To begin I should acknowledge that it’s Father’s Day. We each have one. Whether or not we know him, acknowledge him, love him or like him we are here today partially because of him.
I love my dad fiercely. He's been a great father, mentor, and teacher. If you Google him, you’ll see that he was once a pediatrician among other things. As a doctor, he was always “on call” often rushing to the hospital to welcome a newborn baby. It wasn’t uncommon for him to miss dinner.
I mention this because when I was 10, my dad built this crazy dining room table out of these heavy wooden planks taken from an old ship. We still eat dinner from this table whenever we visit my parents. To this day, every meal at that table begins with a blessing of the food, followed by some story telling, laughter, and a few arguments thrown in for good measure.
During these heated debates, if my dad were there, he’d quote Jesus. It wasn’t the golden rule. Or the verse about turning the other cheek. It was the one where Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Mt. 18:20)
I don’t remember if this ever stopped us from fighting, but it forever changed the way I look at that table - as a place to meet Christ in the flesh. Like the two faces hidden in that black and white picture, Jesus has been there all along. But it took my dad pointing it out before I could really see what that meant.
In these five short verses, Luke shows how Christ was present, in and all around these faithful believers – from the miracles they performed to their most mundane daily activities. Wherever, or however, they came together they believed Jesus was in their midst. This allowed them to make every place holy, and every act sacred. As Wendy Joyner notes, “These early believers opened themselves to God’s presence by being attentive to the seemingly small and sometimes mundane parts of daily life.”
Luke makes it a point to tell us that a simple act like eating dinner could lead others into a deeper relationship with God through Jesus Christ. What this tells me is that whether you are praying or washing the dishes or pulling weeds from your garden, God is with you when Christ is in you.
While looking at sacred practices in everyday life, Tish Warren writes, “How I spend this ordinary day in Christ is how I will spend my Christian life.”
Her words challenge us to ask ourselves, as individuals and as a church, what parts of our lives are bearing witness to Christ? And in what areas do we lack? Are we living into our faith in such a way that others will see the Christ in us and want to become a part of his holy body? I think this is what my dad was trying to show us every time we fought with one another.
As they came to better understand the Christ in them, and to see the Christ in others, this new community of believer were no longer afraid to show their faith. Instead, they made sure “it permeated every aspect of their lives as they acknowledged God in everything.” (Byrd) By their acts of generosity and devotion, people and communities were transformed. And the Church began to flourish.
If only today’s church still looked and acted like it first did. Instead of being a community living out its faith in imitation of Christ churches try to mimic successful businesses. We want our ministers to be more like CEO’s and less like shepherds.
When I took my first call, the search committee was super excited that I had a corporate background. One member went so far to suggest I run the church office like he ran his company. He wanted it to be profitable and not prophetic. I know in their hearts they loved the building and had a great desire to keep the church doors open. But here’s the thing. They had focused so much on the building that they had forgotten what it meant to be a church...a community gathered for the common good of God’s kingdom where the more you have the more you give away.
A long time ago, I moved into a small apartment in Hollywood. I wasn’t sure if I was going to take the place until I was greeted by beautiful young woman who would eventually become my wife. But there was something else that was special about the Formosa Ponderosa as we liked to call it. It would take me a few months before I could see that it was more than a bunch of rundown bungalows. There was something holy and divine that was real and present.
In the courtyard was a round metal table that sat weathering in the sun. Like many of us who sat around it, it too had been kicked to the curb, made to feel like trash. But some of the residents cleaned it up, and painted a weird galaxy of planets, stars and moons on its top. Around the perimeter they painted little children holding hands. It was as if these kids were inviting us to see the heavens from a different perspective.
This table was our small universe; one dwarfed by old buildings that, like many of its residents, had seen better days. Nearly every night, we’d gather around that table for dinner.And like the early church we broke bread with glad and sincere hearts.
We shared whatever was in our cupboards and refrigerators. Eating off mismatched plates, we passed around bowls of salad and sympathy, and platters full of pasta and promise. We filled our wine glasses with hope and tears, and laughter and pain.
For me, and many others, this was our church. Or at least how we imagined church should be. A place of hospitality, grace, and peace. It was inclusive and affirming. A safe haven to be – whether that meant being sad, confused, frustrated, or in the spotlight. At every meal, love was savored like the most delicious cut of beef money could buy. Kindness was offered with such gentleness and delight that no one dared to spill a drop.
This was our universe. It was our church, whose pews were a hodgepodge of abandoned chairs. Whose altar was adorned with dirty ashtrays and mounds of old candle wax encircled by children holding hands. In this sacred sanctuary, we confessed to one another and dispensed forgiveness like salt from a shaker. We played music, sang songs, told stories, and always put the needs of others before our own.
Dinner was a true form of worship. With each meal being the holy Eucharistic as God’s love became incarnate in us, through us and all around us. It was right there, in the flesh, for me and anyone else to see, feel, touch and taste it’s goodness.
Like the table itself, we came from different places but shared the same love. Love for our time together. Love for all our pets, gardens and assorted house plants. Love for our joys and broken hearts. And our love for cards, dominos and beer. We really loved our beer. And all who came to visit. But most importantly, we loved one another. No matter what. This was our blessing because we often had trouble loving ourselves.
This was church when church was good. Every time I enter that sacred and holy space, I could hear my father’s voice and see Christ sitting across the table from me. As we fed one another the spiritual food of God’s unconditional love, my personal faith began to grow again. Soon I found myself stepping back inside an actual church building. And before knew it, the church would literally become my home.
These first believers won people to Jesus because of their faith and devotion to one another. They showed it by sharing grace, love, joy and peace. And yes, by sharing a simple meal. It all started with Jesus, who sat at the table with his disciples to share what would be their last supper together. It was there he left them, not with doctrine or some creed to recite. Instead, like N.T. Wright points out, “He gave them a job. He gave them meal to share.”
The Church isn’t a building, or a right theology. It’s the living body of Christ. Its people who gather together, in his name; a community who lives out the gospel in every aspect of life, so others may come to see God’s glory.
The early church teaches us how to put our faith into practice – be it an ethic, an economy, or a culture. These few verses show us how living as if Christ is among us can actually transform us and others. It can change the way we respond to the needs and challenges of our community. They gave us a new way to see the everyday. And showed us how something as basic as eating a meal together can be a spiritual activity.
As Christ’s body, we are led by his heart to live a life of love whether we are folding laundry or holding the hand of a heartbroken friend. Whenever or wherever we gather, when the love of God is revealed through us – Jesus becomes visible. People take notice. God becomes glorified. And the church comes to life. “And day by day, God adds to the number of people being saved.”
My father was right. Where two or three are gathered in the name of Christ, love and peace will be found.
Bartlett, David L and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol 2. (Knoxville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010.
Byrd, Joseph. Anatomy of a Spirit-Filled Church, Abingdon Preaching Annual 1999 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998).
Harris Warren, Tish. Liturgy of the Ordinary: sacred practices in everyday life. (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2016).
Joyner, Wendy. Day by Day, Abingdon Preaching Annual 2002 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001).
Shauf, Scott. Commentary on Acts 2:42-47. May 11, 2014 (accessed on June17, 2021).
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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