Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Adapting Acts

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September 28:

Call:       Romans 1: 8-12
Reading:    1 Corinthians 12: 12-14
Text:       Acts 6: 1-7
Close:  Acts 6:8

                    Adapting Acts

Previously in Acts:

Jesus of Nazareth,
Had,        some 40 days after his resurrection,
again left his followers
    This time,   by ascending to heaven before their very eyes.

He had done so, however,
Only after charging and commissioning them to do his work
            By being witnesses for him and making disciples of him
        In Jerusalem;   in all Judea and Samaria
        And to the ends of the earth.
And  only after
promising that the Holy Spirit would empower them.

That promise was kept ten days later,
And kept dramatically and powerfully.

On that day, Jerusalem was filled with people from all over
Despite differences in geography and language
    All spoke of    tongues as if of fire
    And told of     a sound like the rushing of a powerful wind.

Most impressively they all
heard the apostles speak as if in the listener's own language.
On that day the people were in awe and fear and confusion
    And asking what they should do.

And Peter - yes, the same guy who had not even two months before denied even knowing Jesus -
stood up and stepped forward to address the crowd.

Peter told them what to do      "Repent and be baptized"

On that day three thousand people were baptized

Those people formed the community we call the church
    A community brought together and united by Christ
A community committed to serving God
with one heart  and one soul;       and
A community in which all shared what they had.

The community's leaders were the apostles
    They worked at fulfilling Christ's commission
And through whom Christ healed the bodies and the souls of many

The public was again in awe & the community continued to  grow

But not everyone was in awe
    The Jewish leadership was threatened, upset, and angry;
    They arrested the apostles on differing occasions;
    They demanded that they not speak or heal in Jesus' name;
    They whipped them in the hope of forcing obedience.

But, as we heard Peter say last week
    Christ's followers  could not   stop talking about Jesus

Instead they continued their healing and their preaching
    Adding still other followers to the fold

And that brings us to today
where our text is about     change
and where we find ourselves face to face
with an ironic aspect of Christ's church.

And that irony is that in the church
    Failure to grow     requires change
But     Growing         also requires change

And the irony goes one step further:
    For there are very few institutions that resist change more than the church.

So what we often have
is a church that resists    one of its essential requirements.

We have already observed,
That at the time of our text
the church was in a time of great growth
    And it is that growth that required change in the church.

For that wonderful and exciting growth
Caused or led to problems within the church
In our text,   administrative problems with food distribution

Those problems are set out in one verse,
the first verse of our text [Acts 6:1]

The church was not homogeneous.
There were those like the apostles who primarily spoke Aramaic
The main language in Jerusalem
And Those who primarily spoke Greek
    The main language throughout the world

The growth of the church overwhelmed food distribution
As a result the Greek speaking widows,
perhaps the poorest group in the church,
were not getting their share of the food

Now, external problems - problems from outside a group
    Often unite the group
But internal problems - problems within a group
    Often divide the group.

The problem in our text is internal
     And it goes to two basic tenets of the church
        Providing for widows and children
    And     Serving God as a community with "one heart and soul."

Thus, if the church was to remain the church
    It had to resolve the problem;
    It had to make change;
    It had to adapt to the new situation.

And so,     [Acts 6: 2-7]

This brief text
    Which can be misconstrued as simply background for the upcoming story of Stephen;   and
    Which can mistakenly be seen as dropped in among the stories that actually teach lessons,

Is actually one of Acts' most valuable gifts to the church of today.

This is what happened:
The concept of being unified by Christ to the extent
that all are of one mind, one heart, and one soul
was endangered and threatened
        when some in the group were - or thought they were -
treated more poorly than others
That happens even today.

Some times the perceived inequity
is a product of selfish imagination
    And of not getting ones own way
Some times - as in our scripture - it is real.

But the problem of identifying even real inequity
    Is that then it is oh so easy to jump to the conclusion
That the inequity is intentional
    And     That it can't or won't be corrected.

And this can occur even if (again like in the scripture),
The inequity although real  is not intended.

In the situation of the Greek widows
The inequity came from a structural problem
not from selfish, arrogant, or evil intent.

Second, in order to correct the situation and heal the problem,
    People must talk
        Not with the idea of complaining, whining, and griping
    And Not with an attitude of
"I'm right;  you're wrong; that's it"
    But with the idea of communicating
And with a willingness to listen and correct.

And here, in the scripture that is right in front of us,
we have a nearly 2000 year old example of how to do that.
    An example often ignored in the 21st century.

For in our time, all too many
    would rather complain and separate
Than to attempt to work out a solution.
For working out a solution requires us to listen to each other
That's why the September Readers Digest included
    In a special section of jokes that make one "sound wise"
The story of
a ship finding a man who had been stranded for years alone on an island.

    When the ship's crew went in to rescue the man
they discovered that he had built three huts.
    The man explained,
        "This is my house
        This is my church
        This is the church I used to attend."

In our scripture, however,
the apostles brought together all those involved
    so they might together come up with a remedy to the problem

And they succeeded
    But only after recognizing that the problem was structural:
        The apostles were trying to do too much
            And they simply could not do it.

As we read the scripture we can't miss that there was common ground
    The Greek speaking people plaintively cried out that their widows were not receiving what they should
    The apostles cried out that they "could not set aside proclamation of God's word to serve tables."

Those cries were two parts of the same problem.

A solution was needed
for the good of the Greek speaking widows,
for the good of the apostles themselves,
and     for the good of Christ's church as a whole.
They found that solution.
They found that remedy.

They found them in having the people
select seven people to oversee the food distribution.

It would get the widows the food to which they were entitled
It would free up the apostles to pray and proclaim the word
    Which is what they were called to do
It would keep the church united.

This was a win, win, win solution.
    And they found it because they talked together
    And because they cared enough to listen to each other.

It was a solution that enabled them
to care for those in the church
and to reach out and share Christ with those outside the church.

[an aside:  We should note and remember that the requirement for the seven was not a strong back or a classical education,
    but instead character and faith
    for they were to be of good standing and full of the Spirit and wisdom.]

Churches and congregations are always going to have
    Problems and challenges
But churches and congregation can and should deal with them

That was obvious 2000 years ago
    When the Greek speaking widows were not receiving the food to which they were entitled.