Deeply personal, radically communal | May 14

Text: Psalm 23; Acts 2:42-47

The sermon today and next week will be multi-voiced.  We’ll be hearing from our new members.  I’ve gently suggested they keep their sharing brief, so I’ll follow my own counsel.

Today’s scriptures speak of a faith that is deeply personal and radically communal.

Psalm 23 proclaims God as a shepherd.  And not just any shepherd, but my shepherd.  “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”  How many people have recited these lines through the millennia?

And who doesn’t need shepherded?  Is there anyone out there who has it all figured out, knows exactly where they’re going and why?  Does anyone always know the way to green pastures and still waters?  Most of the time we’re stumbling in the dark, or, as the Psalmist says, in “the valley of the shadow of death.”  It doesn’t say we avoid the valley or the darkness.  It says we are accompanied through it, and that we need fear no evil.

There is a dimension of faith that is deeply personal, and there are paths we alone have to walk.  Psalm 23 proclaims that when we do, we are accompanied by the great Shepherd, with goodness and mercy trailing close behind.

And there is a dimension of faith that is radically communal.

Acts chapter 2 gives a summary of life in the early church.  “Awe came upon everyone,” Luke writes.   “All who believed were together.”  They “had all things in common.”  “They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

Radical is perhaps an overused word.  It means to get at the root of something.  For the early Jesus movement, the root of faith included an economics of sharing, and a life oriented around community.  We Mennonites are the heirs of the Radical Reformation in 16th century Europe.  The Anabaptists set their sites on digging down to the root of faith, which rested in the life and teachings of Jesus.

In our highly individualized society, we hunger for community.  Community gives us life, but it also asks of us.  It asks that we participate in the Divine economy of sharing, that we give, and receive, and thus flourish together.

The Lord is our Shepherd.  Jesus is at the root of our faith.  We are welcomed into, formed within, and challenged by the community of faith that bears his name.

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