Psalm 23:1-3 God is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. God makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. God revives my soul and guides me along right pathways for God’s Name’s sake.
On Good Friday I asked, “Who’s in your corner? Who’s on your side? Who’s your ‘ride or die’? Who’s the Louise to your Thelma?” This question is still relevant to me; I can’t help but sense that deep solidarity with other human beings has grown thin over the course of time. Through the myriad of moments pitting one group against another, avoiding wary sneezes and threatening sniffles, and love suffering over distance, it’s easy to feel isolated—caught between having friends and having no one to rely on…like really rely on, like show up on a Saturday at noon in the middle of August to help you move large furniture type of rely on…
While time and energy are factors, there’s a bigger one. There’s a lot of othering in our society whether socio-politically, religiously, or relationally. We’re bombarded with media images promoting material competition with others; we live in a world carrying a variety of threats to the welfare of our bodies in the world. This is the perfect environment to breed fear: fear of the other, fear of difference, fear of conflict, fear of confrontation. (And fear is always the undercurrent of anger.) And, so, we are kind of walking about half-cocked, ready to protect ourselves from a threat. In psychology this is called hyper-vigilance and hyper-vigilance has a bestie: hyper-arousal—always on the lookout for a threat, when one is perceived BOOM! Explosion!
It’s hard to gain ground with an other if there’s this type of air swirling about fragile and delicate human bodies wrapped in a rather porous and vulnerable epidermal layer. When fear and anger—hyper-vigilance and hyper-arousal—are in the mix, threatening to rear their head and shove love and grace out of the window, it makes it really hard to cultivate rich relationships extending beyond social acquaintances into, “Of course I’ll come move that mahogany armoire with you this August on a Saturday at noon!”
But I’m not hopeless; I’m not hopeless because church (the invisible and visible) exists. Now, when church is bad it can be very bad; but when it’s good, it’s so, so, so good because in this event of church-churching-well love draws human beings together into solidarity in their need and abundance, their sickness and health, and their anxiety and comfort.
Now, they were attending constantly to the teaching of the apostles and in fellowship; to the breaking of the bread and in prayers. …And all those who believed were up to the same [things] and they were having all things in common—they were selling both possessions and properties, and they were distributing things to all in accordance to who was having need/necessity.Acts 2:42, 44-45
There’s something spectacular about the life of the early church right after Jesus was raised. Luke describes how the “followers of the way” existed alongside the other children of the house of Israel. At this point, animosity is not the theme of the day. Luke tells us that they were attending constantly to the teachings of the apostles and in the prayers, spending their time together (καθ’ ἡμέραν τε προσκαρτεροῦντες ὁμοθυμαδὸν) in the temple (ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ) (v.46), were breaking apart the house bread, sharing in food in exhilaration and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having grace toward the entire people (τὸν λαόν). All those who believed πάντες…οἱ πιστεύοντες (v.44) lived with each other; not in name only as if neighbors who casually exchanged hellos or that two-finger wave; they were with each other by being for each other; and for no other reason than love and faith, mercy and grace, the draw of the Spirit of God into the fullness of life with the neighbor for the neighbor in the world. The reign of God born through the cracks and crevices breaking through the kingdom of humanity
Willie James Jennings writes this about our passage from Acts, “Life with Jesus must give shape to life in the Spirit.” Love knows no other way than to break down barriers and hurdles hindering our ability to see each other’s humanity; everything about these early followers of the way was pulled into the community founded and built by God’s love for the world. Under the draw of divine love, it becomes impossible to cling to those things that they clung to prior to encounter with God; those material markers of identity fell away like linen garments left behind in a tomb in the event of resurrection. By faith, those who followed the way found their identity in God by faith in Christ, and if this then they found mutual identity with others; and not only those who also believed like they did, but among and with those who followed different paths. This is God’s heart for the world and in the world: to love others as you have been loved by God, to see the humanity in others, to give as you have received, to be wrapped up in the divine passion for the beloved, to see not an other but one just like you.
