One evening back in May of 2016, Tiffany Otterbeck, a 35 year old wife and mom in Long Island, NY was starting the process of making dinner for her family. As she did, she followed a process that many of us use by first taking off her jewelry, placing her rings on a paper towel, washing her hands and then moving on with her preparations. The next morning, at work, Tiffany suddenly looked down and realized she had never put her rings back on. Frantic, she called her mom who was at Tiffany’s house watching the children. As they talked through things and as Tiffany’s mom rechecked the kitchen, they came to the conclusion that the rings had been waded up absentmindedly in the paper towel and thrown in the trash. To further complicate things, the morning of the discovery was trash day and Tiffany’s mom had to deliver the news that the garbage truck had just left their house and headed down the street. Eventually, Tiffany was able to reach the sanitation company’s offices. Thankfully, they could not have been nicer. The people there immediately had the truck parked and allowed nothing else to be added to it. That same evening, Tiffany, her husband and five sanitation workers began the process of sifting through seven tons of trash on the truck. It was all worth it though when one of the bags on board yielded the treasure – the lost rings. (Mom Digs in 7 Tons of Trash for Missing Wedding Rings Lost While Making Meatloaf, Eliza Murphy, abcnews.go.com, May 5, 2016)
All of us know what it is like to loose things and live with the emotions of their absence. In fact, we are all living with loss on multiple levels right now. We have lost jobs, a sense of normalcy and the chance to do simple things without worry like go to the grocery or to grandma’s house. Among these losses is our loss of community as believers which is to say the regular chance to be together as followers of Christ to fellowship, learn, pray and listen to one another. This morning, I want to suggest that in many ways this loss, at this time, is a good thing for us to experience.
Now, I don’t say this because I am glad we have not had services or activities in a month and a half or because I am happy that for the first time in most of our lives that we celebrated Easter at home. I say this instead because to loose things is often to rediscover or to find an appreciation for those same things which for various reasons have lost some of their significance and that have been taken for granted.
Let’s be honest for a moment. The coming together of God’s people known as Christian community has been in a fragile place for a while now. When we think about the church wholistically this has been true for lots of reasons. Other things became more important. Differing views offered at times with no wiggle room or grace have created internal friction and have made believers and outsiders leery of being with each other at times. And, the sense that church would always be there waiting when we needed to fall back on it has allowed us the freedom to chase after other things.
Yet now, like a wedding ring thrown in the trash by mistake, we find ourselves digging feverishly for something that is missing hoping to God we can recover what has been lost with a whole new appreciation for its value.
So, we are living through a good lesson and this text, Act 2 verses 42-47 offers us a wonderful biblical foundation for regaining our footing. In essence, what these marvelous verses teach us is that from the very beginning, the earliest followers of Jesus in the days soon after the first Easter and Jesus’ departure from earth a short time later, recognized the importance of their being together regularly. What they also apparently understood was that those times of togetherness were important because they gave them the chance to do some of the very same things that we have the chance to do when we are together today. This commitment to time with one another allowed them space to study together, pray together, eat meals with one another and to share themselves and their resources.
A word that permeates this moment in Acts is the word “fellowship” which comes from the Greek term kononia. Kononia is built around the root word koinos which can be translated into English as common. They were common folks sharing in common moments of their lives which allowed them to go back out and live life in an uncommon way. (Acts 2:42-47, Gary Carver, Review & Expositor, page. 476, Summer 1990)
When we do these same things – pray together, study together, spend time around the table together, and give ourselves and our resources toward the good of us all – we too become common folks, who have shared common time now prepared through the Holy Spirit to live in an uncommon way.
In essence, it seems to me that from the beginning, these early followers were faithful to community and they were faithful in community. What I mean in saying that they were faithful to the act of community is that the weekly ritual of togetherness was something they were committed to at all cost. At the same time, when I say they were faithful in community what I am also saying is that when they were together they gave the very best of themselves to one another. This faithfulness to and in community allowed them as common people to share common time and thus be prepared to live in an uncommon way.
We are at a pivot point with this virus I think. For six weeks now we have been talking about how to live through these days. Now, I think we are beginning to enter a season when we must think about how to live as we move out of these days. Now, don’t hear me wrong. I am not saying this is over and done. No, we have a ways to go yet. But, I do think there have been remarkable opportunities here during this time to learn important things and if we are not careful, we will exit this monumental season in human history having failed to learn as we should. For you and I as people of faith, one of the lessons we must carry with us is a renewed recognition of how critical and sacred the life we share together really is and should be to all of us. We must exit these days recommitted to being faithful to and faithful in this gift called Christian community. I say this first and foremost as it relates to the life of the church but I also say this as it relates to all of the cherished relationships that we have with fellow believers that give us space to learn, pray, fellowship and support and that in turn sustain all of our lives.
If you are a baseball fan, and in particular, if you are an Atlanta Braves fan, you may remember the marker in the old Fulton County Stadium that noted the spot where Hank Aaron’s 715th home run landed as he surpassed Babe Ruth as the greatest home run hitter of all time. You may also remember that when Fulton County Stadium was torn down and its old footprint became the parking lot of Turner Field, that same place where the 715 home run ball landed was still marked and illuminated in the parking lot for anyone to see and for no one to forget. In essence, there was a clear desire that was maintained to mark the spot and to communicate that this was where history happened and the very spot where sports had been changed.
I think we need to recover a similar feeling about the ground physically and symbolically that we occupy when we are together as God’s people. Scripture is clear that when we are together, holy ground and life altering moments are created as God through the Holy Spirt joins with us These powerful expressions of Christian community which are so easy to take for granted until they are lost are the moments in this life when common people share common time and common space that prepares them to go into the world to do uncommon things for the kingdom. Our faithfulness is demanded in and to these times. Amen.