Thursday, May 21, 2009

a devoted church

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” – Acts 2:42

Before Pentecost, only 120 people followed the Way. But when Peter’s first sermon came to a close, many were “cut to the heart” (2:37) and repented – a word that means to “turn or change one’s mind.” According to Luke’s account, 3000 additional persons followed “the Jesus-Way” after Peter’s poignant sermon. The result? The new converts “devoted” themselves to certain practices.

To follow the Way – both then and now – necessarily means a devotion to a way of life; to a specific way of being in this world.

Two things strike me as important from this passage. First, we must be devoted. Second, we must be devoted to the right things.

First, the early church was a devoted church – a word that speaks of loyalty and even seriousness. Faith in Christ wasn’t a hobby for anyone in the early church. It wasn’t a way of feeling better about life. It wasn’t an escape from reality. Of the 3000 added to the Kingdom after Peter’s first sermon, not one was a religious dabbler. Luke portrays each person as devoted. Faith in Christ was everything; faith in Christ demanded everything. To quote Bonhoeffer, “when Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.” Christianity is about accepting Jesus’ invitation to die. One can’t embrace such a strange invitation without being devoted.

Second, Luke references four things that the first Christians devoted themselves to: the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. In other words, the first Christians sat at the apostles’ feet and absorbed their teaching; they actively loved one another in community; they obeyed Jesus’ commandment to worshipfully break bread in remembrance of the new Exodus brought about through his death and resurrection; they prayed nonstop. In 21st century terms, faith was about being devoted to scripture, community, Eucharistic worship, and nonstop prayer – not as an end in itself – but as a means to the end of being fully devoted to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

To follow the Way – both then and now – necessarily means a devotion to a way of life; to a specific way of being in this world.

What are we devoted to?

May the Spirit give us the courage to answer this question honestly. And upon answering, may we too be cut to the heart, change our mind, and devote our selves to the right things. AMEN.

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