Connectivity, Community, Interdependence
(42) And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
(43) And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
(44) And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
(45) And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
(46) And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
(47) praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
a few months ago my wife and I decided to put together a puzzle—a large difficult puzzle with a lot of pieces which pretty much all look alike. We worked at it for about a week and almost gave it up. Beth was doing most of the work, I confess. I would occasionally work for an hour or so, get a piece or two and quit. After a couple of weeks, we were almost finished, only a dozen or so pieces left, and we were putting them in fast, one after the other, and then we realized something. There was one piece missing in the puzzle. We searched the box, we searched all around the table. There was a piece missing. We felt frustrated. It seemed somehow wrong to put all that work into doing a puzzle, and come up a piece short. We gathered up that puzzle and threw it into a trash can. A puzzle has got to have all its parts, all interconnected, otherwise it is worthless.
We are learning that the same is true of life on this planet. It is like a puzzle, it needs all its parts, all put together in the right way. We say it all the time” Everything is connected. As John Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” And it is the connection that sustains life itself. Take the two largest things in our immediate neighborhood, the earth and the moon. There may be many ways the moon effects us, but we know for sure one way--ocean tides. So when you go down to the beach and look at the waves and tides, you are looking at a connection—in that case the connection between the earth and the moon.
Here is another. When we breathe, we take in oxygen. When we exhale, we release the waste gas carbon dioxide. Green plants use carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight in a process we call photosynthesis to make what we might call their food. During this food making process, plants also produce oxygen, which is released into the environment so that we can breathe. This is called the carbon dioxide/oxygen cycle. It means that you cannot have people unless you have plants.
We can go further. Consider the water cycle or if you want to sound scientific and pompous, call it the hydrologic cycle. It describes the cycle of water from the ocean to the sky to the land and back to the ocean again. The Sun's heat evaporates water from the oceans as a gas. This gas forms clouds and water vapor in the sky. The water vapor eventually condenses, forming tiny droplets in clouds. When the clouds meet cool air over land, it rains or snows or sleets, and water falls on the land to make creeks and branches and rivers which flow down to the sea to be evaporated again. As part of the process plants use the water (rain) to make food and produce oxygen so that we can live on this planet.
As we look at ourselves and other animals and plants and the atmosphere the earth the solar system, we see that is it is all in motion and it is all connected together. And this interconnectedness sustains us, shapes us, supports us. We cannot exist without the air and the oceans and the birds and the trees, without the food that grows from the dirt, without the water that filters through sediment and rock to become purified, settling into an aquifer and then tapped through a well. Our interconnectedness makes us human, makes us community, makes us alive.
Someone has said that the whole of life is like a cake. A cake is made up of many different ingredients, all of which are key to its success. Every cake starts with a measure of flour and then various other ingredients depending upon what kind of cake it’s going to become. If you removed any one of its parts, the overall result would be affected in terms of flavor and consistency. Once baked, it’s impossible to isolate the flour from the eggs, or the milk from the chocolate. It’s all mixed together, and that’s what makes the cake so wonderful.
That is the cake of life on planet earth, all the connections are mixed together to produce the wonderful phenomenon of life on earth, and we need all the ingredients.
Take a personal example, when I was growing up, I fished a lot around ponds and streams and I saw a certain splotchy looking snake, which I thought was a water moccosin, which I killed on sight. Then I had a traumatic day. My dog was bitten by one of these snakes. I thought my dog was going to die. I rushed home told my dad, he called the Vet. The vet said there are no water moccosins in upstate SC. That is a low country snake. The snake that bit my dog was probably a water snake which is not poisonous and is very valuable because it eats rats and other pests. So the vet said, leave the snakes alone and do not worry about your dog. Well, that was a shock. The snakes that I had been killing were a valuable and important part of the environment. I felt bad about that, and I learned a lesson. Snakes have their place in the way things are. I still do not like copperheads though. But you get my meaning. Life on earth is about connectivity and interdependence.
Do you remember the Addams Family. It was originally a cartoon about a family that was weird and that celebrated their weirdness. In the 60's it became a TV show. At the time, I thought it was funny. I still remember Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Lurch, and It. It was just a hand that ran around on its own. That was weird. The weirdness was an unconnected hand. Like a puzzle with a missing piece, it is not supposed to be. Life is not that way. We are not that way.. We are all interdependent on each other. We all need each other.
Perhaps the major change we need in the 21st century is a change in thinking. We need to learn about connectivity and community on a global scale. Our interconnectedness extends beyond our town, beyond nations, even beyond humankind, to all of God’s creation.
By expanding our understanding globally, we come just a little bit closer to understanding the awesome nature of God and our roles and responsibilities as followers of Christ on this earth. Complex economic, political, cultural and environmental systems link people all over the world in ways that the first century people never dreamed. We have only to look at the tags on our shoes, clothes, and various other consumer products to understand how interdependent our daily lives are upon people we do not know, who do not speak our language, and who do not look like us. When I was writing this message, I typed it on a computer made in Malaysia, while drinking tea from the Charleston SC tea plantation, brewed in a pot and sipped from a cup both made in China, wearing shoes made in Vietnam, a shirt made in Nicaragua, and pants made in Honduras. I drove to church this morning in a car made in Japan. We live in an international marketplace.
