May 12, 2011"Day by day, as they spent much time in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and hearts, praising God and having the good will of all the people. And day by day, the Lord added to their number those who were being saved." Acts 2: 47 - 47 For years in the church I have facilitated study of the lectionary. The lectionary is a three year cycle of Scripture readings that include an Old Testament lesson, a Psalm, an Epistle Lesson, and a Gospel reading. Throughout the three years of the lectionary, a lot of the Bible is covered. For this preacher and teacher, the lectionary is a disciplined approach to reading and reflecting on Scripture and biblical themes that emerge through the sometimes contiguous readings. I study the texts that I might not choose to spend time in - like Job and Leviticus - and find contemporary lessons for living that I might not have found otherwise. Most of the time, I find surprises! It was pure gift that this text from Acts of the Apostles was the reading for this week. As we read and reflected on the words, one of the women remarked that we were living this text that very moment as we studied, prayed and had a meal together. We certainly felt like the Acts 2 disciples with glad and generous hearts. The experience of being saved is something both groups spoke to. In the closeness and intimacy of a small group of disciples, trust is built and we are opened up to gladness and praise. Goodwill abounds as people know each other's stories and hearts. In the testimony of the people, there is evidence of healing and growing closer to God and to one another. It is easy to see how such light, kindled in the closeness of a group that breaks bread, prays and studies together, would attract others to it. The witness of those who have found Christ is a joy and generosity that does attract and does save. Luke, author of Acts, might have been a Methodist as he wrote those words "being saved." It's not a once and done act. Salvation is an ongoing act of sanctifying grace. We who love the Lord are being saved every day; that is part of the good news. God is not finished with us yet. Chapter 2 of Acts gives a picture of the New Testament church that emerges in the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Awe, sharing resources, worship in the temple, outreach, hospitality, praise, joy and generosity... This way of being in the world attracted thousands and thousands all who were being saved in their love of Christ and of one another. Those thousands were not in the same building; they were in small groups who loved and shared. With all the current talk about the diminishing numbers impacting the mainline denominations and the increasing alarm that the church is gasping to survive, what would it mean to return to the practices of small groups and prayer and study that feed on the word of God, then go out in gladness to serve others? One thing I know from the experience of the groups with whom I have had relationship - they have grown all the ways the first disciples did. They have become both the leaven and the remnant that carry forth good news. We together have experienced the "being saved" that is talked about in Acts 2. The next 2 blogs will be about the gifts they gave me as we ended our classes. Stay tuned!