January 19, 2021
Acts 4:32-35; 5:1-11 (CEB)
Newbern-Mountain View Charge
New River District
Acts 4:32-35; 5:1-11
32 The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. 33 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. 34 There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, 35 and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need.
5 However, a man named Ananias, along with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s knowledge, he withheld some of the proceeds from the sale. He brought the rest and placed it in the care and under the authority of the apostles. 3 Peter asked, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has influenced you to lie to the Holy Spirit by withholding some of the proceeds from the sale of your land? 4 Wasn’t that property yours to keep? After you sold it, wasn’t the money yours to do with whatever you wanted? What made you think of such a thing? You haven’t lied to other people but to God!” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he dropped dead. Everyone who heard this conversation was terrified. 6 Some young men stood up, wrapped up his body, carried him out, and buried him. 7 About three hours later, his wife entered, but she didn’t know what had happened to her husband. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, did you and your husband receive this price for the field?” She responded, “Yes, that’s the amount.” 9 He replied, “How could you scheme with each other to challenge the Lord’s Spirit? Look! The feet of those who buried your husband are at the door. They will carry you out too.” 10 At that very moment, she dropped dead at his feet. When the young men entered and found her dead, they carried her out and buried her with her husband. 11 Trepidation and dread seized the whole church and all who heard what had happened.
We are almost three weeks into the New Year. The Christmas season is long gone. Jesus has been born and baptized. In five weeks we will begin the season of Lent. We have no idea where 2021 will have taken us by then, but wherever it is, our journey remains the same. We will witness Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, torture, and crucifixion. We will observe the burial of Jesus’ body and on the third day stand in awe at the empty tomb. We will walk with the risen Jesus for forty days and watch him ascend to heaven. We will sit with the disciples as we pray and wait for the Holy Spirit to come as Jesus promised it would.
Our journey will culminate on the day of Pentecost, as we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and listen to Peter’s first sermon. We will be amazed when over three thousand festival goers from all over the world accept Peter’s message of good news that day. But what happens after that? How does the church become the church? What we see, over and over again, is that the apostles, as they make their way, they are filled to overflowing with the very Spirit of God. Today’s reading paints a picture of what it was like in those first days after Pentecost.
At first, the painting depicts a beautiful, heartwarming story. All warm and fuzzy. Everyone loved each other and took care of each other. One big happy family. It sounds so easy. But we have to remember that it was dangerous to be a follower of the Way. So, they HAD to stick together, for their own survival. Not only that, but Jesus had also given them a lot to do. They were to: love one another as he had loved them; be his witnesses to the ends of the earth; make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and teach the world to obey his commandments. (John 15:12, Acts 1:8, Acts 4:33, Matthew 28:19-20) This was a tall order for them to fill, so they needed to be at the top of their game. They not only needed each other to survive, they needed each other to fulfill their mission.
In addition to their many tasks, their mission carried a sense of urgency. When Jesus ascended, the angels said that he would return, but they did not say when. So, the apostles knew that they needed to get busy. Jesus could come at any moment and they wanted to be ready. Therefore, they came together and found the Way to meet the challenge, one in heart and mind and were united by their love for the Lord and compelled by their trust in God.
As the story goes on, we find two among them who were not up to the challenge. Ananias and Sapphira had put their trust in their own plans instead of the call of God. And, as it turns out, this broken trust broke their hearts, literally. When they realized what they had done – that they had not only betrayed the people, but that they had also betrayed God – it was more than their hearts could bear, and their hearts could bear it no more.
This tragedy helped the rest of the community understand just how serious their mission was. Fulfilling their calling was a matter of life and death. As they faced uncertain days, would those among them truly be transformed by the Spirit of God, or would their faith grow cold from shallow hearts? Would their witness make it to the ends of the earth before Jesus Second Coming, or would their efforts fall short?
What about us? Will we come together in prayer, trusting Jesus’ promise, so that we, too, can be transformed by the Spirit of God? Will we surrender our self-centered ways so that we can help meet the needs of all? In our uncertain days, will our witness carry on in Jesus’ name? May it be so. Amen!