The palm branches have been waved. We took a holy and difficult journey with Jesus and his disciples in and around Jerusalem – ending up at the cross. And we have been resurrected with Christ, leaving sin in the grave. So, now what?
This Easter season, and through Pentecost, we will be exploring the idea of Community. Jesus gathered his disciples, and they gathered, by teaching and healing and caring, more people to their group in their travels. They experienced what most communities formed around a common passion and mission experience – moments of great joy and great frustration, conflicting and complimentary personalities, adding and losing people, and, finally, losing their founder (twice!).
Just like many founders of great communities, Jesus isn’t really gone from our midst. His teaching and Spirit remain with us, guiding and encouraging us. And, as our community of faith has grown over two millennia, we have used that guidance to figure out many issues that the original disciples and apostles didn’t face.
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.
~Acts 2:42-47 (NRSV)
Acts 2:42-47 lays out an idyllic scene of the harmonious community in the early church. We might wonder why it doesn’t look this way in all of our churches. Is it because we are so removed from those early days that we can’t always model this kind of community?
But then, just a couple chapters later, we see a man and his wife hiding assets so they don’t have to share everything with the other believers. Oops! Even the early church had internal struggles, and they had leaders who had been Jesus’ first disciples. How have we lasted so long as Church?
What keeps us together as community isn’t our proximity to the time of Jesus’ ministry or making sure that only unselfish people are part of our church. No one of us is perfect; we mess up. What keeps us together isn’t that we never make mistakes. What keeps us together is love.
The reason that Jesus Christ is central to our faith is because Jesus shows us how to love. Jesus loves us even when we make huge mistakes. (He asked Peter to be the cornerstone of the Church, and remember all the things Peter did?) We don’t need a community full of “perfect” people, but rather a community full of loving people. We need people who are committed to trying together, to admitting when they are wrong, and asking and giving forgiveness.
The Church has lasted over 2000 years not because we never messed up. We have plenty of examples of when we have been very wrong over those 2000 years. But we also have plenty of examples of Christian love combatting great evil and changing things people thought would never change. And it is this love working in and changing individual lives and hearts that leads to big change in the world.
This beloved community of Jesus Christ has lasted this long because of the love we have been given and shared with others in spite of our mistakes. And we are not always perfect in how we love one another – it ebbs and flows over time. But when we are frustrated – with institution, with other people in our community, with ourselves – may we remember to take a breath and then love as Christ loves us. It changes our perspectives. It changes our hearts. It changes everything.
Being an Easter people means being resurrected into a new life through love. May we be Christ’s Beloved Community in the world and watch what happens.