Imagine what people might say about us, if we lived together in harmony, pooling our resources so no one would be without. What if we were the church and not just pretending to be one.
a lesson on how to awe and be awesome
The other day I was looking up a neighborhood nearby on Google maps when I saw that a restaurant called “The Elote Lady” had opened across the street from my kid’s high school.
This caught my eye because first it’s a residential neighborhood. And second, the other three corners adjacent from the school are part of the catholic church. When I zoomed in on the business and clicked on the pictures I was pleasantly surprise by what I saw.
In Spanish “elote” means corncob, and The Elote Lady is pretty much that – a lady who sells corn on the cob and other snacks from the back of her car. This is not your typical restaurant. But that didn’t stop people from posting reviews and uploading photos of her awesome enterprise.
Since curiosity always gets the best of me, and I didn’t want to do the work I needed to get done, I started looking around Google maps to see what’s going on in my neighborhood. I didn’t find anyone hustling buttered corn from a Toyota Camry, but I did find someone who peddles Jesus out of a house that looks exactly like this one. As it turns out, I had forgotten that I set up a Google profile when we started this journey.
Although the pandemic forced a lot of preachers to preach from home, house churches are still a bit of an oddity. This wasn’t always the case. The first churches began in houses like ours. The reason for this could have been because empty buildings and move-in ready temples were hard to come. And perhaps the apostles knew they could do better things with their money than take on any unnecessary overhead.
Another reason they gathered in houses was because Christianity was illegal. It took courage to live one’s faith out in public like the apostles did. But as they lived out their faith, the Holy Spirit began to do some amazing things. It didn’t take long for people to notice. And here’s what happens next.
READ: Acts 2:43-47
Luke gives us a wonderful, albeit intimidating, picture of the infant church as it takes shape.
The apostles are putting to practice all that they had learned from their teacher Jesus. And in doing so, they’re blowing everyone’s mind.
People are amazed and astonished because they’ve never seen anyone live so faithfully and fearlessly like the apostles do. In fact, Luke says they were in awe.
A better translation would be “to be in revenant awe of God leads to knowledge.” Not only does it point us towards a positive understanding of God’s way of doing things. But it also welcomes us to understand ourselves in God’s expansive and everlasting love.
Take a moment to think about a time when you were in awe of something or someone. What was the last thing that blew your mind? Or left you with a heart full of wonder and amazement?
A big awe moment for me happened while hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park. If you’ve been there, you know the Narrows isn’t a trail but a bed of slippery rocks. And those rocks are hidden under the cold currents of the Virgin River that has cut a very narrow valley in the middle of the national park. On either side of me hung these massive, colorful walls that towered up to the sky.
At every bend, I would stop and silently stand in the water completely awestruck by the majestic grandeur of this awesome place aptly named after the kingdom of heaven.
It was there I was reminded that wherever God’s divine hand is present, awe happens. After all, you can’t have awesome without awe.
When the people saw the way the apostles lived, they were in awe. And wanted to be a part of it. These few verses ought to challenge the church today. They should make us all look at how we live out our faith in the world. And to ask ourselves what we’ve done lately that has left people filled with wonderment? What could we do?
Luke tells us the apostles amazed people by doing many “signs and wonders.”
We don’t if this means they were doing miracles - like healing the sick and raising the dead. Or if it was simply in the way they were caring for one another the way they live as a faith community built upon God’s love and compassion.
Imagine what people might say about us, if we lived together in harmony, pooling our resources so no one would be without.
What would this church look like if we truly cared for one another, shared our meals together, laughed and cried together, and lived a life in such kindness that it sang God’s praises?
This is how the first church left the world in awe. And it’s how we too can be awesome.
Compassion. Kindness. Harmony. Giving of our heart and more. This is the biblical blueprint we are given to make awe awesome.
When Kathleen and I were first thought about being a church plant we knew we didn’t want to be “the church.” We just wanted to be “church.” We decided to be a place that emphasizes less about showing up on Sundays to hear the gospel, and more about showing up every day to be gospel. A place to practice what we preach.
When we asked others to join us on this adventure, many came, but only a few stuck around. This was hard for us, on many levels. But then again, Jesus never said it was going to be easy. Perhaps that’s why so many churches have become buildings and institutions instead of a way of life.
In these few verses we’re given an idyllic reminder of what Nadia Bolz-Weber calls our “10-minute hippy phase” when the church was more like a short-lived utopian commune where everyone’s needs were met. Somewhere along the way this holy body got lazy and unfocused. Instead of being like Jesus, we’ve made Jesus like us.
Neal Cole describes today’s church like a place suffering “the slow decay of someone with Alzheimer’s disease.” We slowly have forgotten who we are and what our lives are all about. We are the body of Christ. And as his body, we are “a living organism, not a building, a dogma, or static institution.”
Throughout the gospels, Jesus calls us living seeds and living stones; yeast that is active and alive; salt that is full of flavor; light that awakens the world. This is how we awe. This is how we awesome. By being like him.
The first disciples followed Jesus’ lead. And God blessed them day after day. They lived like Jesus. Prayed like Jesus. Practiced mercy and grace and forgiveness like Jesus. And God added to their numbers.
They took the awe of Jesus and made awesome everywhere they went.
Jesus is not calling us to be a religion, but to be his living presence in the world; to proclaim the gospel by being the good news of God’s redemptive love – making justice, equality, unity and peace our highest priority.
Our real power doesn’t reside in the number of people sitting on pews; our real power comes from the number of people we awe by living into our most awesome Christlike selves.
When we live in harmony with one another...awe becomes awesome.
Whenever we wait for one another; stand by each other; bear each other’s burdens; comfort someone in need and build one another up...awe becomes awesome.
Awe happens when we’re at peace with ourselves and with one another. Awesome happens whenever that peace is shown in all the ways we love and show kindness.
Awe is found in forgiveness. Awesome is found in hospitable and humble hearts willing to be vulnerable and inclusive.
Jesus is not calling us to be a building, or a specific liturgy or tradition. He is calling us to be like him.
What our structures or service looks like is second to who we are called to be like – the Master carpenter who constructs in us a new way of worshipping out of a radical way of living.
Whether it happens in a backyard, or online, or out of a car filled with corn, God has given us the Holy Spirit to empower us so we can go out into the world and be amazing.
This is my charge for you: Go now and be awesome by stepping out into your Christlikeness and to do so in such a way that people can’t help but be left awestruck.
This is how God adds to our numbers, day after day, year after year. As it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be. World without end. Amen.
Cole, Neal. Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005.
Snyder, Howard. Called To Community. Edited by Charles E. Moore. Walden: Plough Publishing House, 2016.