(Read Acts 2 & 4)
Ah! Two types of food that are common in a community setting. Growing up Jewish, any and every gathering (except Passover time) included the grand old favorite – Bagels and Cream Cheese. Oh yes, and lox also. (Although I never developed a taste for lox. I’ve said to some, if liking lox is a sure sign of being Jewish – then I am SO Gentile!)
Black Eyed Peas are synonymous with special family times and special holidays especially in the Southern part of the U.S. Growing up in Massachusetts I had never heard of Black-Eye Peas. It wasn’t until I lived in the South, and to be more specific, met my wife at Bible College in Dallas, when I had my first taste of Black-Eyed Peas.
My wife’s family has their “down-home” roots in Mississippi. Black-Eyed Peas are a wonderful staple of the community of the South. I’m now a lover of Black-Eyed Peas and, yes, Ham (even though I’m Jewish, Jesus made me Kosher than I’ve ever been before).
So, what in the world does this have to do with relevant truth from an ancient land? Glad you asked!
One of the things that struck us as we have toured Israel is to learn about insular life. In other words, families built on to their home as they grew, rather than uprooting pieces of the family as time went on. Peter’s home in Capernaum provides a good visual aid for visitors to the land.
They lived life together – in close quarters, sharing meals, helping raise each other’s kids. Community was natural for them, not something they had to conjure up.
By the way, this insular concept might give all of us a bit more insight regarding John 14 when it says, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places”. (NASV) In other words, rooms are added on to the main house to provide adequate space for God’s followers!
Many cultures around the world experience insular living even today, allowing for extended family or elderly grandparents to live with them. Not so much in the U.S. We tend to have a place for our elderly parents (called assisted living or nursing homes).
Acts 2 & 4 express what life was like with the early Jesus-followers. They understood community, true community. They were so close-knit that they understood instinctively the concepts – sharing all things in common or when one hurts, we all hurt; when one rejoices, we all rejoice.
I can only speak for Christianity as played out in the U.S. We say we are “in community” but are we really? Years ago while living in Dallas, we were part of a “mini-church”, what would now be called a Life Group or Fellowship Group. In that early experience, we did life together in every facet. It wasn’t just the weekly meetings. It was the eating together, praying together, reaching out to another member when times were tough. Having a baby shower when one of the members got pregnant. Grieving together when one of our members lost a job or a loved on.
God has led my wife and I into another level of community recently – one that neither of us expected. My wife volunteers with an awesome ministry that, among other things, is building a national network of host homes for the sole reason of reaching out to traveling bands who live life on the road. For those bands who are followers of Christ, they see this life as a calling and as a sacrifice in order to impact our culture.
This band outreach is teaching us community on two levels:
- The Kellner’s community. Now that we’ve had more than a dozen bands stay with us (some multiples of times) we are SO thankful for the life we draw from them. Living life on the road, playing 150-200 dates a year isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. When they stay with us not only are they thankful for the warm bed, shower, good food, Wi-Fi and fellowship. But we are profoundly impacted by them – their diverse points of view, the tapestry of belief (as we have experienced lately with 3 sets of bands staying with us within two weekends of each other). We hear their hearts, catch their vision and appreciate the unique ways they approach music and impact, sometimes quite different than other bands might approach the same goal. We love the depth and richness of this community!
- The band’s community. Another level of community is hearing the God-stories in their lives – how they formed the band, what life is like on the road together (the good, bad and ugly), how they learn to depend on each other, how, in many cases, they become more family to each other than with their own biological families. We have been blown away by the depth of commitment and love they have for each other.
At this juncture in life, we are experiencing apartment life for the first time. Not a big apartment by the way. Recently, a band called on short notice that was doing a gig in Cleveland (40 minutes from our house). They asked if they and another band could stay with us overnight. We said, “Totally!” Two hours later, 11 band members descended on our small but adequate apartment and the thirteen of us experienced unbelievable community til the wee hours of the morning. Yes, an important part of band community is JAVA!
TODAY, ask God to help you appreciate the community He has put you in or ask that He would help you begin a community right where you are.