He is risen! Now what? [Communion Thoughts 4/12/2015]

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April 12, 2015 by jmar198013

Lord’s Supper homily I presented April 12, 2015 at Cordova Church of Christ in Rancho Cordova, CA.


Welcome to the Lord’s Table. My reading this morning is Acts 4.32-35.

The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need.

risen-now what

Alright; so last week was Easter. We celebrated the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Humanity had rejected God by publicly lynching his Son. But God refused to hold even that against us. And we call that divine refusal to let our sin have the final word resurrection. That’s what we celebrate at Easter: how God deals with the effects of Jesus in the hands of angry sinners. The Easter cry, He is risen!, is the basis for our hope. It means that God can fix anything.

After the thrill of Easter, however, we discover that we have to return to what is called “the real world.” Perhaps we are left wondering, He is risen—now what? It’s awesome that Jesus is alive with God up there, but down here it’s still a mess. We have mortgages to pay and children to feed and wars to fight and stuff. What does Easter have to do with any of that? We tend to locate the meaning of Easter in our hope for the next life. That’s great! Jesus’ resurrection is God’s promise to us that even death cannot have the final word. But Jesus was also deeply concerned with how the kingdom of God impacts our lives now. For instance, in Luke 18.29-30, he tells his disciples: I assure you that anyone who has left house, husband, wife, brothers, sisters, parents, or children because of God’s kingdom will receive many times more in this age and eternal life in the coming age. The work of Christ was not just to prepare us for a future life somewhere else. Jesus also brings newness to our life here and now. For instance, in the passage I just cited, Jesus promised a new household and family to disciples. We call that family, that household, the church.

So I think one answer to the question, Jesus is risen—Now what?—is found in the passage we heard from Acts 4 a few moments ago. You have this picture of the church functioning communally. Luke—the guy who recorded what Jesus said about getting new homes and families—also provides this portrait of the young church. According to Luke, about the only thing still considered private property among early Christians was your toothbrush. And people were selling their stuff and giving to the needy. I’m kind of a hippie, so I’m a real mark for the church behaving this way. But then practical brethren are always quick to remind me that the early church only lived that way out of necessity, and it is unnecessary, foolish, and suspiciously close to communism to do anything like that now. I’d humbly like to suggest that when the discussion devolves to that level, we are missing the point. Before the church was holding all things in common and selling their stuff to give to the poor, Luke tells us that they were one in heart and mind. They didn’t become unified because they were sharing everything. They were sharing everything because they were unified. Furthermore, they weren’t one in heart and mind entirely by their own effort. Rather, Luke informs us that an abundance of grace was at work among them all. So their unity was a gift from God. And what was it they were unified around? This is the key item we often miss when we read this passage: they were united by the apostles’ powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

So wait—the reason the early church looked like a hippie commune (minus the free love, of course) was because of the resurrection of Jesus? Well, according to Acts 4—yes. Okay, how does that work? Well, imagine that you’ve just been given this brand new idea of God. Now, before God is anything else, he is the God who raised Jesus from the dead. How does this change how you live? God has defeated death and gives new life; you can trust him with your life. You can trust him with your stuff. What’s more, you are also free to share your life and your stuff with your neighbor. And they can behave the same way toward you. Everyone is living without the fear of not having enough, because everyone trusts that the God who raised Jesus from the dead is also capable of supplying our daily needs. The resurrection of Jesus sets us free to hope in God and trust his abundance. The Acts 4 church was a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise for this life that you get back whatever you give up for the kingdom. Jesus is risen—now what? One answer is: Acts 4.32-35, that’s what!

One final thing. We get a foreshadowing of the Acts 4 church at the end of Acts 2, just after Pentecost. You have all these new disciples from all over the world—a real rainbow family. And in Acts 2.42ff, Luke reports that, The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. All the believers were united and shared everything. Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. Before they were sharing all their stuff, they were sharing a common table. They were formed into a family around the supper table. Church, so are we. Around this table. Jesus invites us to share this table with him as God’s children. And here he teaches us about the love and the sacrifice and the generosity necessary to sustain God’s people. May we, like our ancestors in the book of Acts, share this meal with gladness and simplicity.

Bread: Father, we thank you for our place at your Son’s table. May our share in his life make us hopeful and generous people. In his name, Amen.

Cup: Father, may this cup remind us that the love, generosity, and sacrifice Jesus taught us are not just sentiments. They inform how we live here and now in practical ways that will often seem impractical to the world. Renew our minds to value what Jesus values. In his name, Amen


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