Welcome to Church 101! This fall we are going to be going through some of the really basic practices of church. Today we are going to look at the very basic idea of gathering together.
This week I was encouraged when I had the opportunity to gather with mom’s who still have school-age children or younger. I love coming to church when I know that it’s going to be full of activity. I also had the opportunity to attend the UMW meeting and was encouraged by the women who have been meeting faithfully for so many years.
Let’s face it, we come to church for lots of reason. Sometimes we come because we signed up to bring bars or greet at the door, or because we are teaching Sunday School. Sometimes we come because we want our kids to be in church. Sometimes we come because we just really love to see our friends. Sometimes we come because it’s what we always do and have always done. Sometimes we come because we just want to meet Jesus and need to hear a word from God. Sometimes we come because we are lonely and we know that when we come to church we will get a handshake and a hug. Sometimes we come to church to worship. Sometimes you come so you can have a break from your daily life… the chores, the kids, the work. Sometimes you come to give thanks.
You may come for one of those reasons. And maybe as I listed them you felt like one was more legitimate or more correct than another reason. But I have to say, none of them are wrong, none are necessarily more correct.
I’m going to back up a little bit, or a lot a bit. In fact I’m going to back up to the beginning. In the beginning… God created everything. And everything was good. Then, God created man, It wasn’t good for man to be alone… and then God created women. And by creating woman, God did a couple of things. God created a relationship between two people, community. God also created the opportunity for more people, bigger communities.
From the very beginning of creation, people were meant to be in community. There are whole systematic theology theories based on this one concept of community in the Bible. Community began with creation. Community continued with the people of Israel. After the fall, God could have chosen to fix things by himself. He could have started over. Instead, God chose to create a nation, a community to bring about salvation. Through Abraham, and then through Israel, and finally through all of the generations, Jesus.
And when Jesus came, Jesus created a community. He started with a group of disciples. And as Jesus taught, thousands followed him, community. And as his time came nearer and nearer to the end, Jesus told Peter that on him, through him, Jesus was going to build his ekklesia. Ekklesia means community in Greek. It is the root for the word we use today, ecclesia- which means church today.
This is where we pick up with today’s scripture. Pentecost has just happened. Which is when the Holy Spirit came in like a rushing wind and suddenly everyone understood everyone else’s language… Interesting that the first encounter of the Holy Spirit after Jesus ascended into heaven is a miracle of communication, which builds community. So after the Holy Spirit came and create a miracle of people being able to communicate, he delivered a sermon. And this sermon changed everything. All at once thousands of people understood all that had happened… Jesus, the crucifixion, the resurrection, Pentecost.
As a result, thousands of people became followers of Jesus. It was always God’s intention to create community for and to be in community with humanity. From those first moments in the garden all the way up to Pentecost. God’s intention was always to create community.
But what I love about this passage is what it says about what it looks like to gather.
After the sermon three thousand people joined the church. The church went from a group of people hanging out, grieving in the upper room to three thousand people in one day! God’s intention was always to create community.
So it started with baptism. Now baptism meant the public proclamation of faith. It is the symbolic washing of sins to show ones intent to be made new by Jesus. It was the public show of joining the community. God’s intention was always to create community.
And when they joined the community, they began to teach, learn, fellowship, break bread, pray, heal, share, be generous, meet needs and praise God. And the whole time they were glad and eating together. God’s intention was always to create community.
Sometimes, as churches, as denominations, as Christians, we can get pretty worked up about Sunday worship. We get caught up in what Sundays are for and what they should be. But if we look to the word of God, it’s pretty clear that God’s intention was to create community. And, it’s pretty clear that the gatherings varied. People gathered in homes, they gathered corporately. They gathered for food, they gathered for worship. They gathered to learn and grow. They gathered to be together. They were community.
When we come to today’s question, why do we gather? We gather because this is how the church began. We gather because we need one another for all of the reasons previously listed. We gather because we need each other to teach so we can learn. They devoted themselves to teaching. It wasn’t like just one time each week, but they devoted themselves to the study of Jesus. Today, we are starting Bible Study for Normal People because we too often tell our kids that they should be in Sunday school because it’s important, but week after week, we leave them to learn and as adults we go run errands or get on with our day. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the whole story of God, the whole picture of God, grab some coffee and come check out Bible Study for Normal People.
We gather because God always intended to create community. This is why we do church. We gather because we need one another to pray. We need each other for friendship, encouragement. We need to care for each other with glad and sincere hearts. I love this about Little Prairie, because we are a community that truly loves to be together and cares for one another.
Today we have two beautiful expressions of our community today. In a few moments we are going to welcome 8 new members into our fellowship. Each of these individuals have professed their faith in Jesus. Each of them has decided to make a commitment to this church. A commitment to the teaching and learning. A commitment to serving with tithes and talents. A commitment to praying for this community. Becoming a member is a covenant act. It is a promise to be community.
After we receive our new members. We will join together at the table for the sacrament of communion. Communion, from the same root word as community, is the physical act of breaking bread together to profess our bond. Today we gather with the opportunity to be a first generation church, with the receiving of new members, the breaking of bread, the praying for one another, the sharing with generosity. We have the opportunity to be a first generation kind of church… all these generations later as we continue to find ways to be in meaningful community together for the sake of our common faith in Jesus.
At this time I’m going to invite those who desire to seek membership of this fellowship to come forward.
Missed church? No worries, read this week's sermon online. Coming soon... listen online.