Thursday, February 24, 2011

Week Seven: How does the outpouring of the Holy Spirit change the followers of Jesus? Why do you think one of the responses of the believers was to share their economic resources? Is this still relevant for today?

             In Acts, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the glue that brings together the early church community in their mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. When I think of Pentecost, I think of the word “unity.” In many ways, unity describes what happened in the community as a result of the Spirit’s coming (Van Voorst 287). First, I do not think it was coincidental that “when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2.1, emphasis mine). It is no mistake that the Holy Spirit comes in this moment, with believers of all backgrounds “together in one place.” It is in this one place that this diverse group of individuals truly becomes one body, one church, with one shared experience in the Spirit. And this Spirit gives each of them the ability to speak in tongues, in other languages (Acts 2.4), which we find out enables each of them to hear one another proclaiming the good news in their native tongue (Acts 2.6). Through this experience, they are given the gift of the Spirit, which transcends even the linguistic and cultural differences among them, thus creating a mysterious and beautiful unity.
            This Pentecost experience, resulting in the bond of the Holy Spirit, is what I think lead the early church to share their economic resources. Acts speaks of the early church community having “all things in common” (Acts 2.44), selling their possessions, and giving to all those in need (Acts 2.45). These actions were the natural outgrowth of the radical unity and equality brought about by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Just as the Spirit fell on each and every member of the community (including women), resources were shared equally within the community. This sharing of economic resources was a tangible way of expressing and living out the gift of unity in the Spirit. I think this concept is still very relevant today; in fact, I would point to this way of life in community as one of the main lessons today’s church should take from the Bible. New monastic communities have been a powerful witness to the relevance of economic sharing, inviting the church to imagine the possibilities of living in true community. The church in Acts, as well as new monastic communities, challenge us to live into a vision of community that goes far beyond coffee hour on Sunday morning, a vision of community in which our very lives are intertwined and interdependent.

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