Mike Gerhardt, 11-3-19, Scenes from Acts, Acts 2:42-47. Introduction: What do we have in common? Right after seminary, I was the English-speaking pastor at the Immigrant Chinese church in New Jersey. We were the only white family. You could always spot my kids in the children’s choir. Working with the youth, I tried a lesson on being Unique. The icebreaker was to divide all the teens by hair color. Then by their eye color. Some of you know what happened, I still had one group of teens. But as much as they had in common, each was unique. We have different colors of eyes, hair and of skin. We have different backgrounds, educations, different wages, and different origins. But we are all human or at least that what it looks like to me. We all bleed red blood. We all need love. We all are broken in some way so that we all need Jesus. Henri Nouwen: We are unified by our common weaknesses, our common failures, our common disappointments, and our common inconsistencies. The church of Jesus began in Acts 2.
The early church was a dynamic, growing church that turned the world upside down! Despite persecution, the church grew so dynamically that within 300 years, the Roman Empire had surrendered to the Gospel and the emperor was a Christian. They were marked by DEVOTION: the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal. That kind of devotion is rare today. We can be devoted mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sports fans and even devoted to our work. But who can really be devoted to almost complete strangers, the ones we sit next to in church? We learn together from leaders. It wasn’t easy to follow Christ in the first century. Persecution was rampant. The early believers were bonded together. There is strength in community. To follow Christ today and truly live for Him isn’t easy. Temptation. Discouragement. Sin. Apathy. Failure. Materialism. Doubts. Unbelieving family & friends. Rejection. Unanswered questions. We face many obstacles in our desire to live for the Lord. God, however, has not left us on our own to run the race, fight the battle, and to change this world for eternity. God have mercy on us if we’re just going through the motions! Our mission has eternal consequences, & we must never lose that sense of urgency. We’re here to make a difference in a troubled world.
We spend time together as family. Here's a picture of 2-month-old Brandon near a 287ft Sequoia tree in California. Some are 300 feet high and more than 2,500 years old. You would think that trees that large would have a deep root system, reaching down hundreds of feet. These giants have a very shallow root system 12 to 14ft deep. The roots of these trees are intertwined. They are tied in with each other; interlocked. So, when the storms come, and the winds blow these Sequoias still stand. They need one another to survive. The trees survive in a similar way here in the North country. When heavy snow hits, the branches bow down with the heavy snow - so low that branches from one tree often lean against the trunk or branches of another. Where trees stand-alone, the branches snap. In the same way, we need each other, or we’ll snap. Gary Burge: When God’s love feels distant or non-existent, the body of Christ’s love is must be real and tangible.
We eat together, especially communion. Food is a major motivator. Skip a few meals and even a salad looks good. The church should be a place where everyone is welcomed at the table. Where there is always enough food for there will be someone who will not eat until the others have had their fill. The Church of Jesus is a place for learning to be gracious eating together the bread of love, mercy, and forgiveness, remembering the cross and the cost of our salvation. We are the body of Christ on earth. When one is baptized into Christ, one is baptized into the body of Christ. We are bound together in a community of faith. Belonging to Christ we belong to each other. Fellowship with Christ means fellowship with each other. Through Christ God has made us a family. We pray together. Prayer is essential. Prayer is our first work. Without prayer, we can do nothing. The Supernatural work of the Lord was present. God displayed wonders. People were healed, the lost were found, and the Spirit was upon them in a mighty way.
People displayed mighty wonders. They shared everything. Hospitality was a necessary gift. They sold their things and gave the money to those in need. People who care are people who give. Healed people bring healing. Hurt people bring sorrow. I want to tell you there are some people around you who have been healed by Jesus. They are there for you. Picture this true story. Clara Knall a young mother from Oklahoma wrote: “it was one of the worst days of my life. The washing machine broke down, the telephone wouldn’t stop ringing my head ached and the mailman brought a bill I had no money to pay. Almost at the breaking point, I lifted my one-year-old into the highchair, leaned my head against the tray and began to cry. Without a word my son took his pacifier out of his mouth and stuck it into mine.” I am not sure people will give you a pacifier, but they should be able to give you a shoulder to cry on. They will also give you a way out. You see we are in this together. We need each other. We are here to help. Outsiders will notice. Matthew 5:16, In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. John 13:35, By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.