I would like you to look at your hand for a minute. Fix your gaze at the center square inch. That square inch of your body contains more than four yards of nerve fibers, 1,300 nerve cells, 100 sweat glands, 3million cells, 3 yards of blood vessels, and 32 million bacteria. Amazing, isn’t it?
You have 45 miles of nerves just in the skin of your body. There are 60,000 miles of blood vessels that run throughout your body. All of this is an intricate part of a larger community of cells. There are anywhere from 10trillion to 100 trillion cells that come together to form you. Each one of these 10 to 100 trillion cells is a community in its own right: made up of a membrane, a nucleus, mitochondria, cytoplasm, different types of membranes and interconnected tubes and enzyme sacks all working together, to process and connect information, feed and support internally and externally to the rest of the body. All that in one cell. It is astounding more so to think that the coronavirus, COVID19, a tiny snipet of a particle, which has caused so much damage and havoc worldwide, is even smaller than our cells.
All this abundance and diversity around us and in us is ours to behold. Like the great mystics, how could we not contemplate all this and not weep? How can we not be in awe at the power and creativity, and wonder of the creator? All which represent God’s love for us. A love that stretches from the sub-atomic to the galactic. A love that permeates our reading from Acts today, a reading that reaches into our hearts and connects us together as the body of Christ. These five verses capture what it means to live fully together as church, the body of church. The early Christian community is described as an interconnected community as interconnected as the vessels and cells found here in our hand.
This brief passage is a blueprint for our life in faith together, It is the measuring stick of a healthy Christian community. A community we are told that is devoted to learning, fellowship breaking of the bread and prayers. Is this not the foundation of our life together? It is not an obligation, but a way of living that is heart-led, arises spontaneously from a place of vibrant faith in Jesus. This is a community that voluntarily and joyfully uses its resources and gifts that God has given as a means to further togetherness, so that no one is in want or need. What if we made that a priority of our annual budget? What a difference our life together would be. This is a community that enjoys being together, enjoys each other’s company, a community that breaks its bread with glad and generous hearts. Isn’t that something we yearn for? That being together in the name of Christ would make us glad and generous at the same time? What if we made as our primary goal for our community, to spend our time on creating glad and generous hearts? How could we change as a result?
In this passage we clearly see the church not as a building, but as a living community, an interconnected body that cares for each other, worships and eats together. Our common life is the vehicle through which awe comes through the wonders and signs that occur in our common life together, root and ground in faith, hope and love. Vessels and vessels of Glad and generous hearts. Cell receptors directed to Awe. Cells of signs and wonder. Muscles created by spending time together. Sharing. Relationship and sacrificial caring. Not only is this the way we grow in faith, but how disciples are made.
God would have us find awe as a means to renewal. Awe in how fearfully and wonderfully we are made. Awe the teachings and life, the signs and wonders of Jesus Christ, and the signs and wonders of a devoted church. Awe in the fellowship Jesus calls us to. God would have us find awe in the millions of prayers lifted up together. God would have us find awe in when communities that share its resources, holding all in common, and distributing to those in need. God would awaken awe in us as we break bread together and distribute it to the hungry—those who bellies need bread and those whose hearts are famished for spiritual bread, needing to know the love of God and finding a place in community and creation.
Awe touches us in many ways. Awe claims us as we live, day to day, becoming more committed disciples, creating disciples by our actions, and words of building up and praise, and giving sacrificially of our resources and time and care with glad and generous hearts. Awe beckons us to become a way of life as we live out our life in the name of Jesus Christ. Ultimately this is how we are saved: we discover the awe of God through the teachings and life of Jesus Christ in the devoted community of faith, with glad and generous hearts.
Albert Einstein once observed: There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt is awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. Awe opens us up to not just natural wonders like the stars and galaxies, like the countless cells in our body, but to the creator who made it all come together, the creator who still performs those the mysterious signs and wonders in our midst if we just devote our lives to God’s ways.
Awe together. It is the way we will find our way through this pandemic and step by step become a renewed church. Our text calls us to emulate our brothers and sisters of the first century. Creating a sense of awe and wonder that we can still find in the triumph of the power to love and care -- in what often seems a turbulent and frightening world where bonds are broken and where community is forgotten. Awe is what we need to rejuvenate, regenerate, to recreate to renew ourselves, to heal ourselves as individual followers of Jesus and as his church.
So, let us pursue awe together. We don’t know when we can start worshipping together in person but let us prepare ourselves. Because if anything this pandemic is teaching us, is that we can be community in many ways, not just in a church building. So let us look and see all those vessels that lead us to follow Jesus: devotion to the word, to prayer, to the breaking of the bread, to spending time together, and caring for the needs of others. It can turn us around. It can create the fertile ground for signs and wonders. May that awe forged from such life inspire us and bind us together, bringing day by day a new creation that God in his mercy is preparing us to be. Amen.