Acts 4:32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. (NRSV)
Today, I went to a chapel service. I’m traveling, and could have easily attended church anywhere in the city, but I decided to stay on base and attend the Protestant service at the chapel. The sermon was focused on Acts 4:32-5:16 and the preacher lifted up how wonderful things were going in the early church, until human sinfulness got in the way. It was a good sermon. But, what struck me the most about the service was how the people themselves lived out some of the early church as we gathered to worship together. They were of one heart and soul, men and women, black and white, young and old – gathered together to worship God.
A few years ago, when I joined the Air Force, this would not have been as true as it was today. Like the rest of America, the base chapel was segregated on Sunday morning. A traditional worship service primarily attended by retirees, a contemporary service primarily attended by young people and families, and a gospel service primarily attended by African Americans. It was segregated by race and age—not by intention, but by design. The choices allowed for segregation.
What changed was a severe cut to the number of chaplains. With lower numbers, but a rising demand to be present with the Airmen where they worked, the number of worship services offered on a Sunday morning was cut in most places to one. It was a painful blending of services into one blended service on a Sunday morning, often at the cost of attendance.
When we set aside what the world considers as success – numbers and money. And, we let the Holy Spirit work, the church thrives. This morning, I went to church and was inspired by a good sermon outside of my faith tradition. I shared in communion led in a way that was consistent with scripture, but loose on liturgy. The pews weren’t filled, but the people there were young, old, black, white, retiree, and active duty. And, we believed with one heart and soul. To God be the glory!