Strengthening the Community
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Rodney S. Sadler Jr., Lectionary Team Commentator
Lection - Acts 2:42-47
(New Revised Standard Version)
(v. 42) They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (v. 43) Awe came upon everyone,
because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.(v. 44) All
who believed were together and had all things in common; (v. 45) they would
sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all,
as any had need. (v. 46) 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
and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, (v. 47) praising
God and having the goodwill of all the people.
And day by day the Lord added to their number
those who were being saved.
I. Description of the Liturgical Moment
After the joyous celebration that is Easter we turn our attention now to the “so-what” of the faith.
What does it mean that Jesus Christ has been resurrected? What tangible impact does that have on our
identities and on our lives in this world? What happens when resurrection power mixes with our lives
and remixes our communities?
Remix is a musical term and it means “to recombine (audio tracks or channels from a recording) to
produce a new or modified audio recording.”1
To remix something then means to take something old
and make it something new, with a new sound, new tune, new tempo, or a new rhythm. A ballad could
be remixed into a breakdance rhythm, a hymn into hip hop, or reggae into a rap. Remixing creates
a new song and dance for a new day in the liturgical club.
For this lectionary reading when we use the term resurrection remix we are simply talking about
the resurrection in a fresh way in light of the needs of the African American community.
It means that not only do we celebrate that Jesus was resurrected, but by mixing our lives
with the reality of the resurrection, the black community can live again in new ways because
the resurrection remixes us. Mixing our lives with the reality of the resurrection suggests
that the African American community can have a new tune in the world and be stronger and
better because of it. Poor and rich, outsider and insider, hip-hop and hymnist, all coming
together through the resurrection remixing us. On this Sunday, this remix may take the form
of mixing up the community a bit inside the church so that folks outside the church on the
streets are made welcome by the church folk. “Remix” Sunday may even introduce initiatives
that aim to help the wider community in order to become a stronger community.
The holy hymn “He is Lord” could even be remixed into a holy hip hop sound on this particular Sunday,
remixing the vibes of God’s resurrection power.
On Easter Sunday, we recognized the implications for us as individuals. But Christ’s
transforming resurrecting power extends beyond our individual lives. It impacts
how we come together in families and alters how we understand community.
Resurrection remixes our notions of community. In this moment, we will consider
the power of this great Pentecostal passage for the formation of a remixed community in our midst.
II. Biblical Interpretation for Preaching and Worship: Acts 2:42-47
Part One: Contemporary Contexts of the Interpreter
As a poor kid raised in inner-city Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ, I have long appreciated this passage.
I know what poverty looks like and know how hard it is to overcome by oneself. Overcoming the
hardships associated with total systemic failures in North Camden or West Philly took the support
of a community of committed people. I found the support and encouragement of community in church.
I was reminded that it takes a village to raise a child.
I later worked for the Congress of National Black Churches and became more thoroughly convinced
that the solutions to the persistent problems plaguing African Americans were to be found in
Christ and in Christ’s body, the Church. The Black Church, still the only institution in which
African Americans exercise decisive agency, holds the possibility of Christian community as
expressed in Acts 2:42-47. Overcoming the host of crises threatening our black flesh begins
with the Spirit forging Christian community in the Church and when the Spirit blows you
together, you cannot break apart.
Part Two: Biblical Commentary
Acts 2 is remarkable for many reasons. One reason is because of the wonder-working
power of the Holy Spirit, or the “Holy Ghost” as many African American Christians say.
This Pentecost passage shows the power of the Holy Ghost to bring about unity amid
diversity and to forge community from those of different backgrounds.
The Spirit’s fire reshapes and remixes these individuals from an old way
of relating into a new way of being, a new community that talks of God
and walks in God so that all needs are met. At first glance, one might
think that the miracle of unity is no big deal because all Jews are alike,
right? Wrong! The author demonstrates differences between the Jews gathered
from around the Hellenistic world. Jews of different hues from different
hoods of various parts of North and Northeastern Africa, Southern Asia, and
even Europe were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate that particular
Pentecost. It was a party that no one wanted to miss and it was a party
that they would never forget. On this day, at this Pentecostal party,
these mixed Jews were going to be remixed by the Spirit for a new way of being community in the world.
Likewise, one could wrongly assume that because most members of black churches
are ostensibly “black” they are all pretty much the same because some folks
think all black people are alike. But anyone who has spent any time in ministry
in an African American congregation can attest to the fact that members of our
congregations may share a common hue, but that doesn’t mean we are all alike.
In fact, having the same hue does not mean we help each other as we should.
