Spirit, Word and Sacrament
Living in Holy Community Fr. John Wesley
Psalm 37:25 says; I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.
What does it mean to live in holy community? This is a great testimony that says God does not forsake His own. He provides adequate provisions for those who live righteously.
St Ambrose says; That we are "Not Abandoned by God. "
If you take it at face value, the meaning is obvious: in his own lifetime, David never saw the just forsaken. But a lifespan is brief, and the statement is moreover incredible. We have seen plenty of just people in this world who have been forsaken by people as soon as those just ones are persecuted by people in power. No one dares to go near them so long as they are subject to fear and injury.
Remember what Job said:“My brothers have departed far from me, they recognize strangers more than they recognize me; my friends have become merciless and those who knew me once have forgotten even my name.” As for David, not only was he deserted, but also he was even attacked by his friends and those closest to him by family ties: “My friends,” he says, “and my neighbors have advanced against me.” How, I ask, can David state that which is the exact opposite of this? We can only understand it in this sense: the just person, even if forsaken by the world, is not abandoned by the Lord. Even Job on his dunghill was not deserted by the Lord. In the council of the angels, the Lord had praised Job with his own voice; and he allowed him to be tempted only so that he might win the crown. He allowed Job’s body to undergo severe testing, but he spared his life.
The Bread of the Righteous - Origen: They can never be oppressed by the fasting of famine whose bread is that “they should do the will of the Father who is in heaven” and whose soul that “bread that comes down from heaven” nourishes.
My connection from the Psalmist in the Old Testament brings me to my understanding of Acts chapter 2 in the New Testament. Its a new covenant of community in Christ. If we read the biblical understanding of holiness through the lens of our relationship to God, Jesus, as the unique revelation of God, becomes preeminent. Too often, our notions of holiness are lifted from the Old Testament without understanding them in light of God's self-revelation in Jesus.
Those who have responded in faith to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ have been united with Christ. To be a Christian means far more than merely to believe in God—as if the Christian faith were reducible to a system of beliefs. Rather, it means to be united with Jesus in and through the Holy Spirit.
"I have been crucified with Christ," says Paul, "and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). Elsewhere, Paul tells us that our lives are "hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3) and that we have been "seated with [God] in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6). Passages like these convey the mysterious, yet utterly real fact that, by virtue of our union with Jesus, we participate in the life of God: He dwells in us, and we dwell in him. As such, we can say that in Christ, God's holiness is our holiness. In Christ, we are already holy. Any and all subsequent notions of what it means to be holy must be predicated on this truth.
The community in Acts Two was characterized by four types of activities:
First, they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles (διδαχή).
Biblical instruction is vital for new converts who may not have heard the message of Jesus and his teachings. The apostles are witnesses passing along the things which they have seen and heard. It is entirely possible that the apostles had common set of instruction which they regularly passed along to new converts. If this is the case, then there was a basic body of tradition within months of the death of Jesus which could be called the “teaching of the apostles.” Emmaus Abbey provides teaching in classical Christianity called "Following Jesus Series"
Second, they devoted themselves to fellowship (κοινωνία).
Emmaus Abbey is missions oriented and seeks to share in helping those in need. At the very least this includes alms and care for the poor. I would suggest that many of those who needed assistance were Diaspora pilgrims who accepted the message of Jesus and remained in Jerusalem rather than to return home after Pentecost. We reach out to veterans, local residents in our community and others in order to be God in the flesh.
Third, they devoted themselves to “breaking of bread.”
While this phrase can be used of sharing a meal together, it is likely that Luke is describing the community as celebrating some form of communion. In Luke 21:19 the same words are used as Jesus takes bread and breaks it. In Luke 24:35, on the road to Emmaus, it is used for the resurrected Jesus breaking bread as two disciples realized who he was. I think that Jesus’ practice of common meals was the foundation for this practice — they all ate and drank together as one group.
Fourth, they devoted themselves to prayers.
Since the Greek is plural this is plausibly a reference to daily prayers in the Temple. It would not be unusual for Jewish men to go to the Temple several times a day to pray, so the community continues to worship at the Temple regularly. In fact, Acts 2:46 indicates that the disciples met in both private homes and in the Temple. This likely put them into contact with other observant Jews who would then be introduced to Jesus as Messiah. Our prayer is to be a church that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if we could manage the man hours to do so.
This would take an enormous amout of manpower and money, but I believe this could be done in our community.
I believe Luke is describing an ideal Christian community of believers. We at Emmaus want to bring a sense of community, outreach and welcoming to those God sends to us. In the process of being devoted to these community activities, we do not want to miss the opportunity that when others join the fellowship that they also bring talents to enrich the community.
The fact that these earliest believers are devoted to these activities daily is also unique in the apostolic period. There is no other group of believers who appear to have left their jobs to devote themselves to spiritual activity. In 1-2 Thessalonians Paul seems to instruct the members of the church to not retire from daily life and be constantly devoted to ministry. 2 Thess 3:11-12 specifically tells people to go out and get jobs so that they are not a burden.
What is the reason Christians are quick to apply Acts 2:42 but not Acts 2:43 (miracles) or 2:44-45 (communal living)? What is the difference between what is happening in Acts2 and 2 Thessalonians 3? Hope you take some time to study our purpose in being a church reaching out to others.