“Begin Again”: A Weekly Devotional for a New Year, Week 5

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Acts 2:42-47

Alone. Profoundly alone. Isolated. Even if every other aspect of your life is in “good working order” – even if you enjoy security that most do not know – it is still true that you can be lonely to the point of despair. We are not built to “do it on our own”, or to exist in small, insider groups, while telling everyone else to go their own way.

We were not made for that kind of isolation – that is our unnatural state. “Unnatural” because it is not what was intended. We were created for rich, deep, abiding fellowship, not only with friends and family, but with people who are very different from us. The Book of Acts witnesses to this, especially on the day of Pentecost, when we are told: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance…. and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.” (Acts 2:4, 6)

Then we begin to see what emerging from that isolation looks like, in the passage above (2:42-47). It looks like: listening, meeting, eating, and praying together. It looks like getting rid of things we don’t need, in order to give to our neighbors in need. It means that many of the things we like to do on our own, are better done in the company of others: You may want to listen to a pastor, on your own, but skip real church – “Too messy.”; you might want to work through dinner – “Sorry, honey, I just have to…”; you might want to pray alone: “I don’t like doing that in front of other people” – but none of these will deliver the joy we see, above. None of them will bring the joy that can be ours in coming together to do these things in a church.

There are three, powerful “How long?” questions, buried in our story from Acts 2:42-47:

  • How long has it been since you have given to someone in need? No one saw, or knew, what you did, but you felt God’s grace after you did the right thing?
  • How long has it been since you’ve had someone over, to eat together, and enjoy one another’s company – to “fellowship”? It’s true that the past two years have made some – or most – of this impossible. But are you, now, just doing what you did, because you’re used to it?
  • When did you last eat food with a “glad and generous heart”? Jesus did a lot of his ministry around a dinner table. When you welcome others around yours, the ordinary – just another meal – becomes something more. Our hearts are opened, renewed, and strengthened.

The opposite of isolation is awe: “And awe came upon every soul….” Awe breaks us out of our small, comfortable but spiritually suffocating spaces, and delivers us into a much larger, better world. That world is called “The Kingdom of God”, and it is the true, New World.

How long have you waited to be invited into this New World? How long will you wait, now that you have been?

Prayer: Lord, my life has been too much about me and mine. It worked for awhile, but it isn’t working any longer. Open my heart to the holy awe that can only come in fellowship with other people – the people you call together, by your Spirit. Send me to your family, where we can listen, meet, eat, and pray, together. Amen.

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