sexta-feira, 24 de abril de 2015

PARADISE LOST


They devoted themselves
to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Acts 2:42 (read 2:42-47) – NIV


The Book of Genesis in the Old Testament portrays the beginning of mankind in a paradise which is described as the Garden of Eden. Everything was perfect: no death, no pain, no sweat, no toil, no cold that needed a blanket and every afternoon there was a walk in the garden with the Creator. There was no hunger, no tiredness, no sadness or disharmony. Everything was the opposite of what came later and still prevails today. All efforts to recreate havens have been frustrated throughout history. The "heavens" always morph into "hells".

The Book of Acts in the New Testament portrays also a “Garden of Eden” which was the Church where brothers and sisters lived together in solidarity by pooling all of their assets. They ate together in their homes with joy and humility. Nobody suffered privation. They praised God for everything. The fraternal life was so admired by the general public that many people flocked to the community of believers.

Just as in the paradise of Genesis, that paradisiacal church had a short life and disappeared forever. All attempts to restore it have been frustrated by the creation of new divisions and ever drifting further and further away from this ideal. Honesty leads us to affirm that the churches that exist today are the opposite of that which was first recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. In the church of today there are pride, rivalry, competition, rejection, disunity, indifference, suspicion and opportunism which accompany the good that it is able to do.

Our challenge today is to live the Kingdom of God where selfishness reigns in its various forms and even disguises itself as a form of piety.

The intended purpose of all institutions is to enhance the well-being of humanity. But at the same time all institutions, including both religious and charitable, offer perfect stages for self-promotion. There is always great quest after the “highest” positions, whether in a political party or a counsel of bishops in a church. Positions that offer the most advantages are the most sought after. I've never seen people quarrel over the privilege of cleaning bathrooms, but I am tired of seeing fierce competition for high positions in the church. Even in the church, it is an honor to be in first place and humiliating to be the least. The bishop is mightier than the janitor. The church has the privilege of hearing the words of Jesus: "The last shall be first and the last shall be first", but those words don’t seem to soak in. With this dispute for advantages even churches, become anti-Kingdom.

Our text shows that the key to how to live the Kingdom in any environment is "solidarity" (They had everything in common.). Solidarity is the spirit of sharing with others according to their needs. Living at the expense of others would be the opposite. Humility is also a part of solidarity. Thinking that we are better than others and that God is on our side more than on their side is also anti-Kingdom. Christians are champions in condemning other religions, believing that only they are right.

Joy is also the fruit of solidarity and is contagious. It shows that we can overcome the difficulties that appear along the way. Praise is a form of joy that comes from the recognition that God is gracious and blesses us beyond our merits. These qualities can show that the Kingdom of God is hope and can transform us into salt and light.


ACTS 2:42-47 – NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV)

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE BELIEVERS

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

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