Today’s Scripture has me thinking about building a fire.
Building a fire is kind of an art. Sometimes it happens really easily – the wood is nice and dry, you’ve got some good fire starter, and it just lights up. But most of the time it takes technique and touch.
As far as I know, there’s two basic techniques. Both of them accomplish the same goal: creating the right combination of fuel, air, and heat, the three things a fire needs. Some people like to start with a log cabin, laying their sticks down like Lincoln Logs. See? Fuel, air, and a space to put your heat.
But it’s not a log cabin I’m thinking about today. I’m thinking about the other basic fire-building technique, and my personal favorite: the teepee. You lean little twigs on each other, and then slightly larger twigs, and the some sticks – always pairing similar sizes together – and they balance and hold each other up. This teepee very reliably gives you what you need to start a fire. Fuel, air, and a space to put your heat.
Do you see the balance here? There’s no rope holding the sticks together, certainly no nails or anything like that. Just one stick holding up another, creating the right conditions for a spark to catch.
Now, let’s start over with today’s Scripture in mind.
“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and good and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”Acts 2:44-47
Do you hear it? How the sticks lean in on each other?
This Scripture is a description of the early church. It’s what life looked like when the Holy Spirit first arrived. When the people heard about Jesus and believed, it drew them together in a lean-in-on-each-other kind of way, a teepee-looking kind of life. They pooled their resources. Those who had much gave to those who had little. They shared meals and worship and life.
This is how we’re designed to work. When we do life like this – leaning in on each other, each one giving a different but similar amount to the group – it creates the perfect conditions for a brightly burning life. We have fuel to consume; we give each other energy by making sure we all have enough, physically and emotionally and spiritually. We have air to breathe; there’s space to move between us, no one of us is sucking up all the resources. And in the middle of us, there’s a spark: the Holy Spirit.
I’m fortunate to be a part of a church with these lean-in-on-each-other conditions. It’s energy-giving, life-giving. But seven weeks ago, with little to no warning, the regular rhythms of our church life together were severely disrupted. It felt like this:
No in-person worship, no Bible studies or small groups, no meals together, no hands-on service. Many of our regular ways of leaning in on each other, stopped cold. That left me feeling overwhelmed and drained.
But not forever. The way we lean in got disrupted… but not stopped.
We’re quick learners, we’re adapting, and already, this teepee kind of feeling is building again. We’re learning how to give and take, how to make sure everyone has enough, how to receive while also contributing.
I can even give you proof. During COVID-19, we’ve asked a dozen or so people in the church to act as shepherds – calling and checking on a small flock of folks. This week I heard a story from one of our shepherds that shows this lean-in-on-each-other life really well. Listen for yourself.
What Jeanne has felt as a “shepherd” – feeling her “flock” turn around and care for her – I’ve also felt as a pastor. Sometimes, people think the pastor is like a big pole in the middle of the teepee, holding everything else up… but I’m not. I need to lean in on y’all, in many ways. I can’t do it all myself. I can feel your care for me, asking me how I am, sending me cards and texts to encourage me – because this is a hard time for me, too. I mean, look at how I need these shepherds! I can’t call every single person in our congregation; I need help. I need Duncan to run our AV and our musicians to put together songs for worship. I also need you giving to me: praying for me, asking me how I’m doing, sending little texts and notes of encouragement.
I need you. You need me. We need each other.
This is how we are designed to work: leaning in together in a way that gives our lives fuel and space and room for the Holy Spirit.
If you are struggling to find energy for each day, it just might be that what you need is a faith community where you can develop this lean-in lifestyle. We want you to know that there’s a place for you here, at Sylva First UMC – or maybe you need to find a space at a church closer to you. Wherever it is, reach out and find it… and by doing so, find a life that burns bright for God.