Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The word of God grew and multiplied . . .

The fact remains that we do not produce anything. We don't manufacture widgets or grow plants. What we do is tell a powerful story of how we have experienced God's work in the world. What grows, as a result, is not the Church, but the Word, the story, itself. It is God that plants, nurtures, and reaps the harvest. We are the means by which God accomplishes God's purposes. In other words, it is not our mission, but God's.

In Acts 12, we are told that "The word of God grew and multiplied." It is important to note that it was not the church that grew and multiplied - but the Word of God. The fact makes me think that sometimes, we in the church get it all a bit backwards.

Image result for barnabas and saul
We often believe, I think, that we continue to operate out of a fundamentally institutional model of church. We think it's a business -- a holy business, granted -- but a business nonetheless. We tend to think of our Gospel proclamation as our "product" and build our efforts around marketing and public relations.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we are presented with the image of a harvest so abundant that it must be shared. The experience of the early Church is not unlike am investor in a bull market -- so many good things are happening in the lives of so many people, that the stories cannot be contained. Ultimately, they must share what they receive.

This is so opposite our own experience of Church in these days. They did not experience anxiety over dwindling resources or get discouraged about hemorrhaging congregations. For the most part, our discussions of late are not about a going-out but a going-away. Not about sharing but about loss.
Re-reading the accounts from Act in Eastertide is a good reminder that the key element in all these stories is generosity: not stories of in-gathering, but of giving away. Success for them was not so much about building up large congregations or "growing" the Church. It was simply about going -- and sharing what they had and what they knew.

Perhaps we need to practice this a bit more in our own experience. Perhaps we need to simply "to go and to share" the abundant grace that comes from all that God has done and continues to do in our lives. Just go and share -- and God will do the rest.

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