14 On the Lord's Day
14:1 On the Lord's day, gather yourselves together and break bread, give thanks, but first confess your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure.
14:2 However, let no one who is at odds with his brother come together with you, until he has reconciled, so that your sacrifice may not be profaned.
14:3 For this is what the Lord has said: "For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the of hosts. . . . For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name is reverenced among the nations."
Common meal and Eucharist.
These four things are what this little community was about. By doing the first three, the fourth was achieved. Let’s briefly break these down.
Notice that there is to be a special gathering of the people of this community. Specifically, they were to meet “on the Lord’s day.” This would be on Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection (see: Matthew 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-6; John 20:1, 19). This was already becoming a custom at this time (see Acts 20.7; 1 Corinthians 16.2; cf. Revelation 1.10). It doesn’t say what time of day it was, just that it was supposed to happen. The whole community would gather together on Sunday.
I can see this community as a monastery, in my little imagination. And, to me, that would already indicate some kind of commonality to them, mostly sharing goods and services and resources. So when they were instructed to gather together, it’s was the entire group, with few exceptions. This type of community just isn’t applicable today (unless, of course, you do actually live in a type of intentional community like a monastery). There are too many people who just don’t follow the same Rule of Life, the same guiding principles. And on any given Sunday, the people who are all “members” of the same local church, don’t even attend for whatever reason. To me, then, this type of community is all but lost.
Common meal and Eucharist
Not only did this little community gather together, but they broke bread, which is another way of saying they shared a meal that included the Eucharist. Again, we see evidence of this in the New Testament (see Luke 24.35; Acts 2.42, 46; 20.7; cf. 1 Corinthians 10.16-17; 11.27ff).
Again, this isn’t done today. Well, some of it’s not done. There are some followers of The Way who do have Eucharist each week, but others don’t. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group who had a common meal every week. Well, I take that back. There’s a great group that meets here where I live who have a small common gathering on Sunday evenings that has a meal afterward. There are a lot of wonderful things about that group and they way they do that Sunday evening service...
Notice that in the text above, the new followers are cautioned about having a shared meal with someone who’s “at odds” with another member of the community. Again, in a community that’s all inclusive, something like this would be known. And it would be important for the health of the community. If one continues to be “at odds” with another, that issue, whatever it may be, will fester and potentially destroy the community and the faith of the people in the community. The New Testament has pretty clear instructions that mirror what’s here (see Matthew 5.23-24; Mark 11.25; Ephesians 4.22; Colossians 3.12-13). And while I know that Paul is talking about food in Romans 14, the principle supplied there can be used in all manner of things.
“Witnessing” has become more akin to proselytizing or recruiting. That is, engaging people or seeking them out to tell them about Jesus, whether one asks or not. But that’s not what the word witness means. Witness is the idea of seeing or experiencing something and then giving an account of it when asked. All of the aforementioned things — community, common meal and Eucharist, and reconciliation — are to be signs to those outside of the community to the fact that G_d’s Realm has come “on earth as in heaven.” People on the outside of the community should see a difference in the way those inside the community act towards others. Their lives should be seen as an alternative to the chaos, inequality, and violence that still grips a lot of the world. Just its very existence should be speaking to those in power, whether religious or societal, that there’s another way of being.
And it’s when that’s seen, when that’s recognized, others will have a deep respect (“reverence”) for G_d. Others will see and know that G_d’s Realm has come and they’ll want to be part of it. They’ll ask about our way of living, our way of being, and want to share in it. But they have to see it. They have to witness it. If we continue to fight amongst ourselves and judge those outside (which we’re told we aren’t supposed to do), they’ll want nothing to do with us or our “God.” To them, it will all be a farce. An illusion. A crutch.
May G_d our Father-Mother grant us the strength and the grace to be like this little community.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC