As a child, my mother moved my sister and me to Mason City from Des Moines after our father died suddenly of a heart attack. We were suddenly poor. A local Lutheran Church reached out to us, inviting us to worship services, Sunday School, and catechism classes. Members gave us rides to church and often invited us to Sunday dinner. At fall stewardship time, members were asked to bring food to share with the needy in the community. Mother gave my sister and me each a can of soup to take to the church’s offering. At Thanksgiving, I was surprised when our family also received a food basket from the church. I learned at that young age that in the Christian community it is not that some are the givers and others the receivers, but that all have something to offer, and, together, we all are receivers of God’s generosity. Together we are called to reach out to the community to those in need.
In recent years, my husband and I helped support an inner-city congregation. Courageously and generously that small congregations for years had been serving its neighborhood. Most of its members were young, in fact, youth! (Many congregations would give anything to have that percentage of young people!) The youth had been taught to give and all gave almost ten percent of what they had. They were sharing God’s healing love. With the love and nurture of the congregation, many of the young people, were successful in school and beyond. But still, it was clear that this small, lower socio-economic mission congregation would never become totally self-sustaining. It was closed last year.
The story of the church is one of community. We are called to share God’s healing love in Christ’s reconciliation through personal and communal servanthood. We are called to mission through the generations. All are in need. And the neediest have gifts. Not one of us as individuals or as congregations is totally self-sustaining. By the Spirit in the name of the Resurrected Christ we have been called to have all things in common and to use everyone’s gifts. How can we courageously and generously be the body of Christ as servants in the world?
The essence of the early church, upon which all generations of the church since have been built by the Spirit, was hearing the Word taught and preached, baptism, the breaking of bread, prayers, and generous hearts for caring for each other. And the church grew. The history of the Church is not of individuals but of community. Together God gives us generous hearts to build up the body of Christ.
“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.” (Acts 2:44-45)