“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.” Acts 4: 35
There, in the above words, is a picture of the early church as portrayed in the book of Acts. I suppose it depends on which side of the tracks you live on as to whether this is received as good news or bad news. If you are surviving in an REI tent along I-5 the possibility that a redistribution might put you in a clean and sturdy one-bedroom apartment is pretty good news. But if you are lounging around in a 4-bedroom condo overlooking the river and that same redistribution also puts you in a clean and sturdy one-bedroom apartment this text might sound like bad news.
I love the invitation of this text: true communal, connectional living—that is, until I ask myself, “Does that mean I have to share some of my pension earnings?” “Do I have tell my grandchildren that the couch is good enough for them when I lose my guest room?” “Does a night out on the town now constitute a few games of pool at the local bar rather than a mid-priced ticket to the unstoppable Blazers?”
Like I said, I love the invitation of this text until it asks me to trade in my creaturely comforts for Christian mutuality; until it asks me to downsize my worldly possessions in order to upsize my spiritual connections; until it asks me to give up my socio-economic standing in favor of standing with the formerly poor and oppressed. Until it asks me to step out of what feels normal and acceptable into something that is strange and weird.
I was struck when I read this text that as foreign as it felt to our current church culture I also recognized that we are, in our own way, letting the radical call of this text call us into a new and possibly more authentically Christian future. Yesterday when the Omnibus, our presbytery’s monthly newsletter, was published there was an article highlighting First, Portland’s experiment with a “Presbyterian Community of Practice.” The experiment seeks to bring four young adults together to live, work, eat and pray in an Acts-like intentional community at Menucha.
Organizers at First and Menucha were inspired by the community in Taize, France. They write, “As at Taize, participants in this community will live together, study together, eat simple communal meals, and worship regularly together.” The Rev. Spencer Parks, Menucha’s Executive Director, was quoted as “describing the year-long community’s purpose as spiritual development of young adults in a world where they hunger for authentic ways to live their faith.”
Hours after seeing the connection between our lectionary text and Menucha’s experiment I came across another article in The Guardian with the title “So Christianity is no longer the norm? Going underground will do it good.” The article points to the trend in Europe where young people have largely rejected Christianity yet still seem to yearn for the kind of mutual community portrayed in Acts where “there was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.” The author concludes that maybe it is time for the church to once again live into its radical “weirdness.”
I admit, it’s not a very American ideal. But it may be more Christian.
Sorry, gotta run. My brand new luxury car is being buffed and polished today.