Wednesday, May 7, 2014

All Things in Common

Do you remember the days when new converts to the Christian faith used to sell everything that they had and give all the money to the church, who held it in common trust, taking care of the needs of the faithful? Yeah, me neither. But what a Confirmation requirement, huh?

This Sunday is "Good Shepherd Sunday," so named because the gospel lesson in all three liturgical years is taken from John 10. We read the 23rd Psalm along with it and pray a collect that opens, "O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people..." The overwhelming metaphor for the day is that we are sheep and God's son, Jesus Christ, is our shepherd.

But then there's the reading from Acts. It's short, so I've pasted the whole thing here:
Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 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. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
Notice that third sentence. Everyone who believed held everything in common. And what happened? The Lord added to their number. In other words, they grew. A lot of people in the church these days are talking about growing the church (or at least about slowing the decline of the church). They throw out lots of ideas. How many of them work? I wonder if local, Christian, congregational communism would.

In some ways, it's a silly idea. I don't want to go to the Church of the Everything in Common. But that's because I don't trust other people. And that's why it's also a wonderful idea. What would happen if everyone in a Christian community trusted each other with their lives and their livelihoods? What would happen if everyone in a congregation gave everything they had--not just money but also their whole hearts--to the good of the community? What would happen to the church if believers stopped thinking of themselves as separate members of a confederation of communicants and instead recognized that as the body of Christ they share everything in common already--every joy, every sorrow, every hope, every struggle, every challenge, every opportunity?

It runs against every political, social, economic, patriotic, and philosophical instinct in my being. But isn't that why it's worth considering? What does it say for our Kingdom-identity to be other worldly? Isn't that the point? What should the Acts 8 movement learn from Acts 2?

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