by Rick Diamond

This past Sunday we felt the first pangs of conflct in the new community of followers of "The Way," as the Jesus-people called themselves. There were two main groups in the Followers: the native Aramaic speakers, and the foreign Greek speakers. We've talked about how the hundreds and hundreds of Followers were collecting their possessions and food and money, and distributing to those who were in need among them. The first few chapters of the book called The Acts of the Apostles -- or, The Things The Followers Did - are full of the harmony and beauty in this strange, unique community.

But now there's a problem. The Greek speaking Followers come to the leaders, that is, the men who were the Twelve Disciples during Jesus' ministry, his rabbinical school, and who are now not learners -- Disciples -- but are now teachers who have been sent -- Apostles. The Apostles are now the leaders of the community. The Greek speakers come to the Apostles and raise a concern: the Apostles are not distributing the money, food, and goods fairly. The Greek speaking Followers say that the Apostles have been distributing more goods and money and food to the Aramaic speaking, native Jewish, poor among the Followers.

This is a potential train wreck. So far the Followers' life together have been remarkably transparent. Full of miracles and power. Everyone sharing everything -- eating together, meeting in each others' homes, worshiping together. Jerusalem is full of people talking about this new movement, these Jesus-people, these Followers of this new Way. But a conflict between two of the major demographics in this growing community? This is exactly what could ruin everything.

The conventional wisdom is that the Greek speakers would not just raise the concern, but exert pressure, protest, and demands. The native Israelites would lobby with each other to be sure the foreign influence would not get a long-term foothold in the power structure. And the Apostles would be sure to retain and control power so that they can keep their place and prominence. That's how the world works.

But that's not what they did.

They saw this as a spiritual opportunity, not a power/control/influence problem.

The Apostles ask the people to find seven men from among them - from all of them, hundreds of them - who are men who are overflowing with Jesus' presence and power, and who are also full of good sense. The community chooses ... seven Greek speakers.

This is stupid. How on earth did the Aramaic speakers allow this? The Greek speakers are the outsiders. We can't let them take over! And yet ... those are the seven men whom the whole community of Followers recognize as the men for the job.

Those seven men become "servants" or "slaves" to God in serving the community. The Greek word "diakonia" is what the author, Luke, uses as the seven's designation; it's where Christianity gets the term "deacon." In church hierarchy, often a deacon is someone with a position of authority in the church -- and these seven men definitely had authority -- but it was only authority to serve. As slaves to God's desires. Their job? Distribution of goods and money and food to the poor. Taking up these things from the Followers, and finding out the needs among these hundreds of people, and then giving out what came in, as the needs were understood.

If you've ever worked with human beings, you know that this sort of job can be nerve-racking and difficult at best. And yet, Jesus' Spirit is in the middle of them, and one of the men, Stephen, becomes not only a servant administrator, but a miracle-worker who will die for his bold faith.

What are you serving? For whom? To what are you enslaved? Why? What's it producing, in you and in the world?

Listen to the Service

Today's Program

Gathering Our Spirit to God's Spirit

The Living Room is setup with the large table again in the center of the room. In the middle of the big table is a small fan pointed up with color streamers blowing from it. There is a large basket for offering. There are once again blank index cards on each chair.

  • “If I Only Had a Brain” from The Wizard of Oz soundtrack plays
  • A Journeyer steps up to light the lamp and another rings the bell
  • David/Leslie make announcements

Worshiping with Our Children

  • A Journeyer leads our children in talking about how sometimes we think we have everything figured out, but God has other ideas -- and God’s ideas are always better because God sees a HUGE picture while we can only see part of it. So, let’s listen to God.

From Our Spirit to God's Spirit

  • David welcomes, has us breathe…
  • David recaps the series
  • A Journeyer comes to the microphone to read important advice for getting a greener lawn and other paths to total happiness. During this tongue in cheek reading, Reader 1 interrupts several times to read Proverbs 3:5-12
  • Reader 2 tells the story of the loaves and fishes from the gospels of Luke and John
  • Photo slideshow to Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody” plays
  • Reader 3 reads from Acts 6

Telling The Story and Our Story

  • Film clip from It’s a Wonderful Life shows on screen
  • Rick talks
  • Reader 2 comes back and reads the last passage again

Giving -- To Help God Do God's Work in This World

  • David invites the community to write down on their cards their responses to, “If I were to ask God to come into and change some part of how I run my life, what would it be? God, what are you trying to tell me? How can I be open to Your voice?”
  • David leads an offering prayer
  • All come to the table to bring their offerings and their cards
  • Renee plays instrumentally as the community comes forward to put their offerings/prayer requests/response to prayer cards in the baskets on the table

Go Out to Serve with Mercy and Grace

  • David leads the community in reading together Acts 2:46-47 (New Living Translation)

They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity, all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those whose lives were being transformed.

  • David dismisses
  • “If I Only Had a Brain” plays again as folks depart