Luke’s story-telling point here is not to propose fiscal or political platforms. Rather, his goal is to ask his reader to reconsider their way of faith in following the Christ by the power of the Spirit. Luke wants to demonstrate what solidarity looks like founded on divine love born of divine life and liberation. This is not about refusing individuality at the expense of the community, but rather about showing how each person is intimately linked to the other in love and life: that one person’s well-being is connected to another’s well-being. It’s not about everyone thinking the same, being the same, or believing the same; it’s about valuing the humanity in another person, seeing their need, their sickness, their fear as one’s own, it’s about identifying with another’s plight as Christ, God of very God, identified with humanity’s plight not to condemn humanity, but to bring humanity into the very life of God the source of love, life, and liberation in the world as it is in heaven.
We do not need to go this world alone. While our world is quite different from the world of the first followers of the way, it does not mean that we can’t still have solidarity with one another. What we find in Luke’s description in Acts is not a formula for church but the formation of church. The thematic structure of the story tells us that our neighbor is more important than things, that community is better than isolation, that going the distance is what love does, that being here for each other in the good and the bad, when things are going well and when they’re going poorly, when it’s a great mood or a yikes! mood. It’s about profound connection where the foundation is just shared humanity clothed in the heavenly fabric of divine love…love that knows no limits.
When church dares to put on Church, when its witness shares in the witness of Christ, it can be a beautiful place of affirmation, confirmation, and solidarity in the world for the beloved. When church dares to Church, it radiates divine life into the world, beckoning those who have lost their way in the world, or those who have become alienated and isolated, or those who suffer under the weight of oppression and marginalization unto the warmth and comfort of the eternal and heavenly substance that is love that just loves.
 Translation mine unless otherwise noted
 Willie James Jennings Acts Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible Eds Amy Plantinga Pauw and William C. Placher. Louisville, KY: WJK, 2017. 38.
 Jennings, Acts, 39. “The space of this common was where life stories, life projects, plans, and purposes were being intercepted by a new orientation. This ekklēsia? Time, talent, and treasures, the trinity of possessions we know so well, would feel the pull of this holy vortex.”
 Jennings, Acts, 39. “The real questions are not whether this holy communalism, this sacred sociality, could or would be operative, be practical in this ancient world or any world, but what must it have been like to feel the powerful pull of the life of our savior, and what energy did it take to resist the Holy Spirit, to slow down this pull enough to withhold themselves and their possessions from divine desire.”
 Jennings, Acts, 39. “A different order of sacrifice is being performed here, one that reaches back to the very beginning of Israel. Their God does not need possessions and has never been impressed by their donation. The divine One wants people and draws us into that wanting. This is intensified giving, feverish giving that feels not only the urgent need but the divine wanting. A new kind of giving is exposed at this moment, one that binds bodies together as the first reciprocal donation where the followers will give themselves to one another.”
 Jennings, Acts, 39-40. “Thus anything they had that might be used to bring people into sight and sound of the incarnate life, anything they had that might be used to draw people to life together and life itself and away from death and the reign of poverty, hunger, and despair—such things were being given up to God. The giving is for the sole purpose of announcing the reign of the Father’s love through the Son in the bonds of communion together with the Spirit.”
 Jennings, Acts, 40. “Luke gives us sight of a holy wind blowing through structured and settled ways of living and possessing and pulling things apart People caught up in the love of God not only began to give thanks for their daily bread, but daily offered to God whatever they had that might speak that gracious love to others. What is far more dangerous than any plan of shared wealth or fair distribution of goods and services is a God who dares impose on us divine love.”
 See W. Travis McMaken’s “Definitive, Defective or Deft? Reassessing Barth’s Doctrine of Baptism in Church Dogmatics IV/4” IJST Vol17/Num1 (Jan 2015) pp. 89-114.