First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 2, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“You Were Made for Community!”
Psalm 133; Acts 1:12-14
We’ve been looking at the forty-day period between Christ’s resurrection and His ascension into heaven. It’s an important period in the life of the church of Jesus Christ, and yet, it’s least explored by most of us. I believe there is so much we can learn from that time.
Last Sunday we pondered an important question: what did Jesus do during this forty-day period? What did He talk about? In the Book of Acts chapter 1, Luke seems to give us a glimpse of this important time. In Acts 1:3, Luke says, “After his suffering Jesus presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” Last week I pointed out that during these forty days, Jesus wanted the disciples to have deep confidence and assurance of His resurrection. Luke said, “Jesus presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs.” There should be no place for any doubt. He also wanted to make sure that God’s kingdom is His disciples’ highest priority … “appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”
This morning we continue to explore more of this period as we focus on how Christ deepened the disciples’ understanding of community. Community was so central and so important to the movement of Jesus of Nazareth. From day one, Jesus invited those whom He has called into a communal life where they can lean on each other, encourage each other, and be there for each other. Yes, this community was not always perfect, yet, it was always central to the Jesus movement.
For three full years, Jesus invested most of His time forming and building this community. He lived with His disciples. He taught them. They wrestled with the hard questions of life together. He knew that this community will continue what He has started.
Needless to say, the crucifixion and death of Christ hit that community so hard. It shattered this community. After the death of Jesus, the disciples scattered and most of them went back to their previous lives. But after the glorious news of Christ’s resurrection, this community is glued back together again. In Acts 1:12-14 Luke speaks about this community. This morning I would like to speak about the formation of this community and what does it mean to us today.
First: The Formation of this Community
In Acts 1:14, Luke tells us “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.” “Together” is a key word in here.
How did this happen? These eleven disciples had distinct personalities and often struggled with one another. On one occasion, James and John sneakily asked Jesus if they could be His right-hand men. This of course aggravated the other disciples. And Simon the Zealot probably couldn’t stand being around Levi the tax collector seeing him as a traitor to his people. I bet that most of the other disciples were probably jealous of Peter, James and John because Jesus always took them on special trips. And think about the friction between Mary and Martha when Martha felt as if she did all the work and Mary received all the blessing from Jesus.
Luke also makes a special note of the fact that the disciples were joined by some certain women as well as Jesus’ brothers; whether these were real brothers or cousins, it doesn’t really matter. I find it interesting that during Jesus’ lifetime, his brothers didn’t believe that He was the Messiah (John 7:5). Quite the opposite, they actually thought He was out of His mind (Mark 3:21-35). The resurrection of Christ must’ve transformed the lives of James and Jude and made them go from being non-believers to becoming influential leaders in the early church both writing a book in the Bible.
What we witness in these forty days is the birth of a new community. A community that prays together; dreams together; and works together. They became like brothers and sisters, sure they still wrestled over issues from time to time but through prayer they had a bond that was stronger than any differences. They realized they weren’t competitors; they were on the same team. From this, we can draw one single implication.
Second: Don’t Go it Alone, You Were Made for Community
If community is at the heart of Jesus movement, we should make it our priority to unite ourselves with the Body of Christ. Faith is a journey and it’s not meant to be traveled alone. We live in a very individualistic and disconnected culture. Yet individualism and doing life on our own is not part of God’s design. After all, God is a community in Himself. Existing for all of eternity past, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have enjoyed the love and fellowship of their perfect triune community.
Scripture is all about community. We weren’t created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in a humble, worshipful, and loving dependency upon God and in a loving and humble interdependency with others. Yet, the foolishness of sin tells us that we have all that we need within ourselves. So we hold our struggles within, not taking advantage of the resources God has given us.
Friends, community is extremely important. We get fed in this community. We are protected in this community. We are safer in this community. We reach our potential in the church community. We love and we are loved in this community. We exercise our spiritual gifts in this community. We get blessed and we become a blessing to others in this community.
Among the many lessons we’ve got to learn since the beginning of the pandemic, is the importance of the church community. I hope we continue to value that. I also hope that sometime soon everyone will feel safe to gather at the Lord’s House. I think we can see some light at the end of that long and dark tunnel. I was glad this week to read that the CDC announced this week that fully vaccinated people who wear masks can safely attend indoor events including worship services. I personally cannot wait to see everyone back to worship because it’s so wonderful, it’s awesome to travel this journey of faith together. “For there the Lord,” says David in Psalm 133:3, “bestows His blessing, even life forevermore.” Amen.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.