Recently, I have slowly been working my way through Ken Burns newest documentary, The Vietnam War; and watching, I found myself experiencing Deja Vu over and over. As scenes from the war, as well as protests to the war or civil rights marches move across the screen, linkages are made with childhood memories. I was in junior high in 1968 and well remember images from protests and the war, broadcast nightly into our living room on the ten o’clock news. But these are not the only memories flashing into my mind. Some of the scenes surface more recent memories, memories of events from the recent past.
Well do many of us remember news footage or FaceBook videos of similar street protests during the run up to the last election. Once again people took to the streets as they did during the 1960’s. But despite the fact that the object of more recent protests wasn’t a senseless war, the marches and rallies revealed the same social issues the protests of the ’60’s surfaced – that our nation, our society, is fractured – terribly divided along racial, political and social lines; and these ever present divisions, which lie barely beneath the surface of society, quickly erupt into violence with the right catalyst.
This comes as no surprise for those who are familiar with the scriptures. We learn from the Bible, from Genesis through to Revelation that the hearts of humans are given to violence and to self centered sinfulness. But the scriptures reveal something else as well. The scriptures reveal an alternative to the strife torn societies of the world. Over against a society marred by divisions, fights, quarrels, bitter jealousy, untruth, racial hatred and selfish ambition there is a ‘society’ where these evils are overcome. That ‘society’ is intended to be a community characterized, not by divisions, strife, fights, quarrels, selfish ambition, hatred of any kind and jealousy but by love and it’s fruits: joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self control.
The community – the society I write of – is of course, the church of Jesus Christ. Are you a part of this new community, the church of Jesus Christ? Do you want to learn more about this new community of Christ? As a member of this community, have you found the church to be characterized by love and all that entails?
As we come to the close of our study in the book of Acts, I will be taking a few weeks to review some of the major themes of the book; and the first of these themes – The Quality of Christ’s Community – will focus on the qualities of Christ’s new community as compared to the societies of the world. What this review will show is that the community Christ founded – the church he birthed by His Spirit – is designed to stand in stark contrast to the communities of our dark world, precisely because it is a distinctly new community; and as such, provides the most viable alternative to the strife, division, fighting, war, and selfish ambition found all around us. Further, we will see that the number one mark of this community is love for one another.
To prepare for Sunday’s teaching, I encourage you to take some time out to read and meditate over Acts 2: 1-11 and verses 42-47. As you read and think on this portion of scripture, consider: 1) What does this story reveal about the nature of the community – the church – Christ founded? 2) What should the life of this new community look like? 3) What does this portion of scripture reveal about the quality of Christ’s community?
Then plan on joining us at West Hills at either the 9 AM or 10:45 AM service on January 28. We look forward to seeing you then and there.