“they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts praising God and enjoying the favour of all” [ Acts 2 v 46]
Sometimes God is worshipped and experienced in the stillness, sometimes in the tumult. Pentecost was certainly the latter and that experience led the first Christians into an emotional and exuberant outburst of joy and gladness! Gladness for what God had done through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, gladness at the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. There was gladness in the home, in the temple and out on the streets. As an outworking of that gladness the Church demonstrated an extravagant generosity “none had need”.
Such an attitude to the vulnerable was a real counter cultural statement of intent to a world of selfishness and greed. What an exciting and vibrant fellowship they must have been and what a challenge they present to us to make Gladness and Generosity a joyous and engaging Holy Habit which fuses together a celebratory and a sacrificial element to our religious life. We have a lot of work to do here. Can we allow ourselves to enjoy those celebratory aspects of our faith and be committed to let them impact on others? But we may not always feel glad or generous so let’s remember that it is often in the darkest places that the light of gladness or joy can shine most brightly. At the root of giving is a generous and cheerful spirit born out of thankfulness for what God has done for us which prompts us to respond in gladness and joy. There should be no “ought” about being glad and generous. Paul believed that Christian joy remains whatever mood we may be in so he encourages us to share each other’s joys as we respond to Gods generosity. Also in Corinthians it says, ‘Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
As we experience the generous, extravagant love and grace of God, a natural response must be to pass on that generosity to others. Our Churches are often places where many are generous with their gifts and their time, through the various activities that we run for church and community. But could the ‘doing’ part be the easy bit? The biggest challenge of this habit is to link Generosity with Gladness. If we are so busy doing good that we are too tired to be glad for the opportunity to serve those around us, doesn’t that diminish the generous act?
“they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” [Acts 2 v 46f]
All the way through the Holy Habits process we have emphasized the practical outworking of each Habit so that we not only understand, worship, bible study, prayer etc., but we worship, pray, study with more regularity and intensity born out of that understanding.
Today’s text [see heading above] speaks volumes about what the early Christians DID to enrich their new found faith in Jesus their Saviour. Their response was communal, joyful, hospitable and effective. People asked questions about what they were doing and why, and were positively influenced in mission terms, the result being the church grew day by day. As the new Christians learnt to integrate behavioral change into their life of faith, central to its life together is the “breaking of the bread” with “glad and generous hearts”. What a simple, wonderful way to celebrate such an event that had brought so radical a transformation to their lives.
Often accompanied by prayer and worship, the breaking of bread became a meal not only of remembrance but of declaring the now presence of Jesus as well as anticipating the future banquet of the Kingdom. Such a wide embrace of God’s love for the entire world meant that all were welcome and so Jews eat with Gentiles, rich with poor, slave with master. The very act of eating together was a demonstration of the gospel message.
So what are we DOING that demonstrates with few or no words the gospel of love, welcome, change and hope? What CAN we do that we are not doing in our homes, neighborhood, workplace, schools? Whatever we might think is possible give it the test – IS IT communal, joyful, hospitable, effective?