“The Resurrection Community”
April 15, 2012
“With great power [they] gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,” and “those who believed were of one heart and soul,” and there “was not a needy person among them.” What a difference a resurrection makes! It’s about more, far more, than life after death, getting to heaven. And it’s about more than having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It’s about community, resurrection community. During the Easter season, the first readings are from the book of Acts rather than the Old Testament. As we explore these texts for what resurrection community looks like, we need to remember these are post-Pentecost as well.
As we can see from our Gospel reading, resurrection community doesn’t happen quickly as the fearful disciples lock themselves away behind closed doors. There is no power here, no unified heart and soul, no service outside of themselves. Yet Jesus, as Jesus always does, meets the disciples where they are, even in their brokenness, and challenges them to be the people he has called them to be. He calls them not just as resurrection individuals, but also as resurrection community. Soon enough, they were out those doors, proclaiming boldly the resurrection of Jesus and the life available in his name. They will do this even though they are imprisoned, beaten, and ultimately martyred because of it.
That the disciples preached the good news of Jesus boldly is beyond dispute. But what of Luke’s claim to unity of heart and soul, not to mention that all was sold and no one had any need? A close reading of Acts shows that there were several contentious events in the early church. In fact, in chapter six there will be a dispute about the unequal distribution of goods to widows. I don’t think that being of one heart or soul means that there is no conflict or disagreements. One thing I do think it means is that everyone is pulling in the same direction, having the same goal, even though there may be differences of opinion as to how the community gets there.
The same is true about the selling of all possessions and having no needy among them. The wheels come off this idealized wagon soon enough. The story of Ananias and Sapphira, which comes soon after, shows that not all were on board with this plan. (Ananias and Sapphira will hold back some of their goods and fall dead when they are found out. Their sin isn’t so much that they held back, but that they lied about it, to God and to the community.) Even so, just because this is an idealized account doesn’t mean the ideal isn’t worth living up to. The point is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which constitutes a new community of faith, doesn’t merely free us from something—fear, brokenness, and powerlessness. It also frees us for something—something outside of ourselves. Jesus meets us behind our insecurities and frees us, sending us out as the Father sent him.
As I studied this text, looking ahead to our 125th anniversary celebration next week, I couldn’t help think about those first people who settled this area and sacrificed to build this church. Very often, churches were the first buildings and people who had little to begin with gave sacrificially to build them. I also thought about how the resurrection frees us to live outside ourselves as I attended the Pathstone Living (formerly Mankato Lutheran Home) volunteer recognition luncheon the other day. It was heart-warming to see one of Grace’s own, Audrey, Tolzmann honored as volunteer of the year. But it was even more heart-warming to see person after person from Grace and other churches who willingly give of themselves at Pathstone and so many other places.
What a difference the resurrection makes! Today’s text may make us hold our wallets and purses a bit tighter, but that’s the least of our worries. God doesn’t want our money; God wants all of us. In fact, God already has all of us, but God wants our hearts and souls to be pulling in the same direction, focused outward in service. Our church council is working on a plan, based on the Shepherding Team’s work, to do just that. More will be coming out in the next few weeks, but I hope you will be a part of the plan as it unfolds. In a sense, you have no choice because Christ is risen, and the resurrection makes all the difference. Amen.