It’s great to be with all of you today at the Shaver’s Creek Community
Building where the six United Methodist congregations, representing
hundreds of years of ministry here in the Juniata Valley, are gathering for a special day of worship and fellowship.
From early on in our planning, we knew we wanted to focus on community.
But we didn’t just want to talk about community; we wanted to
experience it. That’s certainly our hope and our prayer for us today.
What makes community “authentic”? Sometimes, our idea of community
can be pretty superficial or “surfacy.” But “authentic community” goes
much deeper; it’s about being fully connected to God and with one
God has always been interested in authentic community!
God has always existed in community. God himself is a community, a
community of Three-in-One (Trinity). And there’s a wonderful Greek word
that has been used to describe God’s sense of community: perichoresis, which means, "envelopment" (or literally, “dancing around”). It’s a great image of God existing in community.
God invites us to be in community with him, to join the dance! I think of …
When God created the world, he created man and woman, because it wasn’t
good for the man to be alone. He put the man and woman in a world full
of life. God created us to be in community: with God, with others.
God called the people of Israel to be God’s chosen community, to be God’s light to the world.
God sent Jesus to restore community!
But because of sin, the community was a broken community. But God sent
Jesus to restore community between God and humankind. Jesus suffered,
died, and rose from death so that we might spend eternity with God and
our brothers and sisters in authentic community.
And now this restored community is the Church. God has chosen the
Church to share this message, and this authentic community, with the
world. Not only to tell the world the good news, but to show them and
invite them, to embrace them, in the context of loving community.
Snapshot of the Early Church
At Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit and empowered the Church for such a
purpose. At the end of Acts 2, we get a snapshot of what authentic
community in the first years of the Church’s existence looked like: Acts 2.42-47
In this snapshot, there are two primary actions that we want to focus on today …
1 – Disciples Learn
“They spent their time learning from the apostles
…” Disciples learn. In fact, the word “disciple” means: student,
learner, apprentice. They were engaged in discipleship and spiritual
growth. Spiritual formation was at the foundation of who they were and
what they did.
When I think of spiritual formation, I think of three verbs …
Know – getting to know God (Scripture, prayer, in community)
Be – that shapes we are
Do – that determines what we do (our actions)
The process of being spiritually formed is the process of being
transformed into the image of Christ. It’s the process of living like
Jesus, looking like Jesus, talking like Jesus, thinking like Jesus, and
acting like Jesus! In fact, the word "Christian" means “little Christ.” We’re
being formed into “little Christs.”
That’s why there are places in the Scriptures where God is talked about
as being a “potter,” and “artist,” and “builder.” God is shaping us; he
is creating a work of art; he is building his church.
Questions for Group Time
- What do you do to grow spiritually? What is your daily routine?
- What one thing could you add to help you grow spiritually?
2 – Disciples treat each other like family
Joleen talked about this point. I’ll try to post a link soon. Joleen also talked about a couple results mentioned in the passage:
- They influenced others
- They bore fruit
Then I picked up with the conclusion …
God’s power was manifested among them!
Reading Acts, it’s clear that God’s power was at work among his people.
At Pentecost, the disciples were gathered together and the Scriptures
make a very important observation — they were “in one accord.” I think
the phrase “one accord” describes authentic community. They shared a
common purpose; they were headed in the same direction; they put the
best interest of the community above their own personal agenda.
I’m also remind of Jesus’ words to his disciples (using grapevines and
branches, in John 15): “apart from me, you can do nothing.” We must be
Acts tells the story of how God worked through people who were fully
surrendered/connected to God and one another. They learned (were
spiritually formed); they treated each other like family. As a result,
they influenced others, and they bore much fruit.
May God unite our hearts in such a way that God’s Spirit will flow
freely through us, overflowing into the neighborhoods throughout our
valley so that God’s kingdom will grow!