How many of you remember your parents strongly urging you to share your favorite toy with a sibling or friend? Perhaps the tone of your mother's or father's voice indicated that it would be wise of you to share; after all, if you didn't the toy might be taken from you or perhaps play time would soon be over. As children, we are taught to share our things with our siblings and friends, not just so that we would stop arguing over who gets to play with the toy longer but because sharing develops critical social skills, skills that emphasize kindness, tolerance and community-building. More often that not, a favorite toy (or game or experience) that is shared by a child and close friend or sibling has a way of creating special bonds that otherwise might not occur. Consider these possible scenarios:
- Two brothers throwing baseball in the yard every day exchange stories of their favorite players and talk about their recent experiences in school.
- Two girls, who are best friends, listen to their favorite music through shared ear buds on their smartphones, bobbing their heads to the beat while smiling at one another.
- A sister, who is told to share TV time with her younger brother, happens to pick up on the moral of the story from her brother's favorite kids' show. She realizes that she would have missed the kids' show theme of "spending time with family" if she had insisted on only watching her TV show instead.
In all of the above scenarios, some type of activity is taking place. Anyone can throw a ball against a wall or listen to music by oneself, or watching a TV show alone. But that's precisely the point. We experience the fullness of life's activities when we are engaging others in the process of living our lives. In other words, we need one another! The pandemic taught us many things about how to care for ourselves and how to care for others; in fact, the pandemic is still offering us ways in which we can create opportunities to engage our relationships in more grateful, appreciative and affirming ways than ever before. When kids throw baseballs to one another, when kids listen to music together, or when children watch different TV shows that expand their minds life becomes so much more than a solitary experience, it becomes a shared experience! And the beautiful truth about shared experiences is that they add up to the realization that life was created in order to be shared! What a joy to learn new things together! What a blessing to grow in love through shared experience! How happy are those who share life with friends!
The problem is that while we desire for our children to share their possessions and their activities with family and friends, we often have to work at making sharing the priority. Kids naturally prefer to play with their favorite toys alone. Sharing must be taught. Also, we adults are far from innoncent wwhen it comes to withholding blessings from others, too. We can easily choose to withdraw rather than share our best selves with others. Isn't it amazing, though, that at the heart of the Gospel is generosity? Doesn't this truth indicate that we are created for sharing our possessions and our experiences with others? And isn't it wonderful how we grow to value Jesus Christ the more we share our vulnerabilities, our weaknesses, as well as our dreams and goals with the Lord and with the family of God?
Watch what happens immediately following the birth of the church at Pentecost in the book of Acts. Read Acts 4:31-33 (NRSV):
"When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all."
As the hymn indicates, "what a fellowship, what a joy divine" took place between Peter, John and the rest of the early church! By leaning on the everlasting arms of God they were learning to lean on the arms of their fellow sojourners in faith, the same broken, frail people who depended on Jesus together, the same struggling spiritual siblings who grew in love through shared suffering. And, ironically, the more they shared their sufferings together, the more God grew their love for one another and the more God impacted the Jewish community accordingly.
We, too, are called to share. We, too, are called to hold all things in common with one another.
It's time to revitalize the power of sharing! One of the best ways for our church to do this is to think about the start of our new church year (September) as the open door to sharing our spiritual gifts within the body of Christ here at UBC. The Nominating Team spends hours working with church members to assess who is willing to share gifts and talents in order to further the mission of loving God and loving our community. This is a great way to share who you are with the congregation! Additionally, sharing Jesus' unique presence with another might mean opening oneself to previous pain or offering a story of hope from a difficult time in the past. When we share our experiences, we often find the life of Jesus waiting to be discovered and celebrated. Think of it this way--who better to walk with us in our shared struggles than those who've walked a similar path? The Church exists to remind God's people that our shared brokenness is cause for celebration--after all, in weakness we experience God's strength...together!
That's right, we are created to share life together. No greater example of this truth can compare to God's sharing his one and only Son with us. And yes, Jesus experienced all that we encounter in daily living yet was without sin! He shared our pain, our sorrows, our confusion, our rejection, and our struggle in order that we might find God in his body. Jesus alone showed us what sharing life with others is like, helping us to see that when we share our lives we cannot segregate the sharing at all; instead, Jesus made himself vulnerable in other to teach us how we are share our vulnerabilities with ALL people. The only way the world will be reached for Christ is if we are willing to share our possessions and socially engage with the diverse culture in which we are called to serve. While maintaining our faith in Christ, we maximize its potential by sharing in the sufferings of others. Listen to Paul's words in 2 Cor. 1:5-7 (ESV): "For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort."
Dear friends, when we speak of "sharing Jesus" with others we must never do so without honoring both the suffering and the comfort we receive as Christ's body. There is power in sharing life together. There is power in sharing our struggles. There is power in sharing our joys. There is power in sharing the crosses we are called daily to bear.
So the next time you are tempted to withhold the very blessings of God, remember that you and I were created for community, to share God's gifts with humanity as freely and as openly as the early Church did in Acts 4. The church that shares in both suffering and comfort receives the blessing of spiritual power (Acts 4:33). Moreover, let it be known that the following statement is true for the Church, and therefore is also true for the world it is called to serve on behalf of King Jesus. The Church that shares together, cares together. And all God's people said? "Amen!"
Seeking to revitalize the power of sharing with all of you,
><> Pastor Will <><