Bishop Karen Oliveto's Weekly Message (4/29/23)

April 30, 2023
I am praying for the laity and clergy of the Mountain Sky Conference as we continue to celebrate the resurrection!
I continue to reflect on the Journeys of Paul study tour through Greece and Turkiye. There were so many surprising things we learned about Paul and the early church! One take-away from our trip was the joy of the early church. In spite of their minority status in a hostile empire, the joy they experienced in Christ was contagious and resulted in exponential growth as they lived out the teachings of Jesus in transformative ways.

Acts 2: 42-47 (The Voice) describes it this way:

“The community continually committed themselves to learning what the apostles taught them, gathering for fellowship, breaking bread, and praying. Everyone felt a sense of awe because the apostles were doing many signs and wonders among them. There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed; they shared all their material possessions in trust. They sold any possessions and goods that did not benefit the community and used the money to help everyone in need. They were unified as they worshiped at the temple day after day. In homes, they broke bread and shared meals with glad and generous hearts. The new disciples praised God, and they enjoyed the goodwill of all the people of the city. Day after day the Lord added to their number everyone who was experiencing liberation.”

I love this glimpse into the lives of the early Christians. How was it that they managed such joy in the midst of hostility and persecution? What inspired them to use their resources not for their individual wants and desires but to ensure that everyone had enough? How did their generosity and joy make the Christian faith irresistible to others? What does this tell us about how we might live out our faith in today’s world?

Imagine if we centered our life on eating together (after all, a sacred meal IS at the heart of our common life!). Why do potlucks generate so much energy, laughter, and participation? Could it be that we are tapping into the secret the early church knew? We eat with people we love. And when love is the main course served, there is a contagious joy that expands the table. Others want a heaping plate of this kind of nourishment!

What if we were to strip away all the things that keep us busy and distracted in church and refocused ourselves on sharing a meal together. As we encountered one another over a plate from the buffet table, what would we learn about each other’s lives? How would this knowledge cause us to loosen our grip on our own resources so that we would care for one another in each one’s need? Could we rediscover the joy that compelled us to faith so many years ago? Could this joy be the secret sauce that ever deepens the Christian faith in our own life and is irresistible in the lives of others?

With love,
Bishop Karen
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