Acts 2.43-47 (NRSV)
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
One could argue that Tom Hanks is one of the greatest actors of the recent generations. Since arguing gets us nowhere, please take my word for it; he is pretty good. He has made so many movies that picking a favorite can be quite difficult.
Recently I was flipping through the channels to find a way to burn about three hours of my time, and I landed on the movie Castaway. The short description of the movie is that Tom, a manager for FedEx, is flying over the ocean coming home from a meeting overseas and crashes into the ocean. He washes up on the shore of a desert island that is completely deserted. The rest of the movie is about Tom learning how to survive for several years on the island, but one moment stands out. Tom, being completely alone, begins to unravel from the strain of solitude. He actually finds a volleyball, and at one point, creates a face on the volleyball and names it Wilson.
I remember when I was young, I was a latchkey kid. My parents both worked full-time jobs, and those jobs were quite far away. I would get off the bus and be alone for about 3 or 4 hours, which at first I thought would be amazing. I soon realized that I was lonely. There wasn’t enough television, food, or Atari to keep my interest. I found myself wanting someone to talk to. I wasn’t allowed to leave the house until my parents got home, so I could not find my friend to hang out with; I was simply alone. It wasn’t long before I began to explore mischief. Basically I began to go stir crazy, and it worked its way out of me in the oddest, most dangerous ways. All of this came to a head when I found my dad’s gunpowder and a film case.
In the second chapter of Acts, the disciples had three years with Jesus. Most of us think of the 12 that he called by name, but the Bible clearly tells us there were many more than that following Jesus. They had been through so much together that when the Lord passed, I wonder what they thought about going their separate ways, back to “normal” life. Well, when Jesus rose from the grave, he appeared to these disciples on several occasions instructing them in many things, but in chapter one of Acts Jesus tells the disciples that they should go and wait for something very special to happen. Interestingly, this large group of followers decides to go and wait together.
In our passage the theme continues. We are told that everyone who believed were together. We are also told that they spent much time together in the temple, and that they ate together. It seems like this growing church did so together. One could conclude that the church was designed to be a place of community and togetherness, which is demonstrated here, and the output of this togetherness was that they enjoyed the goodwill of all the people. The commonality of this early group of believers won the hearts of those observing them, and maybe it was a great contrast to people who, though surrounded by people and family, felt desperately alone. It seems that Jesus knew the dark nature of mankind was to isolate, and his creation of the church is God’s solution to this problem.
That day that I discovered my dad’s gunpowder was a momentous day indeed. For whatever reason, I thought it would be cool to make my own grenade. So, I filled half of an old plastic film case with powder, bored a hole in the top, and used a piece of waxed jute line for a fuse. Then I wrapped the case over and over in duct tape till it resembled a grenade. Needless to say, when I blew the windows out of my garage and was filled with glass shards, my parents were none to happy. My isolation led me to follow the dark and dangerous thoughts that came to my mind, without having anyone to potentially add a word of caution. Maybe if I was with some other people, someone would have given me an alternative consideration, or even just occupied my time with a better outlet, like basketball or anything else besides bomb making, but I was alone.
While Tom was on the island, he all but lost his mind, and that was hanging by a thread. Tom’s created friend Wilson had been destroyed, which nearly drove Tom over the edge, but something inside of Tom drove him to risk everything to rejoin society and get back to his waiting family. Even after so many years, something inside Tom told him that if he stayed alone much longer, he would lose his humanity and his life. So Tom acted. Spoiler Alert: Eventually Tom rejoins society, but with a brand-new perspective on life, wiser and more appreciative. Tom’s life has changed fundamentally from his experience, and he is able to look back on his isolation from a perspective of being forever grateful for being in community. The early church in Acts, like Tom, could look back on a time when they, like their neighbors, were surrounded by people; yet were still completely alone. Since encountering Jesus, this church of people had a new and dynamic community to experience life together with. Just as Tom was able to look back on all he took for granted, the early church was able to live out salvation, attracting multitudes because of the contrast with their old lives. People often ask, what is the point of Church, and the answer is found in Acts 1 and 2, and demonstrated in Castaway. It's a place to become who God made us to be, together.