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. 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. 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, 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.
Followers of the law from every nation had gathered in Jerusalem, had witnessed the descent of the Holy Spirit, the miracle of Pentecost.
Three thousand of them had been baptized and become followers of Christ. And now they were living together in harmony under the law. They had declared a year of Jubilee and those who owned much had sold it and all had been redistributed. They went to the temple devoutly, prayed the traditional prayers with full hearts. Any Prophet of Israel or Judah would have walked into their community and found nothing wanting, nothing to rail about, they lived fully into both the spirit and word of the Law. Their works were a beautiful utopia on earth. A beautiful self sufficient insulated egg.
And God, the brooding mother hen, she looked down and said its time for that egg to hatch.
I am sure at the moment, however, it felt more like God the Master Chef looked down and said, time to make an omelet.
Because where is God’s action in this passage… “the Lord added to their number those who were being saved…”
God’s Grace, the Full Gospel, enters stage left and everything falls apart. God’s Grace, the Gospel shown forth in full, is not an easy thing, its not a happy thing, it is a terrible thing, a terribly good thing, but a terrible thing none the less.
Kumbayah time is over for the first Christians… because the Full Gospel is arriving. The Lord is sending them those who have been saved.
And those who have been saved by God’s grace are not always followers of the law. They will be non-Jewish widows, uncircumcised men, gender non conforming Ethiopians, a man who sought their complete annihilation, and so many others.
The comfort zones of the early Christians will be violated. They will have to eat odd disgusting food with odd disgusting people. They will find themselves forced to touch and comfort menstruating women. They will be forced to look down at their genetalia and ask “wait that is not what defines me as God’s?”.
This is God’s grace, this is the movement of the Gospel. This is God breaking into the laws and rules we surround ourselves with to make ourselves feel good and righteous and comfortable. This is God destroying our self-assurance and calling us to something fuller, the Assurance of Grace.
As the Gospel became manifest, as the Grace of God abounded, fighting and struggle came into full bloom within the early Christian community. The book of acts, the letters of Paul, report again and again the struggles, friction, and pain involved in entering into the Grace of God, of taking part fully in the Gospel. These times of struggle, the places where conflict occurred, is again and again where God was and where the church was growing.
Throughout history we find again and again humans laying down laws to make themselves feel comfortable and righteous: free will or predestination, real presences or remembrance, homoousios or homoiousios. Grace, the Full Gospel, attempts to break through, fighting breaks out. Sadly, more often then not, at the end of the fighting what results is two groups of humans less open to grace but more feeling very comfortable and righteous within their laws.
Our churches have seen so much fighting over the past years. The comfort zones of many have been violated. Why? Because for centuries we had gotten comfortable, gotten righteous, in our laws, in our insulated egg. A self-sufficient community dependent on certain turns of phrasing in the English language, dependent on a certain form of gender conformity, dependent on defining relational love in a very limited way. It was time to make an omelet.
And God, the Mother Hen, she knew it was time for that egg to hatch.
And so Grace is breaking through… it is not comfortable… it is at points terribly frightening… but it is also terribly good… it is the sign of a world relating more and more to the Full Gospel…
The question before us now is that can we keep fighting, can we keep struggling, can we keep getting uncomfortable… or will we simply start feeling comfortable in our new laws around the turns of phrase in the English Language… feel assured by not allowing those who do not fit into our new laws of gender conformity to have a place… feel righteous in our new limits on relational love… will we simply seek some consensus that creates some new self sufficient insulated community all nestled and happy and kumbayah…
Or will we continue to be a community that struggles, that fights, that at points gets a bit violated… so that we can continue to be sufficient on a Grace that comes from a place completely beyond us.