That is good and bad. It means that you get very good prices at walmart. It means also that many industries and many jobs must compete globally, and that can be tough. Those of us who watched most of the Southern textile industry disappear overseas know how tough that can be. The hard fact is that companies today think global. For example, if a company is going to build a plant, they want to know where the best place in the world is to build that plant, not necessarily in the USA. That means that many times American workers compete directly with Chinese workers. Like it or not, it still happens.
It also means that if another country destroys its environment in the name of industrializtion, it impacts us. There are no safe havens. Everything is related.
It used to be that we could have local attitude and that was fine. We could good lives, pay our taxes, worship God on Sundays and love our immediate neighbors (those who live in our own communities) by treating them with dignity and respect and that was pretty much it. We did not need to worry about the environment we did not need to care if other animal species become extinct. We did not need to care about other people who lived the next town over. That kind of restricted worldview is just not good enough anymore. You can argue that it was never good enoguh. You can aruge that that kind of “me and mine and I dont care about thine” worldview has been the cause of most of the evil in this world, but let that go. It is certainly not going to be good in the future.
We have to learn to expand our good neighbor love to all the world. We used to be proud of Southern hospitality” “Come on in, glad to see you, we will leave the light on for you.”
By the way I heard a little story about southern hospitality. A farm boy accidentally overturned his wagonload of wheat on the road. The farmer who lived nearby came to investigate. Recognizing the boy, he said, “Hey, Willis,” “forget your troubles for a while and come and have supper with us. Then I’ll help you with the wagon.” That’s very nice of you,” Willis answered, “but I don’t think Dad would like me to.” “Aw, come on, son!” the farmer insisted. “Well, okay,” the boy finally agreed, “but Dad won’t like it.” After a hearty supper, Willis thanked the host. “I feel a lot better now, but I know Dad’s going to be real upset.” “Don’t be silly!” said the neighbor. “By the way, where is he?” Willis replied, “Under the wagon.” Willis and the farmer lived in a different era. While we all want to be good neighbors, the meaning of “neighborliness” has changed as the culture has changed from country to city, from slow food to fast food, from the dining room to the game room. People don’t drop by like they used to — and, what’s more, we don’t want them to!
Paul McCartney once wrote in a song about loneliness in a crowd of others, “All the lonely people, Where do they all come from? All the lonely people, Where do they belong?”
They belong in a community. They need connectivity of friendships
I heard about this incredible story several years ago. In November of 1992, Donald DeGreve, age 65, suffered a fatal heart attack while playing golf in Winter Haven, Florida. As his body lay on the 16th green, covered with a sheet, and while course officials tried to contact his wife and funeral home personnel, the three men who had been playing with DeGreve continued onto the 17th and finally the 18th tee to finish their game. "Life goes on," said one man, "so we had to keep going." That story is so bad you might think it is a joke. Unfortuantely it is true. As the saying goes, with friends like that you do not need enemies.
In an article in Focus on the Family magazine, author Stu Weber illustrates basic human connectivity. It was 1967, at the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning. The war in Vietnam was building to its peak. A grim, battle tested sergeant stood before the young, anxious recruits. The sergeant told them that the next nine weeks would be the toughest they had ever experienced. The sergeant said many would not make the grade. The sergeant talked about the war in Vietnam and he talked about killing and death. The sergeant talked about how training was tough because it was designed to save lives – the lives of the American soldiers. And he said he was going to do that by making them face their greatest fears, overcome their weaknesses and endure what they never dreamed possible.
Then the sergeant announced step one. There was a pause. All the soldiers feared the worst about step one, but they were surprised. The Sergeant told the soldiers to find a buddy. "This is step one," the sergeant growled. "You need to find yourself a Ranger buddy. You will stick together. You will never leave each other. You will encourage each other, and, as necessary, you will carry each other. [Stu Weber, "Some One to Lean On" Focus on the Family Magazine (June 1996).] That sergeant could have been reading from St. Paul’s writings to the Galatians -- "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)
That was the way the first church in Jerusalem thought. We read in Act 2 that they “devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching.” That is, they devoted themselves to Jesus, because the Apostles taught the gospel of Christ. And they devoted themselves to the “fellowship” that is to the Christian community, to each other. They came together for the “breaking of bread” that is probably both for Holy Communion and for what we call today church suppers. And they came together for prayers. That is what a Christian community does. We read in v44, “All who believed were together.” and again in v46, “They received their food with glad and generous hearts.” Now I know that Acts 2 was a special time in Christian History. There were not many Christians. They had only one church meeting in one city, Jerusalem, but they had a unity, a togetherness which all Christians have envied ever since. What they had in Jerusalem, we need to take and apply everywhere. We need to remember that in Christ we are one people, his people.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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Last Modified: 05/02/13