During the first part of the 1st century, when the early church was just forming, the early Christians met sequestered in homes.
In small groups, sneaking into back doors so that they wouldn’t be seen gathering.
Windows shuttered, doors locked. Small gatherings. Safe gatherings.
Not because of the threat of a virus, but because of the threat of hatred and distrust.
The early Christians were sequestered in worship because the Roman government feared them and the temple authorities mistrusted them. The early Christians were not safe. If they were caught honoring the resurrected Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they were thrown to the lions, stoned to death, jailed, and even worse.
These small, safe gatherings are what birthed a new world wide religion that has done much good in the world. Christianity as an institution has done much evil, also. But small gatherings of believers who are attentive to the work of God in the world and focused on the teachings and life and death and resurrection of Jesus, are powerful forces for good.
I find it interesting that when we are able to gather back together again, we will be forced to gather in small, safe sized groups. When Christianity gathers in a building again, as a body of Christ, we will look very much like the early church.
And what happens when small groups of Christ followers gather together?
Abundance! Abundance happens.
Hear the story from the book of Acts chapter 2
The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them.
No one in the community of believers had a need. They were all taken care of by each other.
Because they discovered that by sharing all that they had, they had enough. They had more than enough actually.
Because we also read in the history of the early church that they began serving the poor in their community. They began binding up the wounds of those who were injured by the unjust economy and health care system. They began taking care of the widow and orphans, the homeless and the destitute.
When these early Christians gathered together and started sharing what they had with each other they discovered they had so much more than they realized. They were abundantly blessed with enough for all. The scriptures say a sense of awe came over as they saw all the wonders and signs God was doing among them. I believe that the sharing of their abundance was one of the greatest signs and wonders they experienced.
Now I wonder if you have discovered some of that abundance as you have found yourself gathered together in your small spaces? In your homes?
I’ve heard of people who have discovered their stack of photographs and enjoyed an abundance of memories. Of those who have discovered an abundance of time who were able to tie up projects and create new memories. I’ve heard of people who are finding the lack of frantic activity pre virus to be a gift that is allowing them time to prioritize their lives.
For Steve and I we have experienced some amazingly small and amazingly large signs and wonders of abundance in this time.
One of our small experiences is the time we have to greet the drive through person at the DQ as we grab our ice cream treat and then drive to the canoe launch on the Root River to eat our little treat. We have watched the spring season emerge as we explored the shoreline. Heard the return of the song sparrow and watched the bluebells slowly bloom.
This abundance of time for a leisurely moment right here in Chatfield feels like a mini vacation.
One of the larger and profound ways we have experienced abundance is the way the community has shared their gifts with the food shelf.
This sequestering began right at the beginning of MN FoodShare so we were even more aware of the abundance of giving as Steve is required to keep careful track of not only money given but also the pounds of food donated. As MN FoodShare draws to a close Steve reports that the giving in from within the community of Chatfield is over $8000 and over 2500 pounds of food! For a town of just over 3000 people that is true abundant giving!
Where have you experienced God’s abundance in your life as you stay safe and gathered as a community of God’s people?
Have you named this abundance as a gift from God?
In the stories of Jesus, abundance is a constant theme. From the feeding of 5000 with just 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread, to the healing stories, to the love poured out on the cross, Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing, if that isn’t the greatest expression of abundant love I don’t know what is. Forgiving us in our most wildly hate filled moments. Jesus whole life was a life of abundance.
Reflecting God’s love. An often missed phrase in the beloved 23th Psalm is this: God anoints my head with oil, my cup runs over. God doesn’t just dab a bit of the oil of blessing on our heads, God pours love over us, so that it runs down and over and around us.
So that it forms a river than flows out of us to one another.
So that God’s blessings flow from us to our neighbor to our community to our world.
Here is what I want you to do. I want you to find a some lotion in your house. I want you to take that lotion and pretend that God is anointing your hands with it. Put on a lot. Your hands are probably dry and chapped from all the washing and hand washing and dishwashing and cleaning you have been doing. As you rub in that lovely lotion, imagine God caressing your hands, showering love on you. Abundantly loving you. Anointing you until your cup runs over.
You are loved. Abundantly loved. By God who anoints you daily with more love than you can ever imagine.