Today’s devotion is written by Aneel Trivedi.
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. Acts 2:46-47
I always held up the new converts to the Jesus tradition in Acts 2 following Pentecost as the ideal version of a Christian community. The newly baptized sold all their possessions shared everything they had, physically gathered together every day in a place of worship, and spent time breaking bread with one another in their homes. This sounds appealing at any time, but as we just moved past five months of existing primarily as a socially distanced Redeemer community, I can’t deny how much I wish to emulate the Acts 2 church. In fact, it feels like that’s what we’re supposed to do as a church. It feels like the pandemic is preventing us from existing as the church was intended.
But today I have been thinking about the way each of those new converts in the Acts 2 church was coming from something else, from something different. We don’t know exactly what their lives looked like before, but we know they were radically changed after their encounter with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They became a new community after an encounter with Christ in Baptism, in the spoken Word, and in communion—and maybe that’s what the ideal version of a Christian community actually looks like. The community is marked not by how and where it gathers or by its similarity to the first community, but by its regular encounters with God and a willingness to be changed.
There must have been some yearning for the old ways among the converts, and even some grief and sorrow for the communities left behind. There was even personal sacrifice—how many of us would joyfully sell all our possessions? And so perhaps God’s presence alone was the driving force behind the community’s glad and sincere hearts rather than the details of how they gathered.
I know that God will show up and make Godself present wherever and however we gather. And if I can imagine the church as a body willing to be radically changed by God’s presence, perhaps I can both mourn what’s lost and live with a glad and sincere heart in the new community God is building. Perhaps the ideal community isn’t about the way we gather but the way we allow ourselves to be changed by God’s presence among us.