. (44) All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. (45) They would sell their property and possessions, and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed. (46) Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts, (47) praising God, and enjoying the good will of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.
Act 4:32-37 The group of believers was one in mind and heart. None of them said that any of their belongings were their own, but they all shared with one another everything they had. (33) With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God poured rich blessings on them all. (34) There was no one in the group who was in need. Those who owned fields or houses would sell them, bring the money received from the sale, (35) and turn it over to the apostles; and the money was distributed according to the needs of the people.
The Local Church – the Salvation of the World
The early church saw themselves as a group of people who were being saved from the narcissistic culture they were raised in.
Those few thousand were socialist, they obviously weren’t republicans!
They shared all their belongings, they ate in each other’s homes
and they learned about the way of Jesus.
And so nobody was in need and nobody seemed to be confronted with the loneliness we find in town today and we find in the church.
They had this transformation where they were born again from above as they allowed the Spirit of God to begin to transform them.
And then in 300 A.D. and Constantine makes Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. The Roman Legions painted the cross on their shields and slaughtered in the Name of Jesus and for 2000 years we have been trying to get back to where we began; a group of people bound together in love, who treated each other with kindness, gentleness, humility, self control etc.
So here we are now – the auditorium is being completed and we are about to re-invent ourselves, the likes of which will revolutionise the church through the country.
Amen? Yes? Can we do that?
People are waiting.
And I think that what they are waiting for is to know they matter. They are waiting for someone to give them a sense of self-esteem, a lift, and to let them know they are lovable.
And that’s what Jesus was about right?
A prostitute – Lady you’re lovable.
A Leper – let me touch you because God loves you and so do I.
Children – the Kingdom of heaven is as such as you!
You there up the tree working for the Romans – I’m coming to your place for a wine and meal.
You, blind man sitting at the city gate – I want to stop and talk to you and I want you to see.
I don’t think anyone around Jesus, would feel lonely or unwanted or like garbage.
He has this way, does my Jesus, of lifting people out of the gutter of low self esteem and telling them who they are. Saying things like: You are light for the world and salt for the earth.
We read that day by day in the early church the Lord added to their number!
People flocked into the fellowship of the early church to hear about Jesus.
No Hill Song songs, no data projectors; no see-through lecterns, no fancy coloured lights, no repetitious over and over again songs telling Jesus how much they loved him,
just a love for each other.
And was that love abused? Of course it was.
But here’s the deal, you cannot take advantage of Grace,
you cannot take advantage of love, because love never ends.
So that brings us to today. We want to be a saving presence in the community.
And I don’t mean being saved from going to hell because we discovered it doesn’t exist. But salvation today for this parent or grandparent, this solo father or mother, this out of work earner, this person struggling to pay the rent.
This person struggling to put food on the table.
This child at school being bullied or teased.
How can we create a saving place for such as these.
As Jesus said, the fields are ripe for harvest pray for rising up of harvesters.
There are people desperately ready to hear the good news that they matter, that they are loved.
The first thing, and we’ve been working on this, is us as a community, agreeing to becoming servants.
Jesus came not to be served in His words – but to be the servant of all.
So the first question: Can I be a servant. Can I pour my life out that others might live? Most Christians can’t, I’m sorry.
If we could the world would have changed hundreds of years ago. It has always been a remnant.
There is a lovely old hymn which I used to sing back in the olden days:
“I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back!”
So how do we prepare for the coming year, how do we not turn back?
This has been something of a write off, 2020, right? But we’ve learned things.
I think we start through prayer. Not prayer for the community. Prayer for yourself, prayer for myself.
And our prayers could be,
"Lord may I see this community as you see it and love it as you love it and move my heart into action."
We can’t pray – God do something for the community because God’s response is always, "Uh – that’s your call!"
That’s your role. You do something for the community, you show it all the grace I have shown you. So what we are to pray for is to be able to see as Jesus sees and to love as Jesus loves.
And some thing that awakened in me just the other day - Heather brought my attention to a debate on the what is called euphemistically the end of life Bill. A doctor who worked for years in palliative care around the world said that in one country in 50 percent of cases, the reason to want to end one’s life was loneliness. And her question to Mr Seymour was, "Is helping a person die because they are lonely, the best we can do?" It reminded me of what Mother Teresa of Calcutta wrote in the last century:
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is a poverty of loneliness.”
That should be a clue as to our mission in this community.
There are many variables that cause loneliness; physical isolation, moving to a new location, divorce, the death of someone significant in a person's life. Additionally, it can be a symptom of a psychological disorder such as depression.
Loneliness can also be attributed to internal factors such as low self-esteem.
People who lack confidence in themselves often believe that they are unworthy of the attention or regard of other people, which can lead to isolation and chronic loneliness.
Is this something to respond to?
Our weekly Playgroup and Mainly Music are not so much for the children but the mothers and fathers.
The children benefit but so many of the stories and the letters that came back to that ministry in Clevedon was the love the mothers received; how the ministry became a life saver for them. It allowed them to feel special because here was the church doing something for them.
Loneliness isn’t just something us oldies deal with it is disease across all age groups. Kids at school, pre-school, grandparents, parents, you name it. The church can be a safe place to come to for all ages where people are free from ridicule and isolation and teasing and condemnation and bullying. Church should be – heaven come down.
So if loneliness is a factor in people’s lives in this community and God is opposed to loneliness and isolation how do we respond? We could set up a survey and get it peer reviewed and refined and we’ll find we can’t do it. Or we could start and do something.
As I was thinking for this it occurred to be that we need a place and a leader where teens are safe to explore and deal with their own feelings of worth.
I wondered home many people ate alone and could we begin a pot-luck dinner where anyone in the community could come and you and I were the hosts?
The reality is the opportunities are endless; the way of gently incorporating people in need of community into the safety of the church are limitless.
That is why I would like all of us to pray. And in praying recommit ourselves to Jesus Christ and his way of love for the world. Now unto God the Father, God the Son and God, the holy Spirit, be all the honour and glory, world without end. Amen
Would you like to share in our purpose and mission? We believe that good relationships, open discussion and a genuine desire to seek God’s calling allows us to grow as people and a community together.