Love is the bridge that bring people together.
I want to begin with a little test. It’s nothing too difficult. I will say a word, and you just have to give me it’s partner.
For example, if I said, “Ma” then you’d say “Pa.” Got it? Let’s give it a try.
If I say peanut butter, you say _____?
His and _____?
Bacon and _____?
Socks and _____?
Pen and _____?
Here’s a tough one: Ben Afflict and _____? J. Lo, Jennifer Gardner, and Matt Daman all would be accepted.
As we see by these few examples there are some things in life just naturally go together, like bread and butter.
But there are some things that simply don’t. In my opinionated opinion nothing goes well with mayonnaise except the trash can.
When we lived in Michigan, it was not uncommon to see a single mitten in the snow, which everyone knows only ruins a perfect pair. And for years I would name my socks, so that I could make sure the two which came together … stayed together. I like to think that is why we were made in God’s image. So that we would be forever connected to our creator. As the Apostle Paul put it, “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.” (Rom. 8:38)
After doing a little word searching, I learned the word “pair” is derived from the Latin word “paria” which means equal things. This is a no-brainer if you’re talking about a pair of socks. It gets a little more complicated when it comes to people.
The Corona Virus helped us see how unequal the world and even our own communities are. Many of us don’t want to come together - not even when there is a vaccination that can stop the virus from shutting us down, and claiming more lives. All signs point to some normalcy if we can reach herd immunity. But this will only happen if we work together.
When the first church gathered, they did so by joining one another in a new way of living. One that leveled the playing field so no one would have an advantage over the other.
Rich and poor, Jews and gentiles, men and women, free and slave alike were all welcome with open arms. Everyone had a place at the table of fellowship. Everyone had access to food, shelter, and yes, health care. It was an inclusive community. Built upon the way of Jesus. A way that lead people back to God’s redemptive love. No judgements, and questions asked.
As we return to the second chapter of Acts, I want to focus on how a diverse group came together to take Jesus’ mission and move it outward into the world. I hope that we will get a better sense of what it means to come together as a church, as the living, breathing body of Christ.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 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 2:43-47 (NRSV)
It’s hard to imagine a group of people living together in wonderful harmony, sharing everything.
This idea not only continues to upset many religious leaders. But also, a big group of politicians who claim the name of Christ. They want you to believe this is socialism, or some corrupt system, and not the very thing that the church was and is to be built upon.
Now before we get on our own high horse, I should point out that I haven’t seen anyone from this humble house church hustle to sell their prized possessions so that everyone can be taken care of.
But that's exactly what this new church did. They built their faith upon a communal life where the rich gladly sold property and shared with the needy. They came together not as collaborators, co-workers, or church friends, but as equal partners for a common purpose. To share the gospel like Jesus did, in all the ways they lived it in the world.
Together they created a community committed to supporting one another in fellowship and prayer; sharing their goods, talents, pain, and joy. Bound by a single heart and soul, they lived in anamesa, that space between the earthly and divine.
By looking to them and the examples they gave us, we too will understand how to be a new kind of community, and how to thrive in that space between where God comes to meet us.
We sometimes think because we gather in different places that we’re really not together. Pre-pandemic, I was told by other ministers that this is not really a church… but a show. But togetherness is about a new kind of family, not some old facility.
It’s not about being in the same workspace, schoolroom or even church building. It’s about making a choice to share the joys of our hearts and bear the pain of our souls. This is how the divine breaks into our everyday earthly world – when we choose to be together for something greater than ourselves.
While the pandemic kept most of us away from one another, we still found ways to be together, didn’t we? We came together on Sunday for worship. And Tuesday for bible study.
I know many of you also reached out to others who were sheltering in place. You shared stories and feelings, and some of you even prayed with them. The Bible says, that’s church.
There were times that we dropped food off to our neighbors and shared our avocados with people who passed by. Some even dropped off loaves of fresh baked bread to our house. That’s church.
As the pandemic lingered on, we kept an eye on people’s social media accounts to make sure they were managing and coping well. That’s church. We video chatted and lived streamed so people would feel connected. Though it’s not the same as being face-to-face, it’s church nonetheless.
This pandemic taught me that while we have been apart, we were never alone. In Christ we are always together. He is our proof of how far God is willing to go to love us and be with us. And nothing, not time or space, virus or death can stop this divine relationship from happening.
These first Christians were compelled by God’s love and desire to be with them. They understood that they were better together – deeply connected through this love and a shared conviction that changed lives and transformed the world around them.
As we transition into The Anamesa Communion we need to look at how our separate churches will come together, in that space between where God comes to meet us, despite being physically apart.
This first church grew out of the rich faith these early Christ followers showed. Together they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, worshipped at the temple, ate their meals, and prayed with one another. It was not faith alone that helped them grow, but faith practiced together, as one body sharing one heart.
They came together, as equals, to proclaim the good news of God’s redemptive love because they knew, firsthand, the effectiveness of love’s power to transform the world. Love is the bridge that connects heaven to earth, us to them, me to you.
Togetherness is built on love, not location. It’s forged by God’s love for us and how we respond to that love in the way we share it. As Jesus himself showed us, love is the most dangerous part of our faith because it requires us to be vulnerable, completely unguarded, raw and a willingness to risk being hurt. Divine love is risky for those who choose to accept it. And yet, as Jesus showed us as well, it is also the most rewarding.
Out of love, the rich sold what they had… which made them vulnerable to losing their status and power in the world. What they gained was priceless, worth more than anything their money could buy.
Out of love, the community gave away what little they had to ensure no one was without. And the more they gave, the more God added to their numbers.
Out of love, drunks, hookers, abusers, thieves and swindlers were forgiven. What looked like foolishness and folly to the world, has been God’s plan since the beginning.
Love is the bridge that bring people together. But it’s forgiveness that gets people to cross it. Jesus redeemed the world back to God by loving us and forgiving us of our transgressions. As his followers, his church and body, we too are called to do the same.
Togetherness is about our conviction, and the character by which we confess Jesus as Lord – the basis that makes our church the church. We declare this simple truth every time we share the joys and pains of a common life together. And it comes to life every time we give and receive love. To quote Pope John-Paul II who once said, "Nobody is so poor that he or she has nothing to give, and nobody is so rich that he or she has nothing to receive."
His words offer us a powerful reminder of who and what the church is. The body of Christ that gives itself freely, even to the point of death on a cross. These words also remind us of where the church is. Here, in our hearts.
Just as we receive God’s love we have been chosen and blessed to give that love away – no matter where we are, no matter the cost. By this simple act the threads of our separate, private lives are woven together into a fabric of true fellowship in which Christ makes all things new.
On earth. And in ______? heaven.
Now. And _____? forever. Amen.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A. Vol 2. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010.
Byassee, Jason. "Living in the Word: To all the world" Sojourners, May 2017: 44.
Kim, Ray. The Power of Togetherness. deepspirituality.com. April 8, 2021 (accessed on June 11, 2021).
Moore, Charles. Called To Community. Walden: Plough Publishing House, 2016.