Thursday, June 5, 2014

Gathered Together

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Act 1:12-14)
“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the Mothe or Jesus, and his brothers. “ Prayer, it is what the church does. It is almost it’s entire reason for existence. The church is strong when it prays. Luther blamed the reformation on prayer in the large catechism. It’s a bit odd though, because many Christians see prayer as a sort of last hope. They don’t start praying until things are going bad for them. But I have to give them credit, at least they start praying then. Here the early church is gathered, in the name of Christ and they are praying with one accord. This already is the work of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is his domain, He is the one who takes our prayers and translates them before the Father putting the best construction on everything we say. He is the one who calls and gathers us together. And gathering us together in prayer, well it is there that he begins and from there that great things happen, like Pentecost, which never would have happened if the church had not at first been gathered together in prayer. The Holy Spirit finds it important that the church be gathered together, that they be of one accord which cannot happen if they are not gathered together. Sure, there are always those who can’t be in church for one reason or another. But to forsake the gathering of the saints and to find it unimportant to be gathered together for the sake of hearing God’s word and partaking of the sacraments, well that is to forsake Christianity and to despise the Holy Spirit. It isn’t Christian.
This doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to agree with everything everyone else is doing. You may even have qualms with the direction of the church, question new worship practices, wonder as to the propriety of certain expenditures. These things are common in any organization, business, or club. But they do not relieve the Christian of his need to be gathered together with the other saints. This is because we gather together to hear God’s word, and to receive his grace and the forgiveness of sins in the sacraments, even those sins we commit as a church or against one another in a voter’s meeting. These are the things that create the one accord among us and sustain it even amidst disagreement. And disagreement is healthy as it is for every organization and club. A person would have to look with bewilderment at a board of directors that always voted unanimously. One would have to wonder if there was any leadership on the board? If anyone was thinking, or if somehow the entire board had become a bunch of puppets for one man, a herd of lemmings headed for a cliff. And that is most often what you find in an organization without disagreement.  That is to say, perhaps your voice needs to be heard, even if it is ignored. The church is greater than all of that. The one accord of faith transcends all of it. And one would hope that it would also inspire us to give voice to our disagreement in agreeable ways, which are more apt to gain hearers anyway, remembering that these with whom we are gathered are brothers and sisters in Christ. This means that the eighth commandment ought to hold sway in our hearts, and we should address our brothers and sisters directly, and calmly out of love if we have a grievance, rather than through gossip and back biting. (This is true of the pastor too.) Often it is found that we don’t know all the factors that have led to a decision, or perhaps a decision was reached because of ignorance of factors that weren’t brought to one’s attention beforehand. And then we have to remember that it is forgiveness that is the glue that holds us all together. We have been forgiven, and are forgiven and therefore should be forgiving.

Luke ends this section telling us that Jesus own family was in the upper room. That they are even in Jerusalem is not recorded in the synoptic gospels. John lets us know that his mother visits him at the cross. But up until now we only hear of the family’s unbelief. Nothing is said of their conversion or when and where it happened. Perhaps at the cross itself. That they would have been in Jerusalem makes sense as we are told it was custom for them to go for the Passover. They were not the type of family to make excuse whether of expense or time, or work to not go either to synagogue (not even commanded in the O.T. But attended for the sheer joy of studying God’s word and joining with others in worship, knowing that God is there blessing those who do such things) or to the Temple when required by the law. We can learn a lot from such customs and traditions of Christ’s own pious family. Where the Church was, there they wanted to be also. 

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