Table-ology of community

Table-ology of community

A Scripture study from Caring, part five of seven.

Read part four here.

The early Church of Acts was the epitome of community. After the Holy Spirit came on them, All the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common (Acts 2:44 MSG). They did everything together and looked out for one another. They grew together and built God’s Church together.

As Adele Calhoun, author of the “Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us” writes, “Christian community exists when believers connect with each other in authentic and loving ways that encourage growth in Christ. They engage in transparent relationships that cultivate, celebrate and make evident Christ’s love for all the world.”

This is God’s desire and hope for his Church.

For three days in 1621, the Native Americans and colonists came together sometime between September and November and celebrated the harvest and survival in the New World. For that short period of time, they were in one accord and celebrated community. We pattern our Thanksgiving after that first feast, even though it wasn’t called Thanksgiving and wasn’t really as we know Thanksgiving to be today. Their meal would not have looked much like our traditional meal, with mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. The celebration included games, eating and military exercises. The common ground we share with the early settlers and their gracious Native American neighbors is the desire to come together and thank God for his goodness, even amid the harsh realities of life.

In community we share with others—common attitudes, interests, space, gratitude and goals. In Christian community, we also share our common love for God, which often crosses uncommon boundaries. We are all members of one body, although at times, it’s probably hard for God to see the connection. At times, he sees factions and disconnection in the Church where differing opinions, criticism, judgment and exclusion can occur. This must break the heart of God, who wants his Church to love each other as he loves us—without condition.

Imagine a world where we truly have each other’s best interests at heart, 24/7. We tend to see this exhibited during seasons of desperation and elation, but what if we saw it in the ordinary seasons as well. That is what made the Church of Acts so successful. They loved their neighbors in every season of life.

Only as we truly know and love God will we be able to truly know and love others in true community. True community isn’t divided by opinions and preferences. True community embraces people of all kinds; it doesn’t discriminate. True community lives in one accord. True community celebrates and embraces one another and all of life with grateful hearts.

During this season of Thanksgiving, pray about ways God can use you to build community with those around you and then commit to surrounding yourself with people from all walks of life. Embrace your neighbor, even if they are different than you—especially if they are different than you.

When the early believers met around a table everyone shared a meal and they were exuberant and joyful…they praised God. Through their table-ology of community, every day their number grew as God added to those who were saved (Acts 2:47).

That’s a table-ology we as a Church need to embrace and gather around.

Read today

Acts 2: 42-47

Pray today

Father, praise be to you, the author of living, loving and lasting community. Thank you for the gift of fellowship and for those you have placed in our circles of influence to encourage and be encouraged by. Jesus, thank you for living the reality of holy community and showing us that every life has value and every life needs holy love. You demonstrated this truth through your life on earth, as well as your death and resurrection. Forgive us for the times we put too much focus on self. Holy Spirit, help us to receive you as the early believers did. Help us to position ourselves so that you can fall on us and breathe in us. We long to experience wonderful harmony and witness what it means to have everything in common. We can’t do it without your power at work in us. We long to live in one accord, for your glory, for our abundance and for the sake of others. May it be so.

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Nancy Helms, Major

Major Nancy Helms is the Spiritual Care Director and Territorial Disabilities Ministries Director in The Salvation Army Western Territory.