We are different—different because of class, career,
calling, and concepts. Integration, regional disparities,
and ideological distinctions further complicate matters
making the “black community” more of a fictive concept
than a discernable reality. Even the languages we speak
are different. Anyone raised in the era of Marvin Gaye,
the Jackson 5, and the Supremes can attest to this if
they have ever tried to communicate with those from
the Jay-Z, P-Diddy, and Destiny’s Child’s era; we do
not all speak the same language! 2008 primary elections
have divided the African American vote between Barack Obama
and Hillary Clinton and the 2004 presidential election divided
the African American vote over abortion and gay marriage, showing
us that our political views are no longer routinely similar.
We are different. No longer is it even certain that our church
members who commute from outer-city suburbs to our inner-city churches
feel affinity for those un-churched brothers and sisters they pass-by
along the way. As in our churches, the crowd in this narrative, despite
their differences, were assembled only because of their common faith.
These mixed Jews were remixed by the Spirit for a new way of being
community in the world.
The motley crew in this story is united by the power of the Holy Spirit who
bridges the differences between them and makes of many languages, voices,
and backgrounds, one community in Christ. One can hear the sighs of the
Spirit—out of many, one people. This unity is crystallized by the
conversion and baptism of some 3,000 members of this group into
a Eucharistic community of shared faith and disciplines.
The differences that distinguished the crowd at the beginning of the chapter no
longer serve to divide the people at its end. They are remixed through the
Spirit of the resurrection. The Holy Ghost is the spiritual glue bonding
different flesh together in Christ.
glue binds the Black Church because black people are
historically a “Spiritual” people. Our preachers preach in
we get filled with
the Spirit, we are led by
the Spirit, we move
when the Spirit says move. But, do we always do what the Spirit does? Do we
ever quench the Spirit? In this passage, God’s Spirit unifies a divided
Christian community; where our community is divided, do we allow the Spirit
free reign to unify us? The Spirit’s presence is more than preachers whoopin’
and hollerin’ and people gittin’ happy; it’s more than runnin’ in aisles and
talkin’ in tongues. The sign of the Spirit is unity despite difference and
if you got religion, you better show a sign!
The sign is crystal clear in verses 44-45—supernatural sharing. This chapter
begins with a hodge-podge of Jews from mixed backgrounds but ends with a remixed
community. Before, they were separated but now they were integrated and
expressed their concern for each other by action
. People who were different were
unified and shared their wealth so no one went without. Every need was met and as such,
we are called to be more than a conceptual community; Christian community is more
than ideas…it is expressed in actions
. A remixed community means that some
will have to give up something in order for others to get something, to receive what they need
Resurrection remixes our communities with the Holy Ghost so that those with more give to those with less.
A remixed community accounts for the differences in prosperity, power, and
privilege between the members of our community. The impact of these differences
in opportunity, education, and employment must be addressed in the larger African
American community. To be a true community, we must recognize that while many
of us have forged ahead, many more of us have been left behind. No child left
behind? No person should be left behind. Failing inner-city education systems,
increasing incarceration rates, and epidemic HIV/AIDS infection rates are not
the problems of a conceptual “them,” they are the problems of an actual “us.”
But we will only realize this if we are remixed by the resurrection.
If remixed, we will work toward the solution of these problems with
the same Spirit-led zeal that caused early Christians to pool their resources
and declare their common lot. We need to care for all of our collective
lives with the same enthusiasm with which we care for our individual
lives. In a Spirit-led community, all needs are viewed as common,
all interests are intertwined. “I am because we are.”
Because of this black religious sense, I reject cynical scholars who
believes that the kind of community in Acts 2 never existed.
Such a pessimistic view fails to take seriously the transformative
power of the Spirit of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God is able to
take a fractured humanity and forge a community consisting of difference
(backgrounds, generations, social-locations). God has the power to make
us one in Christ. Such a vision should not be daunting and it should
not be dismissed as impossible for nothing is impossible with the Spirit of God.
At this post-Easter moment, we celebrate God uniting us. Community defeats
division by the power of the Spirit. Despite our differences, a community
is formed. Because of this, we rejoice in the common commitment to our
collective well-being for we are united by a common Spirit in Christ.
Those things that separate us can be seen as unimportant in light of
our new fellowship in the Holy Spirit.
See the community together teaching, eating, praying, and in fellowship;
see wonders and signs being performed by apostles; see possessions and goods
being sold to assist all in the community;
Hear the community in fellowship; listen to their prayers; hear
the awe of the community; hear them praising God;
Smell the breaking of bread/the meal; and
Touch the bread/food.
- ”Remix.” The Free Online Dictionary. Online location: www.thefreeonlinedictionary.com accessed 5 January 2008