Transforming Community Life

“The so-called primitive communism of the the early Church had little to do, then, with a belief that the world was coming to an end, and a great deal to do with the sense of fulfillment: the world of debt, the world of injustice, had come to an end on Calvary, and they were modeling the new world of forgiveness…. sounds boring to some, maybe it’s because we’ve forgotten that each of the four aspects of the early Church’s daily life stood the world’s values, not least its systemic injustices, on their head.”

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“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Acts 2:42-47

“A student of mine spent a long vacation working with local churches in central Africa. Next term, the College Head asked him, in my presence, what he wanted to do with his degree. ‘Work in third world development,’ he replied. ‘Then why’, asked the Provost, an economist himself, ‘aren’t you reading Politics and Economics?’ The student didn’t even blink. ‘Because Theology is much more relevant,’ he shot back.

“Read Acts 2 and see why. Jesus had launched the new covenant movement. His followers, like the Qumran community, believed that they, the renewed Israel, should live as a family. They belonged to each other, as brothers and sisters; and close families, in that culture at least, shared a purse. (This, by the way, is why it’s so misleading when non-sexist translations render ‘brothers’ as ‘friends’ and the like. Why not ‘family’?) If God had now acted to bring forgiveness at every level, how could they not forgive debts as they had been forgiven?

“The so-called primitive communism of the the early Church had little to do, then, with a belief that the world was coming to an end, and a great deal to do with the sense of fulfillment: the world of debt, the world of injustice, had come to an end on Calvary, and they were modeling the new world of forgiveness. They weren’t so concerned with the last days of the old world as with the first days of the new one. Politicians and economists can’t sort out third world debt, but the gospel, and its message of Jubilee, just might. If ‘teaching, fellowship, bread-breaking, prayers’, let alone ‘theology’ sounds boring to some, maybe it’s because we’ve forgotten that each of the four aspects of the early Church’s daily life stood the world’s values, not least its systemic injustices, on their head.”

N.T. Wright, Twelve Months of Sundays: Reflections on Bible Readings-Year A

Lord, may our daily lives in you truly stand the world’s values and injustices on their head. As we, with the aid of your Spirit, try to live the life of the age to come, may it disrupt the powers of this present age. Amen.

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