This is an edited version of my sermon on Acts 2. Hope you enjoy!
The Book of Acts opens with Jesus’ ascension into heaven and in verse 8, as He rises into the clouds, He declares “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when the Spirit does descend, just the sound causes a raucous! As a crowd forms, trying to figure out what happened, they become witnesses of the power of the Holy Spirit, but misinterpret the Spirit for drunkenness as the apostles speak in different languages. Peter rises, giving a sermon about Jesus that rocks the crowd to their core. They are so moved by Peter’s declaration that 3,000 people accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and join this fellowship of believers.
Acts 2:42 records this process of being joined into fellowship: There is the learning of the apostles’ doctrine. There is fellowship with others. There is the breaking of bread with one another. And there is public prayer. The new believers entered a process of knowing, understanding and practicing this new faith in the risen Christ.
But then the Word records something that seemed strange to me. Acts 2:43 states that after joining this fellowship, “fear came upon every soul…” But why would these new members become fearful after joining this community? They’ve just become a part of this amazingly multiethnic, multilingual, multiracial group… shouldn’t that provide security, courage, protection? Well, it seems there was quite a bit for this body to fear- condemnation by Jewish leaders not willing to declare this Jesus the fulfillment of the Messianic prophesy, and they would be even more closely watched by the Romans who were not interested in hearing about anyone’s kingdom besides their own. Perhaps “fear came upon every soul” because truly understood that they had joined a group absolutely committed to a very dangerous idea.
The dangerous idea is that salvation lay not in military power or royal ascension. That salvation could not be found in the rich lifestyle, the sinful lifestyle or even the religious lifestyle. That salvation had little to do with class, profession, race, or geographic location. The dangerous idea is that this covenant God has been forming since Abraham, this kingdom everyone has been waiting for is bigger and deeper than most imagined. The dangerous idea is that salvation lay in the throes of death not the comforts of life. An unwavering commitment to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ rather than to the systems and structures of this world made these believers a prime target of persecution- torments and sufferings to be feared.
This group of believers cling to another idea… an idea none of us have been fond of since kindergarten- the idea of sharing. You see, in kindergarten we all learned that sharing is giving what is mine to you to barrow for a moment, but then you are required to give it back to me. Why? Because it is mine. But this is not the kind of sharing that this first body of believers was practicing. They chose a deeper form of sharing, a perpetual kind; they chose to hold all things in common with one another.
I believe this choice to hold all things in common grew out of their lifestyle of fellowship as described in Acts 2:42. In Greek the word for fellowship is Koinonia. Though koinonia is easily translated into words like communion, association or participation, the true essence of this word is weightier. It means not just holding your possessions in common but holding your life in common with others. It is a relationship of great depth, great intimacy, great union. It is a joining together that does not hinge on class, race, language, or station, but seeks to be inclusive, loving, all-encompassing. This isn’t just sharing space, but purposefully seeking to close any and all gaps that separate. It’s no wonder that out of this fellowship springs a desire to care for one another, a desire that supersedes the individual inclination to acquire wealth, status and fame. This group wields a two edge sword- with one edge they cut off their individual greed, their need to be above, to have the most; by separating from this desire, they move toward one another in care and love. But the other edge of the sword sits under the neck of the Roman Empire and as it quivers declares, "We don’t need you- not your wealth, not your power, not your military… we have chosen to practice love."
I am convinced that the only way this level of fellowship can be achieved is to be in one accord. That phrase “with one accord” is a compound of two Greek words meaning to "rush along" and "in unison". I pray that the church would once again feel the urgency necessary to inhabit the phrase ‘rushing along’. I pray the church would be sparked, inspired, ignited to move towards koinonia once again. That we would be in unison- playing our unique roles, offering our specific gifts, working together for the sake of being a soul nurturing body. That we would tear apart the seams of unjust systems just by the way we live and move together! Amen.