I have to be honest . . . I don’t like change.
But I didn’t used to be this way. In fact, I thrived on change because it energized me and forced me to think differently and to do things that I never imagined I could do.
But it seems that the older I get, the less I like change because change creates chaos and chaos leads to conflict. And honestly, I’d rather just cruise along, knowing exactly what to expect . . . not having to deal with the chaos and the friction and the uncertainty that comes with change . . . wouldn’t you agree?
But here’s the deal . . . beauty and creativity often times comes out of the chaos.
We see this in God’s story . . . Genesis 1:2 says; “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
Remember what the waters represent in scripture . . . chaos. God’s spirit was hovering over the chaos and then out of the chaos God spoke . . . and new life was formed.
When God created life; he did so out of chaos . . . and it was good!
Our stories are filled with change and the ensuing chaos that comes with change and as Christians our stories intersect at this place called church where we are called to do life together.
And what happens when our stories merge . . . is that there is going to be chaos.
But what you choose to do with the chaos is what matters the most.
The book of Acts is the story of the very first church and it’s filled with a whole lot of chaos.
What started out as a small group of scared disciples, hiding in the shadows in fear for this lives has exploded to over 3000 people after Peter preached what must have been the best revival sermon ever and the Spirit of God - the same spirit that created life - was poured out over them.
In the aftermath of the Spirit’s arrival, things had gotten crazy . . . chaotic . . . as you can imagine.
With such a big, sudden change . . . they were at a loss for what to do.
Chapter six opens with the church, young as it was, already embroiled in controversy.
In the early church there was one major division, and it had to do largely with language. While most of the members of the early church were Jews and spoke Aramaic.
Others in the group were from the Diaspora—scattered all over the modern world. While they were also Jews, they were called Hellenists as they spoke Greek as their first language.
Along with the language difference, of course, came cultural and experiential differences that made functioning as a unified group a bit challenging. They didn’t understand each other on so many levels.
Here was the problem: the group at that time was still a functioning Jewish group.
Under Levitical Law, it was usually up to a man’s brother to take in his widow after he died. There was no social security, food stamps, Meals on Wheels.
But the culture was changing and many people were living far away from extended family systems. And so there were plenty of widows, both Hellenist and Hebrew, who needed taking care of.
As they were directed in Levitical law, the group cared for the widows and orphans among them.
It seems some of the Hellenist widows . . . the outsiders . . . were being neglected in the distribution of food while the Hebrew widows were being well taken care of.
Naturally, this caused hard feelings. And now this misunderstanding . . . had come to the attention of the disciples in leadership, and they had to deal with it somehow, before it tore the assembly apart.
So here’s what they did. They appointed seven leaders from among the group—all Hellenists, an intentional nod at diversity, since all of the original disciples were Hebrews.
And they created the next version of a church structure, in which these assigned leaders would do the practical work of the church while the disciples focused on teaching and worship leadership.
It was a wonderful, innovative approach to dealing with the situation.
Instead of ripping the church apart, this chaos became the platform for innovation and change.
This little passage from Acts chapter 6 is typically used to teach the idea that there is a correct, biblical way to organize a church.
But it wasn’t Luke’s objective when he wrote the book of Acts to pen a policy manual for churches everywhere. Instead, in this passage we find some fundamental truths about what it means to live in the aftermath of the coming of God’s Spirit.
Because when God’s Spirit arrives, we should expect chaos to ensue. But when things change and we don’t quite know what to think when we look around us, we start to get scared.
And fear makes us resist diversity and change, looking at people in our community who are different than we are and finding issues and ideas on which we don’t see eye to eye.
When that happens in a church, as some of us know all too well, conflict arises; relationships are broken and the Gospel message in our lives and in the world suffers as a result.
But as we know from reading this story, the nature of God’s Spirit is one of living, growing; breathing life . . . and that means inevitable change.
In other words, if we’re on the adventure of living the Gospel message together in the world around us, God’s Spirit is here, spurring us on to new and challenging possibilities, opportunities to be the church in ways that those first 12 disciples never, ever imagined that day when Jesus came to them on the Sea of Galilee and invited them to follow him.
Yet, for all their faults, somehow the first disciples seemed to get it: the idea that change, shift, opportunity, and new ways of looking at the world . . . all of these are what happen when God’s Spirit shows up.
As I think about all the many people who have sat in these chairs, puzzled over how to be the church together, and struggled to live in the chaos that comes when God’s Spirit is at work, I remember that this church at various times has looked very, very different.
- Sometimes there were lots of people in these chairs; sometimes less than there are today.
- There were years in which most of the people gathered here looked about the same as each other; in some seasons of the church’s life, diversity was the order of the day.
Like the first church, we live in the aftermath of the coming of God’s Spirit. And as such, we should never expect our life as a family of faith to remain constant.
Oh no! Things are always changing!
The question for us now is whether we will feel the tension and crumble under its pressures, or whether we’ll open our arms and our hearts to new possibilities and opportunities we’d never imagined before, and new ways to be the church that have never been done ever before . . . before God’s Spirit arrived!
And so, here we sit in with our own lives and community blown into chaos by the coming of God’s Spirit. We have to ask ourselves, “What are we going to do with it?”