Yr C ~ Thanksgiving (Stewardship 4) ~ Acts 2:42-47
This is the last Sunday in our 4 week stewardship campaign called Giving in Faith. Our touchstone word through all this has been the word ‘entrusted’. The heart of stewardship is about faithfully dealing with the abundance with which we’ve been entrusted.
We started by looking at our time and a bit about our money. We’ve been entrusted with many hours each week – a gift and blessing from God – how shall we spend them. We have more than the basic needs of food and shelter. Most of us are probably celebrating Thanksgiving at some point this weekend and there will be bountiful reminders of how we’re not exactly starving! We are richly blessed, in more ways than we can count. What shall we do with that abundance?
Two weeks ago we talked about our local mission here at this church, and the dedication you all pour into the work we do. We’ve been entrusted with spiritual gifts and spiritual passion. The message that week was about keeping them ablaze. And we aim to do that by naming all the wonderful things we do together here, realizing what a profound difference we make in this community and the world, and celebrating our ministry together.
Last week it was all about the wider church – being part of the world wide body of Christ – and that we’ve been entrusted with a Way, with good news, with a gospel. How shall we share that good news? We share it through worship, through creation-care, through service, through justice-making, and through proclamation – we share it by being the Church together.
We’ve also been having coffee parties in people’s homes – gathering together to talk about the blessings of this community of faith, dreaming about the future, and discussing our real needs in the here and now. And on top of that we’ve been having people stand up and give testimonials about their faith journey and the ways that Faith United is an important part of that.
I think it has been a tremendous stewardship campaign. I’m very grateful for the hard working team that has been leading it.
And the best part is that we haven’t been harping on money!
Until now. (Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle!)
But before I do that I want to say this.
We’re not perfect by any means, but this is a fantastic church.
You are in many ways a model of how church ought to be done.
And I think the reason for that is all because of me! NO, I’m totally kidding!!!
The reason is that you are a passionately faithful reflection of the very first church.
In the book of Acts, right after the Holy Spirit does its Pentecost thing, Peter and the gang do their preaching and sharing the good news thing, and it says three thousand people welcomed the message and were baptized.
Can you picture that? And then what? Did all those people just go home and live happily ever after?
No, they became a church. Immediately after the words ‘three thousand’ the text uses the word ‘they’ and describes their relationship. It seems pretty unlikely that all three thousand were hanging around together, but it’s crystal clear that the aftermath of Pentecost wasn’t just the memory of a dazzling event – it was a movement.
Our scripture today describes that movement – that first iteration of church – back before it got all messy with other issues – as churches are wont to do.
And when I read that description of that first church I see Faith United, and I’m filled with gratitude.
Acts 2:42-43 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.
Let me start with that last bit. Awe wasn’t happening because the apostles were superstars. The translation is misleading. The signs and wonders weren’t done ‘by’ the apostles but ‘through’ them. It makes a big difference. And signs and wonders don’t mean miracles per se – it just means that the work they were doing was having noticeable and positive effects. I read it as the awe was coming through their ministry together.
And what was their ministry?
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Learning, fellowship, sharing meals, and worship.
They devoted themselves, as a church, to learning, fellowship, sharing meals, and worship.
So do you!
And what did this spiritual grounding, and nurture, and intentionality inspire them to do?
It inspired them to give.
Acts 2:44-45 All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
No, they did not start a hippie commune!
And no, I will not use these verses to suggest that you need to sell all your stuff and give the money to the church. read on