Awe came upon everyone, . . .. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 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 all the people. -Acts 2. 43-46 (NRSV)
Today, we read more and more about the decline of the church. We hear that the Baby Boomers are leaving the church and the Millennials aren’t even interested. Pastors and lay people have tried everything they know in order to win the hearts of people for the way of following Jesus. Even with the recent visit of Pope Francis I in the United States and his obvious great popularity, the Roman Catholic Church in America is seeing a decline in attendance and active ministry.
Clearly, if the church is going to continue to exist, much less thrive, and have purpose and meaning for our world, there is work to be done. I don’t, however, believe that the answer is in catching on to the latest church fad or fashion. After all, many churches have tried to lure people back to church by getting rid of all signs and symbols of church, including the ancient liturgies. Many brought in rock bands and praise music. That didn’t work. Now the trend is back to the ancient practices of the church as we hear from Millennials that they like the “smells and bells.” Some pastors have even gone so far as to adopt the edgy, gritty, “colorful” language and look of the coming generations. I suppose that any of this can be good for God’s people if it is done with integrity and authenticity.
But as I look at the church of Jesus Christ in America and in the world today, I’m convinced that the church needs to do what it has always done . . . follow Jesus. The church has, for centuries, followed Jesus into the hearts and homes of those who need love the most. The church has fed the hungry, clothed the poor, visited those in prison, and, as the scripture tells us, had all things in common; sold their possessions and distributed the proceeds, broke bread and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.
So, let’s “be the church” and remind people who the church really is. Oh, not that there haven’t been problems along the way, but that for more than 2,000 years the followers of Jesus have changed the world. Don’t believe me? Then consider this.
I’ve noticed that this week the Roman Catholic Church is running ads inviting Catholics to “Come Home.” Maybe it’s time we all offer that invitation. Won’t you join me this week and reach out to someone you know who needs a place to belong, who needs a purpose for their living, who needs more than anything else in the world to know that they are loved so that they, in turn, can love others. It may not change the world, but it will change their lives and yours. Come to think of it, that kind of generous invitation will change the world, one heart at a time.
Holy One, remind me just how good you are, and help me to follow in the way of Jesus, offering generous hospitality to others along the way, and I will give you the praise and glory. Amen.