The short story weve heard today is about a group from the middle east who hear that what they have done has been wrong, they repent of their violence, listen to a man who represents another group, the victims side, in fact and decide to join them.
What a contrast to the events in the middle east today!
The leaders there wont share , - it seems, on principle, no one will admit wrong doing, listening to the other side is only done to formulate the most bitter reply possible and they believe that the only answers to their problems are to be found in more violence.
Our world is a very sad place. But we can do more than just lament.
Peter looked at the society around him and told them what they needed to do. Miraculously many began to respond & its always a miracle, the work of Gods transforming Spirit when people respond and change.
What did they do? Acts tells us in verse 42:
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
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.
Imagine how it would be if Israelites and Palestinians would listen and respond like this, or if we Australians would listen to how we treat refugees and asylum seekers and respond with a new generosity - how would it be if our society was transformed by Gods love like the people of Jerusalem and the near east in the time after the first Easter?
When it comes to practical response we so often think of the cost - the tax burden, the risk, the things we might have to share and we get nervous, uneasy and dont want to rock our comfortable boat.
Let me suggest a different view. A perspective that comes from this short reading about the new church.
In the broader sense we own nothing - we come into the world with nothing and will leave it with the same. We are entrusted with talents - things to share for the good of others and ourselves. "Everything we have and are is Gods" we often hear, but what does that mean for the way we live?
We ought to replace our ethic of giving with an ethic of receiving and sharing. Giving implies that we owned what we have given, whereas "receiving and sharing" imply that we receive from God and share with others what we have been entrusted with.
One of Americas wealthiest men of the 19th C, Andrew Carnegie, understood this and made it his aim to die broke. He said "the man who dies rich dies disgraced." Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future says, "the BMW of the next decade will be the personal charitable trust." - I believe, sharing is the essence of community as God intends it to be.
We will have to give everything away in the end, why not live now in a way that is consistent with this truth.
Think about what you have been given? Not just birthday and Christmas presents - the gifts of family, of love and education, gifts of friendship - children, parents, gifts of immeasurable worth - how much generosity do we display in return? But a much better question is "how do we see these things - are they our possessions to do with what we will - or are we trustees of what God has ultimately entrusted us with?
What would we loose by seeing life this way & what could we gain?
In Australia today, we are quite obviously no longer a Christian nation, no longer formed by ethics like these.
The proportion of GDP that we give in foreign aid has declined steadily for decades. We now look glaringly like stingy misers who wont let the most vulnerable people of our world set foot on our land. How might it be?
"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, 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."
As I see it the contrast and our commission to act are both clear, may God help us to respond, for there are many who desperately need saving. What can you and I do to start?
We can learn together, like the first church.
We can have fellowship, share our resources, pray and help out in our society with the needs we see, just like this first church - its not hard - we have the opportunities before us.