"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers . . . . Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved." - Acts 2: 42, 46 - 47
Sometimes church seems to get awfully complex and terribly busy. So many different groups, organizations, activities, projects, and agendas. We end up going in a hundred different directions and a newcomer may feel as if she has wandered into Grand Central Station instead of a church.
I have a feeling that this busy—too busy—church may be coming to an end, dying, in our own time. I have a sense that there's a yearning, deep and beyond easy articulation, for something we might call "simple church." Not simplistic. Not silly. But simple. Focused on the few things that matter: faithful teaching, fellowship and prayer, sharing bread together and praising God.
There's a way in which our own time is witnessing a breakdown of church as we have known it. But at least sometimes a breakdown can lead to a break-through. A break-through to . . . simple church?
For the first disciples there had definitely been a big-time breakdown. Everything went to hell. One betrayed Jesus, another denied him, and all the rest deserted him. Jesus died. But God surprised them. Beyond that time of terrible breakdown, there was an amazing break-through to a new community and a new time.
In our own times and experiences of things breaking down, can we glimpse the new church that is breaking through, that is being born among us?
Help us, dear God, not to cling so tightly to what has been that we stand in the way of something new and better being born, by your grace, in our lives, in our churches. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.