(I think I am going to try to remember to post my weekly Sunday night/Monday morning e-mail on the Epistle Lesson here as well)
Greetings in the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord!
Today, let us consider the description of the Early Church that we hear of in Acts 2 (yesterday's 2nd reading), in particular verse 42 which reads: "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."
There is to be an impact, a result that comes forth from the Word. It isn't to be just information, just something incidental - but the Word of God is to have an impact upon your life, to shape it. Acts 2, right after Peter's Sermon on Pentecost, tells us what that life is to look like - and while it includes many things (generosity, thankfulness), the very first thing on the list, the highlight is this verse above.
It's a lovely description - to be devoted to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship -- now note, this isn't a book society yet. Back then, if I want to learn what someone teaches - I don't just open up their latest best seller, I don't do a web search - I go to where they are teaching. There is a gathering together around teaching - a gathering that includes fellowship. This is language describing Church - the idea of being gathered around to hear preaching.
Then there is the second part - being devoted to the "breaking of bread and the prayers". The breaking of bread refers to the Lord's Supper (on the night when He was betrayed He took bread, and when He broke it. . .) - and people would gather together in various homes (the first churches) and one of the apostles would come and they would celebrate the Supper. They would pay attention to "the prayers" -- note the word "the". Not just random prayer (which is a good thing), but "the" prayers - the standard set of prayers repeated over and over -- or what we would call the liturgy.
Or in other words, the very first description of what Christians do after Pentecost that Luke gives us in Acts is that they hear preaching and attend the Supper together - that they go to Church.
Today, it is true that we live in a much more insular, individualistic society than they did in Jesus day. We don't have to hit 12 different merchants - we can go to Super-Walmart and get pre-priced goods and check out without speaking to anyone. We don't have to go talk to people to find out what is going on - the paper or the TV or the internet will tell us. Indeed, I don't have to walk and speak this to all of you - you can read it on e-mail, when it is convenient for you (and I'm better that some of you didn't open this as soon as you saw it, but waited until later).
These advances are fine, wonderful tools -- but we ought to remember, even as we use them, that there is a personal nature to being a Christian - that Christ our Lord came to earth and took on our Flesh to be our Brother - to participate fully in our lives. In worship, this happens - Christ comes to us in His Word and Supper and participates in our lives -- not just my life or your life - but in our lives -- we are pulled together in Christ, we are knit together in Christ.
This is what defines a Christian - to be made part of the Body of Christ. It is my encouragement to you that you give attention to gathering together with that Body around the Apostolic teaching proclaimed from the pulpit even today, that you join in with the ancient prayers (or even the songs that we sing with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven) and be strengthened in your faith by the Supper. This is the pattern of life that we have in Christ - May Christ make you to grow in it.
Have a blessed week, but more than that, may you have a blessed Sunday on the 21st!