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. - Acts 4:32
The early church was a very generous and mutual community. Our reading this Sunday from Acts tells us that there was not a needy member among them, for anyone who owned land or houses sold them and brought all the proceeds to to the apostles, and it was distributed to everyone according to their need. There was no private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. And they were filled with the joy of resurrection and grace. The resurrection had shown them that they had nothing to fear - and nothing to lose - and that God's call to serve was the most important thing.
This passage is exceedingly challenging for us in 21st century America. I'm not sure many of us can even imagine being willing to own nothing, let alone hold everything in common among us at church, trusting church leaders to distribute our common goods equitably to all members. I often wonder how long the early church actually went on like that. The early Christians were juiced up from their experience with Jesus, including the amazing events of Holy Week, Easter and the Ascension, and they were anticipating Jesus' return at any second. They were positive that preparing for the Kingdom of God was far more important than anything else, and they took Jesus' suggestion to give away all their possessions very seriously - and literally.
I wonder how long it was before they began to grow resentments about who gave the most and who was taking the most? We never hear the story about when the church stopped holding everything they had in common. Some monasteries and small intentional communities still live this way, but most of us no longer do.
So maybe we can't effectively imagine doing what the early Christians did. But we can consider what it is that we are called to still hold in common today? What is it, in the church, that we all want to willingly share among us? How is it that we are still called to work together to assure that no one is left out and that those who are in need do not suffer? How do we hold accountable those among us who have many talents and resources so that all have what they need and not just a few? These are challenging questions, but certainly ones for us to live into if we want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
The gospel is radical in every way and on every level. In the Easter season, we're asked to consider what the Resurrection means in our lives and how we will live into it in our day to day lives. What is God asking us to share freely? What would we do if we knew that we had nothing to fear and nothing to lose in this life, and that God's call to serve was the most important thing?