By Rev. Linda Dolby
Dr. J. Edward Moyers was the professor of Music Ministries and Director of the Seminary Singers while I attended Wesley Theological Seminary. His least favorite hymn in the entire world was "In the Garden." "Too individualistic! Too pietistic!" he would thunder. Finally came the final concert before he retired. At the last rehearsal before the last concert, Dr. Moyers prepared to lead the Singers in the anthem, the one to be the grand finale of his career. He nodded to his long-sufferring wife, who had been his accompanist for 40 years, to begin. She played...ln the Garden....the Seminary Singers sang...ln the Garden....and finally, the befuddled Dr. Moyers directed...ln the Garden. When all 3 verses were finished, Dr. Moyers looked at his mischevious choir and said, "I just don't understand. She's been following these hands for 40 years and now look at what has happened! She's gone individualistic and pietitstic on me!"
I come to the garden alone...yes, it is individualistic and pietistic, but that's ok by me, from time to time. Sometimes on a beautiful Spring morning when all the trees are budding, the birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming and "In the Garden" is appropriate...a hymn that describes something like falling in love - ...and he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me Iam his own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known....it's almost like falling in love, this relationship we share, my Maker and I.
You know, a day like today make it almost bearable to live in Lafayette through the dreary winters. I once heard Dianne Roehm say that in the midst of winter she almost always forgets how marvelous is Spring. In the midst of winter, she forgets the beauty of her garden, the wonder of the smell of freshly mown grass, the delight of awaking to singing of the birds. How many of us loiter in winter when it is already spring?
I remember a phone call from my daughter when she was in college. She was all anxious and uptight about the pressures of finishing the semester, what courses she would take next semester, what was she going to do this summer? And what will happen when she graduates next year? As she was spazzing out, I said, "wait Emily." It's Spring. You are in New York City. You are falling in like. Take a deep breath and just enjoy. All those questions will be answered. But for now, breathe and enjoy." Breathe and enjoy.
Our lesson from Acts paints a picture of the Christian community behaving as if it were the beginning of a love affair. In terms of the human they expressed the highest forms of togetherness and generosity, and in terms of the divine they experienced wondrous signs.
Hear these words again: "All who believed were together and had all things in common...they spent much time together. ..they ate with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people." Wow, what a wonderful place! Gee, I wish I had a community like that! Don't you?
Well, my friends, this a description of the first church, do you think they might have a thing or two to teach us? Do you think we might make it our goal to be this way, praising God, having goodwill and glad and generous hearts? What would happen if we did? Well, scripture says that day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Light attracts light. Love attracts love.
Do you think it might be possible for a first time visitor to our church might say, "There was just something special about that place...it's like the people loved each other...and they loved me, even though they didn't know me."
Do you remember the theme song from the television show Cheers?
Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn't you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same You wanna be where everybody knows your name. You wanna go where people know, people are all the same, You wanna go where everybody knows your name. You want to go where people know, people are all the same; You want to go where everybody knows your name.
Of course this song is talking about going to a bar. What if it were talking about going to church? ..,.... a place to take a break from your worries, where everyone knows your name and they're always glad you came...You want to go where everybody knows your name. Sounds like a great church to me.
What would it be like to be part of such a church? Well, it would be a lot like the early church as described in the New Testament. A place where everyone's basic needs were always met. A community where everyone had friends. A community where the royal law of love ruled.
Do you remember Jack Benny? Two trademarks of his public persona were his uncanny ability to pinch pennies and the vault in his basement where he kept his money. Though he was quite gracious in his private life, Benny's public stinginess was so well known that Ford Motor Company used it in their advertising - "Pinch a Penny like Benny
And a typical television sketch went something like this: A robber would approach Benny, point a gun at him, and say, "Your money or your life." There would be a long pause as Benny hesitated. Again the robber would say, "Your money or your life." Benny paused again and then, with exquisite timing, replied, "I'm thinking, "I'm thinking." Inevitably there'd be loud laughter from the studio audience . . .
Our text teaches us that the ideal Christian community is characterized by unity of heart and soul, with unselfish sharing with glad and generous hearts. Whereas today our American culture emulates Benny, encouraging avarice, envying accumulation, and celebrating greed, Luke tells us that the early Christians divested themselves of their wealth for the sake of generous compassion toward the needy. And they did so gladly.
Breathe. Enjoy. You are named and you are good. God knows your name. This day is made for you. Jesus came that you might have life, and have it abundantly. You are part of a loving community, made up of saints and sinners who have glad and generous hearts.
In a few moments we will be receiving communion. All are welcome. All will be fed. And we will leave this place with glad and generous hearts. May it be so. Amen.
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