The first generation of the Christian Church was entering completely new territory. They had walked with Jesus and were witnesses of the resurrected Christ, but without Jesus right here with us, who are they as his followers now?
They knew the resurrection of Jesus made everything different, but weren’t sure exactly what that meant for them and for the world around them. There was no precedent here, no previous group to pattern their community life after. They were making this up as they went along. Jesus was raised from the dead, yes. He reveals what God is like, yes. There is life and forgiveness in him, yes. But what does that mean for them as a community? What do they do without Jesus physically present to lead them? What does their life together as disciples look like now?
Their world was certainly different than ours, but these early Christian disciples can give us some glimpses into what a community filled with resurrection life looks like. They don’t give us a prescription or steps to follow. Just glimpses of their journey as a resurrection community and how it changed the way they lived and worked together in Jesus’ name. Resurrection life is different. This first generation church was shaped by that and lived it. Through the New Testament book of Acts, they allow us to peek into how the resurrection of Jesus changed them as a community, how it filled them, gave them purpose, and united them in this resurrection life.
We’re going to spend the remaining six weeks of this Easter Season catching some glimpses of their life and ministry together. We’re going to discover some clues about the difference resurrection makes in the life of a Christian community.
This small piece of the fourth chapter of the book of Acts sets the tone. Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul. Whatever they were going to do, they were going to do it together. They shared a common purpose that defined them as a community.
It goes on to explain that purpose, with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. That’s what they did. They existed as a community to be a witness in Jerusalem of the resurrection of Jesus. Every decision they made, every movement, every prayer, every conversation as a community revolved around being a witness to the resurrection of Jesus. They were a community filled with resurrection life. And the first glimpse we get in this text of that community life is generosity.
There was not a needy person among them. As a community filled with new, resurrection life, they shared and gave and provided extravagantly. People selling their property and donating all the money to this church? This kind of generosity as a community is certainly a different way to live. You think this didn’t attract attention?
A community filled with resurrection life reveals generosity. Everyone participates. With one heart and soul, everyone gives extravagantly; and in so doing, this new resurrection community testifies, by its very life, to the resurrection of Jesus.
Not being dictated by money or possessions, this resurrection community lived differently because they were filled with new priorities, new life, new motivations. Filled with resurrection life, they gave. They took care of one another. Made new by resurrection life, they gathered all their individual finances together in order to be able to be a generous community.
Generosity testifies to the resurrection of Jesus because it is a new way to live. Generosity is, by definition, for the sake of others. Being filled with resurrection life is the opposite of selfishness, of personal agendas, of mistrust. Generosity is what happens when a whole group who believes are of one heart and soul in order to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Generosity is the first glimpse of resurrection life in a faith community.
As a Christian congregation, our purpose is to testify, to be witnesses in our neighborhood to the resurrection of Jesus. We are a church filled with resurrection life. Which is why we do some pretty outrageously generous things that few others would do. For example:
We let lots of different neighborhood groups use this building and we don’t charge them for it.
We give away 11% of each Sunday’s offering.
As a congregation, out of our funds, we matched the $565.69 from our “noisy offering” for Denver Fisher House. Which means we are donating $1131.38 from last week.
As a congregational community, we really do show this sign of resurrection life. We are resurrection people, and our generosity testifies to something different. Jesus Christ is raised from the dead and has given us new life.
If you’re not participating in this congregation’s resurrection generosity, let me encourage you to do so. It’s a different life. It testifies to resurrection. It’s why we are here.
Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul . . . everything they owned was held in common. . . 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 . . . and it was distributed to each as any had need.
A community filled with resurrection life reveals generosity. Thanks be to God, LCM is filled with resurrection life!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!