The Church Being Community

Delivered July 16, 2000 by Rev. Stanley Butler, Pastor of Sanctuary Church.
Theme: forming community based upon unconditional acceptance, forgiveness, love, knowing and honest sharing.

Sermon Text:
Acts 2:42-47
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the
fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous
signs were done by the apostles.
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.
They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and
sincere hearts,
47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the
Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

I did a wedding yesterday and about 10 minutes into the marriage the young man began to faint, I mean faint, real good. And I somewhat feel that way. I tried to help him, and then his mother and father had to come and hold him up. And I looked at the best man and he said, “I’m scared,” so he didn’t come and move. If you see me starting to sink, somebody run up here and hold me up. Amen.

But we do thank the Lord for this another day and pray that He will receive a blessing from hearing thus sayeth the Lord.

Father we thank you again for the reading of your word and give us interpretation, that when we go down from this place we will be better people. For we ask it in Jesus name, Amen.

I was somewhat in a quandary in the 8:30 service, but I do feel better because in sharing, especially in the Sunday School, I began to really hear God talk about the Church being community. And certainly I was not long winded in the 8:30 service and I’m not going to be long winded in the traditional service. Black preaching can be a half an hour, five minutes, an hour and I don’t want anyone to fall out of the pew.

But I picked this under the leadership of the Holy Ghost… this area of Scripture because the first thing that comes to my mind is ordinary people. And if we were to go back and refresh thinking and go back in our lives, all of us who love the Lord are nothing but ordinary people that God has saved and brought to an interesting encounter, to a place that none of us has ever visited before. Because when we come to the Lord and accept him into our lives it is a whole new journey. And in this text in Acts it talks about these ordinary people who had heard the message of the carpenter, the homeless man. And the message they heard was…. repent, turn around, and love one another.

And even as I further pondered in the Sunday School room, more things were coming to my mind. These ordinary people had to get used to some extraordinary things happening. One of them was the breaking of molds. Because most of us grow up with various mindsets. We come to church with mindsets and when we begin to entertain the idea of community it really says that we may have to go back and break the mold. And that is difficult to do, even myself, I’m suffering and encountering that in my own community, in my own local assembly because my sons who I have raised and trained in the ministry have a different view than what I have had all of these years. Because I know church to be one way and they know it to be another. I’m used to shirts, and suits and ties, white shirts if you please; and they’re used to just come as you are. And so they are saying to me that this is a different community, a different time and we know that we don’t discard God, but we have to do things differently so we may have to break the mold.

And in the Acts chapter Luke talks about these extraordinary, but common folk, who once they believed were together. And the church today needs to be together. Whether it’s black, whether it’s white, whether it’s Hispanic, or Korean; there is only one message that should emanate from the church – that is Jesus saves. So he speaks to these common folk and he says, “I want you to be community, and in being community as I break the old mold let me introduce something that many of you have forgotten, acceptance, unconditional acceptance.” Because any of us who are in here this morning who have been with the Lord any length of time should not forget that he unconditionally accepted you and me. We couldn’t pay him to save us; we couldn’t pay him for his grace. So he says, “Come as you are and I will accept you.” So if we’re going to have community today we’ve got to learn how to accept people where they are, and who they are and allow God to do the changing.

This new community in Acts, he says needs, not only unconditional acceptance but then you’ve got to have forgiveness. And forgiveness is a very difficult thing to deal with. Yet the Bible says you need to forgive as I have forgiven you. And all of us have offended someone along life’s journey. We may have forgotten, but maybe we need to go back and ponder, have I forgiven the person who offended me? Have I even forgiven myself? Sometimes, forgiveness cannot emanate from us to others until we learn how to forgive ourselves.

Community, community. Acceptance, forgiveness, and then sharing. One of the things, if the church is going to be community today is that we have to learn how to be open and upfront. I heard the brother speak well of it in the Sunday School. Not for us who are beyond thirty-five, but for the young people. Young people don’t want phoniness because they can see right through it. And if their going to become the community of Christ, the community of Believers, we’ve got to take the phoniness and be honest because other wise they will be out there doing their thing and Central, like many other churches, will eventually die. Because those of us who are beyond thirty-five, and forty-five and fifty-five will eventually not be around. So we need a community that is going to carry on the great dynamic work of Central Church. So Luke says share it. Share it without being phony.” And then Luke ponders and he says, “I see you exciting people, giving of yourselves, giving of your resources and making sure that everybody has something.” The church today has gotten cold, gotten distant; we don’t know each other. We pass each other in the aisles and coming in the door and coming in the parking lot, but how many of us really know each other? We know it because we hear the wedding announcement, or we gather for the funeral, but do you know the person sitting next to you? The person behind you? Community means knowing and sharing. And so today I could get a little hum going and run down out of the pulpit, but that’s not going to make community. Community is becoming involved with humanness.

And as I said this morning, community is incarnate, incarnational. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” and so on and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. How many of us would allow the Word to be incarnate in us and somebody said, “I don’t know a lot of Scripture. I don’t know a lot of this or that.” But you know, all of us, black, white, whatever, remember one thing from Sunday School – we learned the song, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” And when you have community that can share the incarnation of Christ Jesus, that because of the cross there is somebody who is willing to love you just as you are. And the word became flesh and dwelt among us. So you’re mandate this morning is to become the living, fleshly word of God in the community, in your neighborhood, in the inner city, wherever you travel, carrying the Sunday School message that yes, Jesus loves you and so do I .

Community is about love. So church, let’s become, let’s become. Now I understand this will be difficult for some of us because when you’ve been cast in iron and then stone on top, and then some more iron it is difficult to break through. But you know one thing, God has a way of getting our attention and all of the things that are going on in our world today, God is speaking to the church, lets have community. Let me hold your hand and you hold mine and let all of us, as Luke ends by saying, ‘This community is excited and let’s all praise God together.” Amen.