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Day by Day

Acts 2:42-47
David A. Davis
May 7, 2017

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Awe and wonder and joy and generosity and mercy were all on the move among them. The apostles’ themselves were drawing on the Spirit of God and their ministry among them was full of wonder and signs of God’s presence, God’s grace, God’s resurrection power. Those who believed were together. They had all things in common. Possessions, goods, proceeds were shared. The needs of all were met. They spent a lot of time together in the temple. They broke bread from house to house to house. They ate. They worshiped. They demonstrated the goodness of God to all people. Day by day. Day by day God added to their number those who were being saved. Day by day.

Studying, learning, growing in the faith of Jesus Christ. Fellowship, generosity, sharing, caring for those in need, demonstrating the goodness of God. Breaking bread, praising God, testifying to the signs and wonders of God. And prayer. Day by day. Day by day.

One of our own college students finishing up his last semester wrote to me this week and asked some questions about a paper he is writing for a journalism class on the rise of atheism. He asked me about the abundance of folks who identify as religious but unaffiliated, about whether I thought atheism appealed more to millennials, and whether there are concerns about whether Christianity will hold on for the long haul. I shared some thoughts, gave him some book references, and then told him about the numbers of young people in our last new member class, and the adult baptism on Easter evening in our Breaking Bread worshiping community, and our Great Fifty Days of Prayer. And that in Jesus Christ, our best days are always yet to come

Studying, learning, growing in the faith of Jesus Christ. Fellowship, generosity, sharing, caring for those in need, demonstrating the goodness of God. Breaking bread, praising God, testifying to the signs and wonders of God. And prayer. Day by day. Day by day.

I have been serving on a committee of the General Assembly that gets together every few months to conduct our work. Our conversations are lively, engaging, and sometimes we don’t all agree. One member of the committee is rightly concerned about the ever-dropping numbers in the PCUSA. The committee member brings up the topic and asks who is responsible, who is held accountable, why aren’t pastors incentivized in their contracts to increase the number of folks in the pew? At one point another member of the committee responds that as a pastor and preacher, the call, the responsibility, the outcome isn’t about numbers, it is about hearts being filled with the love and grace of Jesus Christ. A community empowered and sent out to serve God and witness to God’s love every day.

Studying, learning, growing in the faith of Jesus Christ. Fellowship, generosity, sharing, caring for those in need, demonstrating the goodness of God. Breaking bread, praising God, testifying to the signs and wonders of God. And prayer. Day by day. Day by day.

I just read a book called The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher. Dreher is a conservative, Eastern Orthodox practicing Christian. The title of the book is a reference to the Rule of St. Benedict and reflects Dreher’s conclusion that the only hope for the future of the church and for Christianity in the West is a kind of pseudo-monastic practice where Christians retreat from the world and its culture and form intimate communities that follow a rule of faith, practice, and life. Only published in March, the book has created quite the buzz among conservatives, both Catholic and Evangelical. According to an essay in the New Yorker, David Brooks in his New York Times column described it as “the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade.”

Dreher basically argues that Christianity has been on a downward slide since about the 5th century. Evidence he cites for that decline include things like the Enlightenment, the Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, birth control pills, and digital technology. His criticism of technology and social media as isolating and destructive to communities has truth, of course. But it is a bit ironic because his blog on the website “The American Conservative” gets a million visits a month. Dreher also stakes a claim, labeling his beliefs as “traditional Christianity,” which pretty much doesn’t include Protestants, and certainly not congregations like ours that welcome, include, support, and celebrate LGBTQ individuals. The church, he writes, “no longer forms souls but caters to selves.” The exception, I guess, being his church.

I finished the book and right at the end Dreher sums up his vision for the Christian Church. “We live liturgically, telling our sacred Story in worship and song. We fast and we feast. We marry and give our children in marriage, and, though in exile, we work for the peace of the city. We welcome our newborns and bury our dead. We read the Bible, and we tell our children about the saints…” He continues, “We work, we pray, we confess our sins, we show mercy, we welcome the stranger, and we keep the commandments. When we suffer, especially for Christ’s sake, we give thanks, because that is what Christians do. Who knows what God, in turn, will do with our faithfulness? It is not for us to say.” And I had to say, “Amen.” Actually, first I said to myself, “Rod, what do think we’ve been doing here?” What do you think we’ve been trying to do here, faithfully, by God’s grace and God’s mercy? Maybe it’s not all up for you to say?”

Studying, learning, growing in the faith of Jesus Christ. Fellowship, generosity, sharing, caring for those in need, demonstrating the goodness of God. Breaking bread, praising God, testifying to the signs and wonders of God. And prayer. Day by day. Day by day.

You and I are not called to re-create the Christian life of the 5th century, or even that of New Testament Church for that matter. What transcends the centuries, what connects us, is our life in Christ, our life as the Body of Christ. What binds us to the communion of saints, to the great cloud of witnesses, is the Risen Christ himself, Christ and his promise. Our unity is not by the merit of our belief, or by the purity of our discipline, or by an adherence to one moral code or another, our unity is in Christ and him alone. And according to the Reformed theological tradition, according to traditional Christianity, “wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists” (John Calvin, 16th century). The body of Christ, formed, reformed, shaped, built, sent into the world by Word and Sacrament, carrying out the very mission of God day by day.

Some rue the day and lament the end of Christianity as they choose to know it. Others pray for the eyes and ears and hearts to behold the wonders and signs of the living God present and at work in our lives, in the lives of those around us, and yes, in the world, in the culture, in the West. Like the first-century followers of Jesus they celebrate with awe the saving grace of Christ that still fills hearts and changes lives and meets us afresh every morning. They yearn for a kingdom where the hungry are fed and those that have much work to help those who have little and do it with generous, joy-filled hearts. Like the prophets of old they cry out for justice and righteousness and wholeness, not just in the community of faith, but in all the land. They foster a community of faith, maybe not of all like-minded and like-looking people, but a community that weeps with those who weep and rejoices with those who rejoice, a community that’s less concerned with who is in and who is out and more concerned with reflecting the goodness of God and the hospitality of Christ to all who come in and all who go out and to all who pass by, a community that will sing for you when you can’t sing, pray for you when you can’t pray, and believe for you when there is little to nothing left in you, a community that knows its collective worship life to be sacred, and its fellowship a gift of God, and the life of discipleship to be the absolute highest calling. A community that believes that our life in Christ is precious and we live it day by day to God’s glory.

Studying, learning, growing in the faith of Jesus Christ. Fellowship, generosity, sharing, caring for those in need, demonstrating the goodness of God. Breaking bread, praising God, testifying to the signs and wonders of God. And prayer. Day by day. Day by day.

Who knows what God will, in turn, do with our faithfulness?

Accept this, O God, accept this, THIS, All OF THIS, this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving as a living and holy offering of ourselves, that our lives may proclaim the one crucified, the one Risen. That our life together might proclaim that Christ is risen!

© 2017 Nassau Presbyterian Church
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