Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Contemporary Alternative: Vital Community

Sunday we look closely at a few verses in Acts 2. They come at the close of the chapter, a chapter that has been pretty exciting in that the Holy Spirit has come with a rush of mighty wind. The promise Jesus said was coming has indeed arrived, and the worlds of all involved had suddenly been transformed.

Also in this chapter, Peter preached a sermon to explain to the confused crowd what was happening. Peter emphatically declares that this is the long awaited promise of God being fulfilled; not the results of too much alcohol. Interesting that for some present they cannot tell the difference. But hand it to Peter, who rests assured in the power of the Holy Spirit, 3,000 are added to the Christian community, and you couldn't ask for a better beginning to a movement.

One Biblical commentator makes a point: "If Acts were written from a purely contemporary point of view, we might expect all of the uproar of Pentecost, Peter's moving sermon, and the crowd's eager response ... to be the end of the story" (Willimon, Interpretation, p.39). I think he's right. Today we see a world often marked by temporary enthusiasm and short-lived commitments that flounder with the next best and latest idea, device, or technology. Wouldn't you agree? Haven't we grown suspicious of religious emotion, skeptical of the fuss and bother, cynical that it will amount to very little?

I love Luke for not leaving us with our suspicious natures, our skepticism and cynicism.

You see, Acts 2:42-47 gives us a true picture of what it looks like for the gospel of the kingdom of God to be embodied in community. And the picture is a beautiful alternative to just about anything else we have known and which is available. I wonder about a culture like ours reading this passage, because of our bent toward radical individualism and because of our resources to acquire just about anything we want, a habit that insolates us from the real needs that we have as human beings. That's overstated and grossly generalized, but I hope you get the point.

As you read this passage for Sunday's lesson, think upon some things:

1. What are the four habits that this community embodies?
2. What might these verses tell us is the main concern of Acts?

As you read devotionally (that is, reading with an open heart to God and in prayer), consider these two questions, and as you feel comfortable be prepared to share what you are getting in the group on Sunday.

See you then!