Wednesday, February 18th

“Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47

 

Yesterday we looked at the first way that God seems to bring people to faith – people respond to a message in the midst of a large gathering of people.  We help that along by inviting people to come and see.  This is the “Billy Graham rally” way of reaching people and it does have some effect.  But it doesn’t have much stayability.  Studies have shown that, of those who come to the faith in a large gathering like that, 4% remain connected to a Christian community a year later.

 

The verses above give us a glimpse of the second way that people come to the faith in Acts – they see the church being the church, functioning like a Christian community, they are intrigued, they want some of what they see, and they come to faith.  Of the four different scenarios (we’ll talk about the others on Thursday and Friday), this one is the most frequently mentioned in Acts.  And it is, by far, the most “Lutheran friendly.”

 

As the song goes, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love…”

 

I still remember the “faith jumping off point” in my life.  Agnostic that I was, burned by the church as my family had been, I saw a crowd of people filling a college gymnasium, laughing, singing, joyous….and I wanted what they had.  What I saw in them I wanted in me.  So later that night, I gave up the chase and surrendered to the possibility that God was real and that God wanted me on the team.

 

Seeing the church in action, taking the love of God on the road.  This isn’t about justifying the existence of the church by opening a soup kitchen…although hungry people without money certainly appreciate soup.  It isn’t about gathering up slightly used business outfits to give to women preparing for job interview…although they would love to get the clothes that they could never afford.  This is about Christian people acting in response to the love of God – about giving, serving, sharing, singing, smiling, supporting, encouraging one another and the world around them.

 

In good times or bad times, there is something irresistible about a counter-cultural movement where everyone is welcome to be there, where outward distinctions don’t matter, where rich people rub elbows and share stories with poor people, where every old person is Grandma and Grandpa to every young person – there is something irresistible about the church truly and honest BEING the church.

 

Why irresistible?  Because we truly are all children of God with a God-sized hole in our being that will never be filled by anything other than whole-hearted participation in the Kingdom of God.

 

How do we help this happen?  Absolutely everything we do in our personal lives, our daily lives and our life together in congregations that demonstrates the love, compassion and strength of our faith is a means of planting seeds of that faith in the lives of those who aren’t yet on the team.  Everything we do to help our congregational life be vibrant and full of life makes a difference.  Conversely, our petty little squabbles over nothing that matters, the secret little resentments we feel toward others, all of that blocks the sunlight of God’s love from shining through us.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, this might sound really simple but those of us with children remember how nice it was when they played well together.  We remember times at playgrounds when other children joined in the fun.  Oh that we could play as well as your people gathered together in our communities of faith!  Use us, in our life together and in our lives in the world, as seeds of your love, that, as we live out the faith in our lives, those seeds might be planted in others and some might land in fertile ground.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

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