Bread, One Body”
Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
“Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders
and signs performed by the apostles. All
the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give
to anyone who had need. Every
day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke
bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the
Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
passage has become the basis for our celebration of World Communion Sunday. Those
earliest members of the Christian Way did not need to celebrate the Lord’s
Supper together in one place in order for it to be legitimate (if we want to
use such a legalistic term). Those first converts could break the bread in
their individual homes with glad and sincere hearts. Just as we do today.
Millions of Christians will break the bread in their own “homes” all around the
world, and we know that we are all part of the One Body.
know that because we have grown up in an age in which the Christian Church is
well-established with two thousand years of history and tradition to draw upon.
But let us consider the context about which those words were written.
Christ and the Holy Spirit had been present and active in the lives of the
disciples as the Book of Acts opens. Jesus appeared to the disciples and spent
time with them, instructing them and encouraging them before he ascended to
heaven once more. And we also recall that the disciples and the people of
Jerusalem had just experienced the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in the
passage follows immediately after the wonderfully amazing and powerful experience
of the Holy Spirit. That ecstatic moment when people from all across the known
world had gathered and everyone in the crowd was filled with the Holy Spirit,
and all could hear and understand the disciples in their own native tongues. Three
thousand people got swept up in the Spirit and joined the church.
passage is more than the basis for our celebration of World Communion Sunday.
These four verses are a quick summary of what the Christian community is and
how they live in the world. The community is more than a singular ecstatic
event. It is a way of living. It is a community of connection.
week, I mentioned the charlatans and snake oil salesmen in my message. Has
anyone ever had the opportunity of attending or watching something like a tent
revival meeting? Have you ever attended a worship “show”?
I served the church in Ohio, we received promotional materials about a youth
worship experience that was coming to town. We registered the youth and on the
day of the event joined hundreds of people in the civic center auditorium. As
you might have guessed, a rock band came onto the stage and played while the
lights flashed, and the crowd danced. Then the preacher came on stage and
whipped up the youth into a frenzy, then invited them to come forward and
accept the Lord into their lives. And at the end of the day, they packed up
their trucks and buses and left town.
they encouraged everyone to go to the concession stands and buy all of their
hats, t-shirts, and compact discs. Of course, they could also purchase them
online … but buy your merch now so that you can take it home with you!
was no connection, no community. They just put on the show and left town.
did not want the Pentecost event to be simply a one-off, ecstatic event that
got people fired up … maybe buy a t-shirt … and then forget about it or fade
away from the true faith. Jesus wanted to be sure that people made a true
connection with the community. Here in Acts, Luke tells us how that is done.
again, let us remember the context. For this, I will ask you to put on your
a world that is very different from the one that we live in. We do not even
realize how well off we are because we grew up in this day and age. Even if you
did not grow up in the church, you knew it was here. The existence of the
church … the Way of Christ … is our normal, our every day.
imagine a world in which that Way is not known.
first converts lived in a Roman Empire in which worship of the emperor was the
official state religion. Everything and everyone served Rome.
that in mind …
a world in which you feel as though you are completely alone.
a world in which you do not have a community of care or support.
a world in which people are not willing to share their resources in order to
support those without resources.
a world in which love is scarce.
does that world feel to you? What does it look like?
… barren … cold … colorless?
dwelling in that world.
then imagine that you have the opportunity to experience something completely different.
that you encounter a group of people that truly offers and shares love,
kindness, and compassion.
that you step out of the world of bleak darkness into a world of beautiful,
that you find a community of people that are willing to make sacrifices so that
your life will be better.
how that world would feel.
Christian community is an extended, multi-generational family living and
working together. Many of the earliest members of the Christian movement had no
sense of what that family … that community … was all about. Many of them were
simply existing … hoping to survive from one day to the next.
imagine again those first converts. Imagine what it must have been like for
them. Imagine the joy! Imagine the sense of wonder, and awe, and hope! There
may have even been some confusion in those early days. “What?! These people
really want to care about me and for me?! Can this be real?!”
as I mentioned, this was intended to be a sustained faith. Our little passage
this morning outlines the practices that prevent this from being a singular
learned together. They met in the temple courts. They told the stories of
Jesus. They shared the messages of his teaching instructing the new and
reinforcing that instruction.
prayed together. They worshipped together.
lived together and shared their property with one another.
broke bread together. They celebrated the sacred meal that reminded them of
that final meal the disciples shared in the upper room. And they also shared in
the sacredness of togetherness. Every meal that they shared together was a
considered themselves to be more than a loose community of folks that gathered
from time to time to read and worship together. They were more than a
collection a friends with similar interests. They were family.
regularity of their practices taught and reinforced the Way of Jesus Christ. The
regularity was important. It kept them from backsliding, from returning to
their former ways of life. Their shared practices help them create a lasting
faith, a life-long faith.
Church was not anything like what we experience or call “church” today. It was
a community, a family, of love that lived together, learned together, prayed
together, ate together and served together. And for those who had never
experienced anything remotely like it before in their lives, it was an awesome
feelings may be hard for some of us to imagine or appreciate.
of these centuries later, we may take the church and the Way of Christ for
granted. For some, it is no longer a place of awe or wonder. Instead, it is a place,
or a practice, that we fit into our busy lives when there is nothing better
going on. It has become the wallpaper of our lives. We walk past it but do not
really pay attention to it.
we grew up with it in our lives, the church family may not be that special for
us. And worse, some may have experienced the worst manifestations or corruptions
of the church and the Way of Christ.
those of us who grew up in the church and have been active in the Christian
community our whole lives, and have experienced the joy and wonder, hear in
these words that we are called to do more. Jesus always calls us to do more. He
does not want us to rest on our laurels. He does not want us to slip into complacency.
He calls us to BE more because he wants others to share in that joy and wonder.
a time when you may have seen a crowd of people looking at or watching
something excitedly. What did you do? Just walk on past? Or did you want to see
what all of the excitement was about?
is part of our call. Jesus calls us to be excited about the Way and the faith.
Our enthusiasm will attract others because they want to see what the excitement
is all about. The church is to be a happy, joyful place. There should be no
such thing as a gloomy Christian. The church should make us feel good about
God, about Jesus Christ, about ourselves and about others. So, Jesus desires
that we be more.
knows about family groups. He wants us to be more.
knows about civic organizations. He wants us to be more.
knows about communities that gather for worship. He wants us to be more.
We are more than just friends. We are family. But
… we are even MORE than family. Our connections and our commitments are deeper.
concern for each other is deeper.
love is deeper.
sharing is deeper and wider.
us hold nothing back from God.
us hold nothing back from one another in our lives together.
us live and love just as Jesus Christ calls us to live and love.
share one bread. We are one body, the Body of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Congregational ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072207-283-3771