Sermon 04/30/2023

Acts 2:42-47

[The believers,] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done through 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.

“They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem, and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Sermon Text

It may come as a shock to many of you here, but I am a collector of miscellaneous knowledge. All things I can know, I would like to know. Whether that is the full workings of an obscure computer program, the long and storied history of a piece of media and its strange creator, or just the little bits and bobs of what different parts of the world are properly called. Whether it is identifying aglets on the ends of strings or cataloguing the rise and fall of a single video effects artist – knowledge is power and I wanna be real strong. It is my passion and my goal to know about everything, everywhere as much as I can.

Despite this propensity and love of the quixotic aspects of life, I have a bold statement to make about what information I have accumulated. That is simply this: knowledge, though incredibly helpful, is not the single most important aspect of life and especially the life of faith. I do not say this in an anti-intellectualist way, there are a thousand million different ways that knowledge can augment our faith, protect us from scam artists and bad actors, and generally help us in our discernment throughout life. However, even all that knowledge is not enough without a proper understanding of something far more important – κοινωνία (koinonia.)

A pretty speech about the potential follies of knowledge, followed by a Greek word, how trite. Trust me though! This Greek word has a purpose here, in fact, I would say that koinonia is the only Koine Greek you need to know! Why? Because Koinonia is the foundation of all Christian ethics, all Christian life, and all Christian religious practice. It is, in a single word, community. To put a few more words to it, it is the way that a community comes together to share, love, and care for one another. This single word undergirds everything we do because it calls us to be together and hold all things in common. In fact, Koine, the root word of Koinonia, just means whatever is common, banal, vulgar – the things all people share.

For me, knowledge is the thing that I have to subject to this rule, but it stands for any advantage we might have in life. When we have money, that means nothing without and undergirding of community. When we have talent, it does not matter unless we use it to better the lives of others. When we have any advantage of circumstance, birth, or labor, we subject them to this one idea which the Church established from the very beginning – shared responsibility for the good of one another. No one joined the early Church without an expectation that they would be cared for and that they would be expected to care for one another.

Expectations are something we all fear to have put upon us because expectations naturally breed responsibility and even worse, regret and disappointment. I think one of the things that has damaged the Church in its witness to the world is we stopped having expectations of anything that was not programmatic. We expected on a Sunday the sermon would be just so and the music and the order of worship exactly as we like it, but once we left the building, who knows or cares? Our private life is somehow removed from our religion and we are not willing to always take the things we hold call, “mine,” and transition them to a more communal “ours.”

This problem is more apparent in the wider Church with a big “C,” than this particular church we now stand in. As I have said many times, this is a generous congregation, and one that does far better at taking care of its members and the community around it than most. I would encourage us, however, not to rest on our laurels when it comes to this virtue. There is more than money and time that goes into making a community vibrant, it takes all kinds of gifts and work to really see something like what we see in Acts comes together. It takes the strong, the knowledgeable, the gifted, the moneyed, the visionary, the [insert gift or talent here,] ad infinitum to make vision a reality and the Church in the Community of God.

Going back to my particular gift – I know lots of things. It is one of my pride and joys in life to be a veritable encyclopedia of miscellanea. However, that is a useless endeavor if not for the commitment I put next to that – to use my knowledge for good, to teach others all of it I can, and never presume that intellect is the same as know-how. I’ve been blessed with a life and a curiosity that makes me willing and able to seek out the rabbit holes of life that let me know things others might not. The only true value these things have is in being able to share them with others, so that they may build up their own stores of know how and critical thinking. Likewise, it is only circumstance and interest that has let me get here, the second I think that I am any better than anyone else for knowing that “Phoenix,” and “Palm Tree,” are the same word in Greek is the moment I have lost the point of this life.

Put another way, the Apostle Paul called us to understand “Love,” as the guiding force of every aspect of our life. “If I speak in the tongues of humans and of angels but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions and if I hand over my body so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.”[1] Love, Community, Care – these define a human being as being part of God’s family, God’s Kingdom, and whatever our gift or ability we have to use them for the good of all people.

So let us combine our forces – whatever we can bring to God, God will accept gladly. If you have money to spare, and do not use it for good, then it is useless. If you have talents and never apply them to help those in need – they are going fallow. Whatever you bring to the table, set it down and let God do something with it. Cause when all is said and done, we will be evaluated by nothing other than our ability to love and serve one another. The only word we need to know in Greek or any other language is, “Community,” because in that one word is all love, cooperation, goodness, and greatness that defines our faith. Be a “Community,” not an island, and give your best as best you can. – Amen.

[1] 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3

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