Becoming and Being a Christ-Centered Community: Fourth Sunday of Easter

Becoming and Being a Christ-Centered Community: Fourth Sunday of Easter

Year A, The Fourth Sunday in Easter
April 30, 2023

Year A: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

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The arc of our readings for the fourth Sunday of Easter follows a pattern of God’s provision, care, and salvation through Jesus Christ. While we hear the reading from John 10:1-10, a pass   age that builds up to the famous metaphor of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who protects, guides, and ultimately sacrifices his life for his sheep.

Acts describes the early Christian community’s devotion to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, and prayer. This passage highlights the importance of living in a Christ-centered community, where believers share their resources and support one another. The early church’s example of unity and generosity serves as a model for Christians today.

The call to live in a Christ-centered community, as seen in the Acts passage, is also a significant aspect of salvation in the 21st century. As the world faces complex challenges such as poverty, inequality, and climate change, Christians are called to embody Christ’s love in their actions and decisions. The early church’s example of unity and generosity serves as a model for modern Christians, emphasizing the importance of community in experiencing and sharing the message of salvation.

What does this all mean to us in today’s world?

I’ve been privileged over the years to live and serve in many Christ-centered communities. First with religious sisters and then various Episcopal Church communities.

A Christ-centered community in the 21st century is a group of people who strive to live their lives according to the teachings and principles of Jesus Christ. These communities root themsleves in love, compassion, and unity, and often foster meaningful relationships among their members. They focus on personal growth and transformation, while working collectively to make a positive impact on the world around them.

Christ-centered communities prioritize spiritual growth by providing opportunities for prayer, Bible study, worship, and reflection. They encourage members to deepen their faith and grow closer to God.

Christ-centered communities foster strong interpersonal relationships by creating opportunities for members to connect, share, and support one another. They organize gatherings, such as small groups, potlucks, and outreach events, to help build a sense of belonging and unity.

Christ-centered communities commit to making a difference in their local communities and beyond. They engage in acts of service, such as feeding the homeless, visiting the sick, and supporting those in need, while also participating in global mission efforts and social justice initiatives.

Christ-centered communities embrace diversity and strive to be welcoming to all. They recognize the value of different perspectives and seek to create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

Prayer and Worship: Prayer and worship are central to the life of a Christ-centered community. Members regularly gather to pray for one another, their communities, and the world, and to worship God through song, scripture, and other expressions of faith.

By embracing these principles and practices, Christ-centered communities in the 21st century continue to impact the lives of their members and the world around them, while staying true to the message and mission of Jesus Christ.

Some of us have just finished reading a book by Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived”. It has continued to generate much debate and discussion within the Christian community since its publication more than ten years ago. Bell’s book explores the nature of salvation, heaven, and hell, and offers an inclusive perspective on these topics.

It’s almost a perfect way to consider today’s scriptures. “Love Wins” emphasizes the expansive and transformative nature of God’s love. In Psalm 23, the image of God as the Good Shepherd who cares for, guides, and protects his people is a powerful representation of divine love. Bell’s book echoes this theme, emphasizing that God’s love is redemptive, life-changing, and capable of reaching every person. In Acts, the early Christian community’s is devoted to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, and prayer highlights the importance of communal living and sharing resources. Bell’s book also values community, proposing that the experience of God’s love and the journey towards salvation are enriched when shared with others.

It’s also challenging because the traditional view of salvation for Christians is through Jesus Christ. Some suggest that the metaphor of the Good Shepherd means that salvation is available only to those who recognize and follow Jesus.

Bell’s book, on the other hand, advocates for a more inclusive view of salvation. He argues that God’s love is so vast and encompassing that it ultimately extends to all people, regardless of their beliefs or religious affiliations. This perspective challenges the traditional interpretation of passages like John 10:1-10, suggesting that the role of Jesus as the Good Shepherd could be understood more broadly and inclusively.

Salvation is a complex and debated issue within Christianity. The readings for the fourth Sunday of Easter in Year A emphasize salvation through Jesus Christ, Some believe that only those who believe in Christ and follow his teachings will be saved.

However, some Christians hold to a more inclusive view of salvation like Rob Bell’s views, asserting that God’s grace and mercy extend beyond the boundaries of the Christian faith. They argue that God’s love is so vast and profound that it encompasses all people, regardless of their beliefs or religious affiliations.

If I were to take one message about Christ it is the message of Christ’s sacrificial love and the call to embody this love in our lives and communities. As we navigate the challenges of the 21st century, it is increasingly clear that we need Christ-centered communities that are grounded in love now more than ever. In a world marked by division, inequality, and injustice, such communities can serve as beacons of hope and sources of healing, reminding us of our shared humanity and inspiring us to work together towards a brighter future. By embodying the selfless love and compassion of Christ, these communities have the power to transform lives and communities, creating a more just and peaceful world for all. Let us therefore embrace the call to love one another as Christ has loved us, and work together to build communities that reflect his vision of a world where love reigns supreme.