The Resurrection and Community
Acts 2:42-47

(c) Copyright 2005 Rev. Bill Versteeg


The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

We have all heard it said before, those who ignore history are destined to repeat history’s mistakes. Ignorance to the lessons of the past has the potential to shape our present in very unhealthy ways.

The Resurrection of Jesus from death however forces us to add to that formula. Ignorance to the lessons of the future stagnate growth and make us people destined to be stuck in the past. These disciples saw the Lord arisen. These disciples saw his scars. These disciples saw his healing by which we are healed. In seeing the resurrected body of Jesus, in tasting of the Spirit, these disciples had a glimpse at the future and that glimpse profoundly shaped everything they were and did.

This morning, I invite you to notice quickly some themes that arise from this passage - themes that were future shaped. First notice verse 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.

The truth behind this statement is that we are palimpsests. You might be asking, “What in the world is a palimpsest?” This week you can add it to your vocabulary list of words worth learning. A palimpsest is a piece of leather on which words are written. Each one of us is a palimpsest on which God is writing his story. It was by the Word of his mouth that creation came into being. It is by the power of that Word that creation is sustained. And by the Power of that same Word, this time resurrected to new life, we are made new creations. God makes us a new community by writing his story on our lives. We are a community bound together, not by location, not by race, not by mutual likeability, we are bound together by a true story, a single minded confession that Jesus has arisen from the dead and he is Lord over all. We are people who not only acknowledge the same story, we are people who by the Spirit are having that story write our lives. We are Palimpsests. The truth of what God has done is being written all over us, over our histories, over our character, over our past and our future. When people read us, as Palimpsests, they will read the story of God and his love in Christ. When we speak, we tell a story of once I was lost, now I am found. When we look at our wounds, with hope, we look to his scars. When we look at our scars, we look beyond them to the author of our healing, Jesus. The disciples saw the future in the resurrected Lord, they tasted of things to come and the devoted themselves to learning the story that was being written in their lives, a story that they loved to tell because it was their story, God’s story.

We are palimpsests. What is God writing in your heart, in your character, in your life? What part of the story of scripture is speaking to you and through you to others? Just like the neighbours of the church were reading the early church, and they found joy and pleasure in what they read, so to our neighbours are reading us. What joy, what pleasure, what beauty of God’s story do they see in you? We are palimpsests.

Secondly this passage says that they were devoted to the fellowship. Not only were they fascinated by the story, they were drawn and committed to the fellowship,  the Koinonia.

What does this fellowship refer to?
First of all, it was not a club, not just a group of like minded people who get together for a while. The intimate knowledge of the resurrection, the foretastes of the future through the Spirit were shaping this community. The fellowship had a sense of the future tied to it. This was a fellowship that would continue in eternity. Relationships built here were relationships that would not disappear through dispersion, persecution, separation death. People gave themselves to each other knowing that each and every investment they made in loving relationship would be an eternal investment. In tasting of the future, they knew this fellowship was forever. They knew as the recreated people of God, the palimpsests of the divine story, they belonged together forever.

As a pastor, this rings so true to me. The first church I served was an incredible learning curve for me. At times wonderful, at others times painful, the church in Saskatoon was the first church I gave myself to in love. After five years, and much more pain than I had ever anticipated, we went to Thunder Bay to serve. Close to ten years later, I was invited to come and visit the Saskatoon church, and I wondered what the fellowship would be like, in truth I had so many mixed emotions. But when I came to visit, the Lord surprised me. The Lord surprised me with the love that he placed in my heart for these many beautiful people I had once served. Not only that, but with the exception of 1 person, I remembered all their names. If you have any experience with my memory, you would know that has got to be a miracle. I began to understand the word fellowship, its permanent, its eternal. The love we give today will be love eternally.

Like a novel has many chapters, and the beauty of the novel is in how those many chapters are interwoven to tell the story, so to, the fellowship has many individuals, many chapters, and together they tell the divine story in all of its beauty. So to, everyone of us is a part in this divine story. So to we, as part of the holy catholic church, the fellowship throughout the world, are committed to loving one another, honouring each chapter as part of the story of God and his love. We are Palimpsests.

Third, Luke tells us that they were devoted to the breaking of the bread. Luke was referring to more than the Lord’s supper. A few verse later he says They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

Again the future shaped their present activities. Not only were they looking forward to an eternal banquet provided by the Lord, they were doing more. We live in a culture that all to often eats by itself. Our lives are so busy, and often so tired that to sit down for a meal together is almost to much to ask. But sitting down for a meal together is much more than just taking in common calories. To sit down for a meal together is to share a story, like the food that we eat together, we also take in each others lives, hear about each others days, struggles, hopes, joys. To eat together is to take in the story of what God is doing. And so it was in the early church. As palimpsests, we are what we eat. And when we eat the divine story in each others lives, in a mysterious way, the story becomes incarnate, the story becomes who we are. The story is written on us, in us, through us.

As families, eat together. Tell each other your daily stories. Listen to the story of God. Make it your "together" meals as often as you can. Don’t let the hurried pace of our frantic society dull you to each others story, or to God’s story. Some habits are worth fighting for.
And my last point for this morning is that the early church, in light of what they knew was coming in a resurrection and an eternal kingdom,  they devoted themselves to prayer.

What is prayer? Among the many definitions we might choose, from simply talking to God to birthing the Kingdom through extreme Spiritual exertion, today we will use the definition “Absolute Unmixed Attention.” The sense of the word devoted in this passage is that a person spends much time in, perseveres in, focuses on with much interest. Prayer is time focused without distraction on God, his word, his speaking, his writing upon our lives and hearts. Prayer is the Absolute Unmixed Attention that we give to listen to the author of our salvation speaking his story, writing it on his Palimpsests, seeing God at work.

If there is one characteristic our culture has, it is that every business, and a million voices are vying for our attention, each with bigger signs, louder noises, more humorous jokes, more pressing persuasion. So much so that many of us never spend time introspecting, evaluating our own lives let alone time of unmixed attention with God. But this early church knew that what is present is not all that there is. There is a Kingdom written on the hearts of God’s people, there is an eternal reality that is coming, that takes preparation, God is at work securing an inheritance for us that will never perish spoil or fade. And our consciousness of that reality demands Absolute, Unmixed Attention - AUA.

So people of God, I invite you to be future shaped.
Devote yourself to God’s story, to the eternal fellowship that shares that story, to hearing God at work in the lives of those around you, to listening to God in Absolute Unmixed Attention.




 


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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