One aspect of today’s text rubs me the wrong way, and has for a long time. The apostles in these verses come across like ministers who completely ignore the pastoral care of church members in order to spend all their time in the pastor’s study polishing their Sunday sermons: It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables (v. 2). As it turns out in the rest of the story, the deacons chosen to ensure that the needs of Greek-speaking Jewish-Christian widows are met join the apostles in preaching the Word. In fact, their ministry of proclamation is what gets the most attention, rather than their waiting on tables. These deacons soon share the responsibility of proclaiming the Word with the twelve apostles.
Yet these initial verses of Acts 6 focus on something much more revolutionary. The whole community (v. 2) is a recurring phrase in this story. From chapters 2, 4, and now 6, we know that one of their core practices was sharing all things in common and distributing what they shared to community members in need. From their beginning, they are a cross-cultural group that includes both Aramaic-speaking Jews from Palestine and Greek-speaking Jews who once lived abroad. The conflicts that arise from their differences are a sign of the vitality in their diversity. Together the whole community finds a way to work through the conflicts that come from being the inclusive body of Christ birthed by the Spirit at Pentecost.
When has your church community experienced conflict as a result of including people with significant differences in its membership? What ways have you found to work through any tensions that result in trying to meet the needs of all community members?
God who makes communities, help us to embrace our differences as a gift, and make us ever more attentive to one another’s needs. Amen.