Having everything in Common…
…It’s an interesting concept when we consider the Word of the Lord today in its’ proper context.
Nero, arguably the most anti-Christian emperor is in charge of the Roman Empire at this time.
Pontius Pilate is long dead and Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians has already warned of the anti-Christ’s imminent arrival almost 8 years before the Acts of the Apostles would be routinely heard by 1st century church listeners.(2 Thess. 2:4 52AD)
If ever there was a time of eager anticipation for the return of Christ…this was the time.
I can only imagine that money…personal possessions and resources mattered little to them, with their likely expectation of Christ’s return.
And the early church Father’s felt the anti-Christ would be in the line of the Roman Emperors (LSB Note 2 Thess. 2:4)
And Nero certainly fit the description, so their hope would not be in their possessions but rather in Christ’s Return to save them.
As the Acts of the Apostles were read in churches throughout the empire it inspired God’s people to share with their brothers and sisters in Christ in need.
Galatians 6:2 likewise reaffirmed these exhortations in 51-53 AD saying, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
This sharing and caring had all the essential components: Motive, means and opportunity.
Motivated by the love of their Savior Jesus who died and rose from the dead giving eternal hope for eternal life for sinners...
The means of the Holy Spirit working through the church in Word and Sacrament so carefully laid out in Acts 2:42.
And the opportunity of a lifetime to give the most impoverished people of all, those who do not know Christ; the wealth of forgiveness won by Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross.
Now too often, this is heard and preached today the opposite of how God intended.
Just a cursory reading of the text will falsely lead pastors to preach a sermon that says something like this:
(In a truncated voice) “Today I want you to find that member that is in poverty, out of work or homeless…
…then I want you to fulfill the law of Christ, as directed by Paul and inspired the Christians in the Acts of the Apostles and minister to their needs out of your abundance!”
“For example, give your money to the poor person, if you’re a business owner; employ the unemployed and if you have an extra house, let the homeless live there.”
Ok, you get the gist, now all the poor have money, those without jobs are gainfully employed, and the homeless are housed. Mission accomplished right?
It’s almost as if our Lord said, “GO FETCH”. And we proudly brought Jesus exactly what He wanted…OH YOUR SUCH A GOOD BOY…WHOSE A GOOD GIRL…YOU ARE!!!
Or even worse, than our tail wagging sinful pride, is the demanding by the impoverished, unemployed and homeless who use Scripture to bully those with means into surrendering their resources with-out merit.
Hey, you have more money than I do; God says you have to share it with me!
I see you own a company, I don’t have a job and God says you have to employ me.
Or the homeless says, “Hey…you have an extra room in your house, Jesus says that’s supposed to be my mansion too!”
It’s an easy mistake we all make when we don’t take a second look at this text.
There was one who has demanded help for years to get out of poverty. Tens of thousands of dollars complied with their demands for help and yet they still remain impoverished to this day.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Non-Fiction Book, Cross Creek, just north of here in Micanopy outside Gainesville; tells the tale of how she employed a friend’s husband in order to get him out of jail, and help on her orchard.
But he left shortly after he realized his obligations in the orchard cut into his time to eat Marjorie’s food, drink all her whiskey and relax all the day long on her screened in porch.
And guest houses have been offered to the homeless by generous members here at Faith, at the behest of Pastor’s encouragement.
Unfortunately the homeless guests treated the accommodations with utter disdain and had to be asked to leave.
The hard lessons of preaching and reading today’s lesson incorrectly have been learned again and again in our very own community.
If you read today’s lesson and Galatians 6:2 in such a way that you force some to bear the burdens of others, Galatians 6:4-5 helps us to see it for what it is,
“But let each one test his own work and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not his neighbor. For each one will have to bear his own load.”
When we find ourselves in circumstances where we want to blame others, or make demands on others…
…we are motivated by the crushing weight of laws and rules that will never let us escape the consequences of our own inept actions that caused our demise to begin with.
The Apostle Paul says UTIOTHS in Galatians 2:19-10, “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
When Christ is living in us and amongst us then we get to live just a little bit like our eternal life to come.
When we proclaim Christ is Risen, just as the Apostles did in the first century; like the early church God’s grace and mercy flows out from us like a gift we can freely give and not as one demanding compulsory servitude of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I demand you to bear my burden? NEVER, I bear my burden because I am in Christ and He is in me.
There is no need for demands because it has already been given as a free gift, a gift as from the Lord.
I have seen this demonstrated powerfully here at Faith. Just a few years back a young son of the congregation was admitted to the hospital for major elective surgery and no health insurance to cover it.
A member of our congregation took it upon themselves to set up a fundraiser to help the young man with tens of thousands of dollars without the young man asking for even a single penny.
I have seen employers at church offer the unemployed jobs before the unemployed even knew there were job opportunities to be had.
Most of all I have seen church members doing all these things, not out of compulsion to do as scripture says but rather out of joy in response to all Christ has done for them.
Now let me be clear, I have also seen many go back to the burden and fallacy of fulfilling the law, and falling short every time, and that is why we need the love and forgiveness of Jesus every day.
Living in Christ means forgiving in Christ.
Forgiving the unending mistakes of the impoverished and being grateful for those that teach us we are all impoverished beggars because of sin.
Bearing with the unemployed because we have all failed in our Jobs, and we are blessed by God to have careers in spite of those failures.
And showing tenderheartedness to the homeless, because this is not our home either…only the new heavens and new earth will be our permanent dwelling with God.
The only reason any of us has anything is because Jesus gave up everything and gave it to us.
He was willing to give up His heavenly family, so we could be a part of the eternal family.
He was willing to give up His supreme majesty so our lives could be lived in His glory.
He was willing to give up His last breath of life to breathe eternal living into each and every one of us at the last.
Because of Jesus sinners are now saints, the burden of the law is now life lived in love and there is nothing we can ever give or take by right that supersedes the gifts given in Jesus.
His presence is the best present we will ever get, and be allowed to give to anyone who has need of it. AMEN.