I heard a preacher say that he pastored two
churches. One church taught Sunday School and paid the bills. The
other church was spiritually illiterate and physically needy. The
problem, he said, was that the two churches met at the same time in
the same building. Is this the way it was meant to be – “haves” and
“have-nots” in the same church? The church Luke describes in our
text indicates something better.
The people of First Church (and I
do mean the first church) of Jerusalem displayed the common life.
What is the common life? The Greek word for
“common” is koina, a variation on koinonia, usually translated
“fellowship.” Those who are share fellowship share a common life.
“No man is an island, entire of itself.” What John Donne wrote about
humanity should most truly describe the church of Christ. The common
life is God’s design for His church. Neither isolated individuals
nor exclusive cliques fulfill His purpose for the church. Rather, we
are to function as one body (cf. 1 Corinthians 12). No part of the
human body pursues its own agenda. Rather, each part supports all
the other parts in the service of the whole.
What is the common
life worth? “We share our
mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear, and often for each other flows
the sympathizing tear.” Recently, a woman in our church became quite
and was rushed to the hospital. There she underwent surgery to
remove a blood clot from her brain. In no time at all, the woman she
lives with found herself surrounded by Christian sisters who stayed
with her throughout those anxious hours. They not only prayed with
her but in the days that followed, put themselves at her complete
disposal. None of her needs were overlooked. This is but one
benefit of the common life. I’ve
been privileged not only to see other benefits, but to receive them
as well. When my family moved to our present ministry, we were under
a great financial strain. We were astonished to see how generous the
people of our new congregation were. They helped us pay for car
repairs, helped my wife find much-needed employment, and, best of all,
helped us become better stewards of our resources. Does your
church want to know whether its
struggling single mothers have food in their refrigerators? Do
people care when an ailing brother’s roof leaks? Are the needs of
“the least of these my brethren” being taken care of? If the answer
to these questions is yes, you truly know the worth of the common
life! How Do We Get The Common Life?
We must realize
that the common life isn’t built on what we have. It’s built on what
we lack! Why did these people sell property and lay the proceeds at
the apostles’ feet? Where did such cheerful generosity come from?
The answer lies in Luke’s wonderful statement, “great grace was upon
them all.” Only those who have received bounty they don’t deserve
can freely open their hands to help others. In my more sanguine
moments, I’m tempted to change
the name of our church to First Church of The Drowned Rat.
(Fortunately, I’m surrounded by less sanguine leaders!) The idea is,
the grace of God pulled us from the drink and deposited on a life
raft like so many nearly drowned rats. In such circumstances, what
sense would it make to toss someone overboard? What sense would it
make to sniff with disdain at a fellow survivor: “He’s all wet!”
We’re all in the same boat! We share a common life based not on a
common strength but on a common and miserable need! The sooner the
church sees the wonder of God’s
mercy upon her, the sooner she will see the necessity of showing such
mercy to all her members. God’s grace is the key to the common
life. (Gary Robinson)
Third Sunday of Easter (B) April 30, 2006 The Road to Reality 1
Once again, his hand wanders over to the mouse.
Once again, he clicks onto a website. He knows it’s wrong. He knows
he’s distancing himself not only from his wife but also from his
God. He knows gray guilt is waiting for him in the wings. He knows
the pleasure of the moment will soon melt under a rain of reality.
But he thinks, “It’ll be okay. He’ll forgive me . . . again. I
hope.” If God is so willing to forgive us our debts, why
not run up an enormous bill? If God is so good as to forgive us, why
not be as bad as we want to be? In reply to a similar question, the
apostle John wrote of the road to reality and the necessity of taking
The road begins with the Greatest Love. God has
lavished love upon us. He has slopped and splattered us with love,
as an inexperienced painter might slop and splatter walls, ceiling,
and floors. How great a love is God’s love? He wants not simply to
call us His creation, but His children! “This is love,” declares
John, “not that we loved
God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice
for our sins” (1 John 4:10). What a frank declaration of human
need! None of us knew or cared for God! What a breathtaking show of
divine intervention! God put on flesh and allowed it to be pierced for
us! This is no Internet fantasy; this is historical reality. If
God would do this for us, surely the only
logical response is, “What are we doing for Him?” How can we live
the same old way, knowing God’s desire not just to make us good but
to make us His? The road ends with the Greatest Hope. If the
love of God pushes us forward on the road to reality, the hope of
seeing our Rescuer pulls us along that same path. The older I get,
the more I realize that virtue is not simply a task God has given me
to perform (under threat of Hell for failure), but part of the
delight of my relationship with Him. The more we love Jesus, the more
real He becomes to us. The more real He becomes to us, the more we
want to be like Him. A child who believes good ol’ Uncle Bob is
to visit may only be interested in the presents his uncle brings.
The child of God who believes Jesus is coming in glory is distressed
to think he may have no gift of love – no soul won, no sinful habit
broken, no treasure sacrificed – to lay at His bronzed feet. The
girl who truly loves her serviceman will remain faithful till he
returns from overseas. If she didn’t believe she’d see him, she’d be
relieved not only of love but of duty. In the same way, everyone who
hopes to see his Lord purifies himself (1 John 3:3).
between love and hope is the High Road.
Of course, we remain sinners as we travel. That’s the condition that
brought us to the Great Physician in the first place: “If we claim
to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”
(1 John 1:8). If sinless perfection were possible for us here, Jesus
would not have had to die. But I’ve never met a believer who didn’t
want to be better than he was. He doesn’t want to go on breaking God’s
law, and he yearns to stay clean for Christ’s sake.
A child playing in the mud may cry in rage as he’s
dragged into the house for a bath. The child of God, however, cares
whether he steps in the muck of sin. If he does, he’s not happy
about it, nor will he be content until he’s cleansed of the filth.
God helping him, he yearns for the High Road. Fantasies will no
longer satisfy. He yearns for reality. He clings to Christ to keep
him on that road.
Sermon brief provided by: Gary Robinson, Preaching Minister at Conneautville (PA) Church of Christ.