I am but recently returned from time with family in Georgia. (How’s that for Jane Austenlike sentence structure?) We did our family Easter celebration at my cousin’s daughter’s East Atlanta home, and it was a blast. Four generations of Christ’s (yes, that is my mom’s maiden name) is always entertaining and eccentric in the best possible way. Indeed, I was remarking to a new comer that we sometime measure the success of family gatherings by how many costume changes there are when my cousin Marty returned from his car with a pile of hats; Easter bonnets of various hues, sizes, shapes-even one resembling Audrey Hepburn’s hat from the horse-race scene of My Fair Lady. (“Move your blooming arse!”)
The day was delightful and a total success even by crazy family standards. Among the highlights of the day was a “communist egg hunt”, the brain child of our hostess. There were eight children 11 and under at the party. Communism at its best or the wisdom of being the mother of four-you decide. Each hunter was assigned a specific color egg for which to hunt. Adults were drafted to sub in for the Easter bunny and hide eggs in age specific ways. So the eggs of the oldest kids were hidden in a bit more challenging places than the eggs of the toddlers in the group. (Pastor Bill Johnson would remind us that this is what the Lord does. When we begin our walk treasures are ever so apparent, hidden in plain sight; ah, but as we grow Proverbs 25:2 becomes operative in our lives. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” What fun His treasure hunts are. That’s a different blog though so back to the communist egg hunt.) Each kid found exactly the same number of eggs and each kid’s eggs had exactly the same things inside. Hence, the moniker.
The adults coached from the side-lines and then the anti-communist protest began. The middle children recalled the hunts of their childhood at their grandparents’ home. The golden egg which contained five dollars proved elusive to the middle children in the free for all hunts of by-gone years. This trip down memory lane prompted us (yes, I am a middle child) to proclaim this modern-day egg hunt as “soft” and to equate it with the “every child gets a trophy” mentality of youth sports today. (I am not a big fan by the way. Excellence deserves reward and I believe that’s Biblical.)
While it was all in good, characteristically loud family fun there was a hint of truthful vehemence in the protest that perhaps spoke of undealt with childhood pain. For this middle child, watching the fun, cooperativeness and orderliness of the “communist egg hunt” sparked a kind of wistful inward sigh, a tender longing for what could be in our fractured world.
I have been walking with and listening to and for the Lord long enough to recognize such inward workings as the voice of the Holy Spirit; I wasn’t surprised, then, when on Monday I opened my devotional book to find that Acts 4:32-35 was the text for the day. It is lovely and challenging and you should read it in a couple of different translations. These verses are not a communist manifesto but a Christian community manifesto! By the way the words communist and community come from the Latin word commmunitatem, a noun of quality i.e. not a person, place or thing but an abstract quality of fellowship or holding things in common. Communitatem, community only really exists because of “God’s grace powerfully at work” as verse 33 declares.
Our world, divided between the haves and have nots, separated by race and religion and politics and oh, just about everything is crying out for a people who will live Acts 4. “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” (Acts 4:32) Jesus prayer in John 17 beautifully answered by these grace empowered brothers and sisters causes such yearning in me. “They shared everything they had…and there were no needy persons among them.” (Acts 4:32, 33) Challenging and beautiful and POSSIBLE even in our broken world because HE LIVES!
I long for God’s grace to be so powerfully at work in me that I am not so selfish with my time and my stuff. I long to see Jesus’ John 17 prayer answered in the places and within the people that are a part of my communitatem. I long for our fractured world to be healed and to find a way to be a part of the healing.
I love these thoughts from a favorite Bible commentary website: www.workingpreacher.org
The church in Acts 4 continues to be a witnessing community. Acts 2:42-47 shows a community that breaks bread together -- yes, think Eucharist -- and engages in practices of formation. Since that Pentecost moment, Peter and John have encountered resistance from the authorities. They have been arrested, tried, and threatened. As they persist in their boldness, “great grace” resides upon them (4:33).
“Great grace” makes a flawed goal, for by definition grace comes as a gift from God. To reduce the testimony of Acts 4:32-35 as a checklist of behaviors is to miss what “great grace” entails. But to receive it as a testimony of how God’s resurrection power animates the life of the church, that opens possibilities for faithful response.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!