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Second Sunday of Easter

by Pastor Richard Clark

April 7, 2024

Psalm 133 (New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

Acts 4: 32-35 (Common English Bible)

During Eastertide, we worship the Risen Christ who still bears on his body the marks of ropes, whips and nails. This is the type of Incarnation that most people could not understand unless they opened their hearts to the teachings of Jesus, and realized his love for all people. It was also the type of unity that could unite people that was written in Psalm 133. We need that type of unity among religions today and not distance them outside the very inclusive Kingdom of God on earth.

For a long time, Americans have called the Sunday after Easter, “low Sunday,” a reference to how the week after Easter is low on attendance and low on energy. The season of Lent is over and the stone blocking the tomb of Jesus has been rolled away. What do the followers of Jesus do after Easter to maintain the rhythm of the Easter season?

The disciple Luke wrote two books some years after the Easter event to explain the days, months and years before and after the resurrection. One of course was his gospel and the second one was the book of Acts, also called the Acts of the Apostles or the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Some historians believe Luke’s gospel and his book of Acts were originally one book combined. Anyway I wish Acts could’ve been given a more dignified title explaining it, like the very early history of the Jesus movement.  It wasn’t until the early 4th century when Eusebeus (260-340 AD) wrote a detailed history of the early church.

The passage from Acts chapter four says, “the Jesus followers held everything in common because they were one of heart and mind. None of them would say, this is mine!” Such an idea is very different from the worship of capitalism in America and other nations. And we should further note the very next sentence (Acts 4:33). It is written, “The Apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all.”

Now Luke realized there were still people in the surrounding land who remained in poverty. The fact that poor people were still around makes it clear the call to share is not yet heard by all would-be followers of Jesus. And the same thing could be said by many of his 21st century followers today. The reality of the destitute remaining in the millions is a stark testimony of the reality of all we can give has not occurred, despite the call of God. In America today, $38.7 trillion dollars is concentrated among the one-percent. Think about that.

What biblical example do Christians really follow today? The gospel of Ayn Rand that greed is good or the gospel of Jesus the Christ? Capitalism honors individualism and wealth and many Americans are against any criticism of it. Back in the days during the height of the Cold War and the Red Scare hysteria of the 1950s, even “Robin Hood” novels were banned in some Indiana public school libraries. Robin Hood was accused of being a closet Communist because he advocated the redistribution of wealth. You know, take from the rich and give to the poor. Blame the old John Birch Society for that type of censorship.

During the later years of the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he began to realize that God’s mission for him was much larger than just racial justice, but of a reimagined economic order. One that would serve humanity instead of demanding that humanity serve the economic powers. Rev. King remembered the verse from Acts 4:34, “There was no needy person among them.”

The Church, both institutional and local, must take an active role in bearing social witness, both local and international. The power of the Holy Spirit is not to be experienced only during worship like the Pentecostals do. The possession of the Spirit is shown in partaking the bread and wine during the Eucharist. The Spirit is active in the feeding of the poor, challenging systems of oppression, clothing given to those who are without and sheltering people during cold weather. And I would say the Salem Presbyterian Church does a very good job of this despite limited membership. God can take the few to accomplish good works for the many.

Now some might say, what worked for Christians in the 1st century mentioned in Acts, will not work in modern times. But I beg to differ.

Maybe some of you have heard of Koinonia Farms? Koinonia is an intentional Christian community created in Georgia in 1942 by two couples, Clarence and Florence Jordan and Martin and Mabel England as a demonstration as the Kingdom of God on earth. For them, this meant a community of believers following the example of the first Christian communities mentioned in the book of Acts. They did face opposition from many in the rural South who opposed Koinonia’s openness to racial integration.

Based on this radical call to discipleship, Koinonia’s very presence confronted materialism, militarism and racism. It had a commitment to treat all human beings with dignity and justice. The faith community at Koinonia chose love over violence, material things were shared and the residents there lived simply and became good stewards of the land and its resources.

The efforts to actually live the gospels was a break with the prevailing culture that surrounded Koinonia. The people of Koinonia faced trials and tribulations by the many white citizens of the county the Koinonia community was in. Many tried to destroy the community and scare off its residents. The only crime the residents of Koinonia did was to follow the teachings of Jesus and pick up their cross and him.

Through the 1950s and early ‘60s, Koinonia remained a witness to nonviolence and racial equality as its members withstood firebombs, bullets, property damage and death threats from the Ku Klux Klan. Many at Koinonia were excommunicated from white churches in the area. Koinonia and its members suffered, but by the grace of God, Koinonia still exists.