Saint John's Pulpit (Fourth Sunday of Easter))) – "With Glad and Generous Hearts" Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 NRSV
Church: The Gift from The Risen Lord
Have you ever thought about this question? What was a gift from the Risen Lord? Before Jesus' crucifixion, he promised to give Holy Spirit as known as 'parakletos' (paracletes). Let me read John 14:16.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. John 14:16 NRSV
The word Advocate above is shown as Helper or Counsellor in some other versions. The Greek word for Advocate is parakletos used as a law professional or advocate in Greek tradition. But in the Bible, this word means Holy Spirit. After Jesus’ Resurrection, there was a strong work by Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Later in Peter’s preaching, Holy Spirit worked amazingly. Around this time, people who received the Holy Spirit gathered and formed a church. If so, can we say church is the gift from the Risen Lord?
The text today presents one of characteristics about the first church. In the Book of Acts, there are three characteristics of church. The first one is in Acts 2:42-47, the second one is in Acts 4:32-35 and the last one is in Acts 5:12-16.
Let me read Acts 4:32-35 and then Acts 5:12-16.
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 NRSV
Here is Acts 5:12-16.
Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured. Acts 5:12-16 NRSV
From these three characteristics of the first Church in Acts, there is one common expression requiring our careful attention. What is this?
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, Acts 2:46a
Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, Acts 4:32 a
And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. Acts 5:12b
In a word, the DNA for the first church was TOGETHER. They spent much time together, they were of one heart and soul, and they were all together. With this DNA, the first church suffered together, got through all together and experienced a great victory in Christ. Over 2,000 years, churches have cherished this faith heritage and we do as well.
Church After Covid-19
It is the first Sunday of May. It has been exactly 50 days since we have not seen one another in the church (March 15 to present). Under this unprecedented challenge, what did we St. John’s do? All buildings were closed, but St. John’s is not. I cannot thank enough for all your support and prayer for your church. Whenever I give you a call, lots of times I used to hear these questions in common:
Just like one of expressions from the text today, St. John's congregations are ready to serve one another with glad and generous hearts (v.46). Yes, we are all churches. We all are people driven by the Holy Spirit. Concerning one another, sharing one another, supporting one another, and praying for one another… We are in each of our residences, but we are together. As you know, some states are planning their re-opening carefully. Virginia might be following this trend. But after the Covid-19, we will experience a totally different life in faith. Whatever it may be, please know this. We are all together and are of one heart and soul. Please remember the Holy Spirit is working among us. It might be the only way to overcome our faith challenge in an era a social distancing. If we are people of Holy Spirit, a distancing doesn't matter.