Sunday, May 11, 2014

“Day by Day: All for One, One for All” (Acts 2:42-47)

One for all, all for one!  That was the rallying cry of the three musketeers . . . one of my favorite stories.  Remember the story by Alexandre Dumas from 1844?  It is a story about a young man by the name of d’Artagnan who leaves home to travel to Paris to join the Musketeers of the Guard. D’Artagnan is not one of the musketeers of the title . . . no, those are his friends—Athos, Porthos and Aramis—three inseparable friends who live by the motto, “All for one, one for all!”  Together the three musketeers are practically unbeatable . . . separately, they are tough but can be beat.  Their adventures and misadventures kept my heart racing as a kid reading their story . . . always espousing the motto, “One for all, all for one!”  It is a motto we followers of Jesus would be good to follow.

Now, I want you to understand that I said that it was the adventures and misadventures of these three that kept my heart racing as a kid.  As much as these three friends are inseparable, there is a time in the story when they are separated from one another and go their own ways.  Life is not the same for them . . . things are different as they slowly begin to realize that special bond that made them a force to be reckoned with . . . this idea of oneness in the total of their parts, that the sum of their parts together was greater than their parts by themselves.  Thus they come back together to save the crown.  It is at this point that they realize the greater good of being one despite using the motto for years to describe their relationship.  It was a tough lesson to learn.

So it is for the followers of Jesus.  To have to relearn faith after having lost the faith of their childhood is one of the most difficult and painful experiences in life . . . and, in the case of those in Jesus’ time, it did not only happen once but twice.  First was the time of discovering Jesus . . . discovering his teachings and way of life . . . that threw their learned understanding of faith on its head.  Jesus challenged the faith of the people’s childhood . . . challenged their understanding of loving God . . . challenged their understanding of loving their neighbors . . . challenged their way of life . . . a way of life they had known for generations as it was passed down through the family and community.  Jesus kind of upsets the apple cart and everything leading up to his arrest, trial, and crucifixion show how hard the status quo fought against this change in the faith.

It is bad enough to have your world turned upside down and be challenged to learn a new way of faith.  It is difficult enough to embrace that new way of faith while everyone else is still embracing the old ways.  It is not easy.  So, then, imagine what happens when that new model of faith is blown out of the water as the leader of that movement . . . that way of life . . . is killed.  Yeah, things just got more difficult . . . things got scary . . . and, more confusing.  Then the rumors begin floating through the people and communities . . . he is alive.  Confirmed sightings of the living Jesus are shared.  He is alive . . . he is with the people . . . but it is only for a short time.  He keeps tell the people that they are to live the faith he lived and taught . . . that they are to love God and one another.  He tells them that he is only going to be with them for a little while . . . BUT, he will leave them with a counselor—an advocate, the Holy Spirit.

Again, they are challenged to relearn their faith.

As easy as the writer of Acts makes it sound in our reading, we all know that it was not that easy.  What is recorded in Acts is that first adrenalin rush of learning something new . . . the excitement of doing something new and seeing how wonderful it can actually be.  It is different . . . it is exciting . . . and everyone is working together.  At least it is in the beginning.  We know through the letters that the Apostle Paul receives from these communities of faith that paradise doesn’t last very long as the faithful begin to fight.  This just proves that it is not easy to relearn faith. 

Yet, the words of the writer in our reading this morning paints a picture . . . a picture of how it could work, how it should be, of what the Kingdom of God looks like.  It is an “all for one, one for all” sort of image that we are witnessing.  Now I know that these verses come off as some sort of 1960s hippie utopian nonsense . . . having all things in common . . . selling their possessions and goods to meet people’s needs . . . eating and worshipping together . . . kind of getting that “all for one, one for all” vibe down.  Sounds like a commune . . . but, it wasn’t.  It was the beginning of the church . . . the beginning of the body of Christ in the world . . . the Kingdom of God being realized.  It was new . . . it was exciting . . . and, it would prove to be difficult to learn this new form of faith.

And, it is.

This new form of faith, though simple, is difficult . . . it is hard.  It is difficult and hard because it shifts from a dogmatic form of doing things for salvation . . . of following a rigid code of law and ethics . . . to relationships.  That’s right, relationships.  Jesus calls all who chose to follow him to be in relationship . . . to love God . . . to love one another.  In the words of the writer of Acts we read of how the early group of followers embrace caring about one another and doing whatever was needed to be done to meet one another’s needs.  They cared about each other . . . they wanted to be with each other . . . in daily life, in worship, and in fellowship.  The result?  The community grew . . . the faith grew.  It made God happy.

It has been said that “it takes a village to raise a child.”  This is not a concept that we Americans—in our independent streak—embrace as easily as other cultures around the world, but it is true.  None of us lives in a vacuum.  We live in the world that is around us.  And, faith is lived and witnessed in the community.  Yet, community is based on relationships and relationships are hard.  Relationships are hard because they involve people.  People make life hard.  They don’t always get along.  They don’t always agree.  They fuss and fight.  They whine and lament.  They pout and they quit.  And, this is what Jesus has called us into . . . to relate . . . to care . . . to love others.  It sure would be a heck of a lot easier if people would just do it the way I tell them; but, no, we have to relate . . . and, that is hard.

Yet, we have heard the results of learning to relate . . . of embracing this idea of “all for one, one for all”.  It opens up the Kingdom of God.  The writer tells us: “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their numbers daily those who were being saved.”  Another translation stated, “day by day.”  What is not to like about those results?

Faith is not easy.  It is challenging . . . it is hard, yet we are called to this new form of faith that is based on relationships between us and God.  We have seen its power from time to time as we have gathered to work, worship, fellowship, and play with one another as the community of faith.  We have seen it around the table . . . in the breaking of the bread and the lifting of the cup.  We have seen it when we rally together to aid someone in need.  In its presence we have basked in the excitement, basked in the joy, basked in the Spirit.  And, it has been good.  The challenge is to move beyond those fleeting moments of community and faith, to living it on a daily basis in our lives. 

This challenge to embrace this new faith is a daily exercise in love.  Something that we are to do day by day.  We are to love . . . love God . . . love one another.  We know that we can do it because we have done it before . . . the trick is doing it daily.  That is the key . . . day by day . . . “all for one, one for all.”  So often we are so close . . . so close to pulling it off . . . so close to the Kingdom of God.  Daily, let us strive to truly be one in the Spirit, one in the Lord . . . let us live this new faith.  Nothing can stop us if we do . . . and the Lord will bless us.  Amen.

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