July 2, 2017

Selfie, pt. 4

 

Acts 2:37-47

37 When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” 40 With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day.

42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. 43 A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. 44 All the believers were united and shared everything. 45 They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. 46 Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. 47 They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.

 

 

This is the fourth, and my last, sermon in our Selfie series. Each week, I have pulled us through what happens when we take a picture of ourselves. The common phrase is “selfie.”

 

  • First, we see ourselves with our best and worst features which, at the heart of it, are made good by God. God likes us, because God made us.
  • The second week I showed you that our picture comes with a name. We have a name given to us by our parents but God also gives us a name and a role to play in the kingdom of heaven, or God’s transformation of the world.
  • Last week, I talked about others who show up in our pictures. We can forget that God has deemed other people good and called them too – even those we have judged as being not good enough or not useful to God. God has made a collage of the selfies of many people.
  • This week, I will finish by showing you that all along your journey: in your past, your present, and your future, you have a community of faith that God has built around you to help you in your life’s journey.

 

At various points in my life, I have built relationships with people who helped me find the version of belonging we read about today in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. In various stages of my education, I made friends who would share their notes and offer their time so that we both understood the material. In college, we literally shared our change to eat at Wendy’s. When I was in a band, if one of us needed something for our gear, all of us pitched in because all members were needed to make the songs work. Even now, I have a number of friends all over the US that I could call at a moment’s notice and say, “I need something” and fully believe they would help. I am also blessed with a family who has loved me through all of these stages.

 

The passage in Acts tells us a lot about what it means to be in community. Throughout the Bible, the great figures in Scripture had people who helped hold them up. Moses had his wife Zipporah, his brother Aaron, and his sister Miriam. David had his friend Jonathan, Saul’s son, and the trusted advisors and military leaders of his court. Jesus had twelve disciples. Paul had Silas and Timothy and Barnabas. We are intricately linked to all of those people who help us along in our journey towards living into God’s call. God made us this way, because God, too, in always in relationship in the form of the Trinity. We were intended to need relationships for our needs. As John Donne’s famed quotation in Meditation XVIII says, “No man is an island, entire of itself…”

 

Many people shudder when they read that the people in the early Christian community sold all of their possessions and lived off a common bank account like hippies, but those who grew up relying on family potlucks and community gardens will remember it wasn’t that long ago when people all along these very roads had to do that same thing. When we believe in something – our family, our land, our freedom, and our faith – we make it work because it is worth doing what you can to keep it.

 

I have spent many nights with those people I call my community that I would have rather been doing something else for the sake of its importance. Like any friends and family, we fought, we made mistakes, we listened to sad stories and heartbreak, but then those get mingled in all the good stories that we laugh about and bond over every time we get back together.

 

This week we celebrate the declared independence of our nation. We will all pause to remember people who felt that there are reasons to come together for a common good, and many of those reasons come from the values we find in Scripture: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”[1]

 

Claims such as these come from a basic desire to align ourselves with people who value dignity and integrity among the people. We Christians see this as the work of the kingdom of heaven, that although we are American here, we are even more so disciples of the living Christ ushering in the reign of God which bears grace and love as evidence of its authority over all the nations of past, present, and future.

 

When I look at the pictures of my past, at all the selfies I have taken, I see people who have pushed me to be a better person. Not all of them were Christian, but each one, through God’s placing them in my life, has helped me recognize the good in me and fostered a sense of love and companionship I share with others.

 

God is working in all of your lives to foster those same things. I hope that you will take the time this week to thank God for the opportunity to live as a free people to love whom you wish. I hope you will thank God for the people and places that have instilled in you the knowledge that you belong. Give thanks to God for all the good times and the bad, as you are molded into the person God intends for you to be.

 

Go ahead, take a selfie today. You are loved and known by God, created for discipleship of Jesus the Christ, and placed among many whom God has adopted as God’s own children. That is something worth capturing every moment you live and breathe.

[1] Excerpted from The Declaration of Independence

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