Overflow - An Overflowing Community message by Young Adults/Teaching Pastor Luis Menjivar. For more information, visit cornerstone-sf.org
We are talking about an overflowing life. I’m excited to share what we’re going to talk about. Many times, if we’re exploring faith in Jesus, or have been following Him for some time, we can become accustomed to some things. Especially if we have explored or are in the beginning stages of exploring what Jesus is all about. We so easily understand this faith to be a very personal one. Although that is true, the song we just shared and received so beautifully, speaks of this prayer of wanting God to be with us. It is the very promise God fulfills. His promise to us, in a very personal way, is that He will be with us. He is with us and any who call on His name, embrace His son, Jesus, into their lives, have the promise of a love that will never abandon. That, in itself, is huge. It’s wonderful and worth highlighting.
However, we would be making a mistake if we were to think that is the full dimension of what faith in Jesus looks like. What I’d like to propose is that God longs for us to be committed participants of an overflowing community. We’ll call that the local church. God longs for us to go a step beyond the personal dynamics of faith with Jesus. He invites us to consider what it might look like to be a committed participant of a local expression of His grace. I want to propose that it is supposed to be an overflowing community because our involvement when one person’s commits themselves automatically changes the dynamic of the entire community.
We might see this if we have ever been a part of an athletic team, a business partnership, or a group of people who are all striving towards one end. We know how much of a difference is made when one person in that team or group steps up and commits to a situation. Something occurred or happens within. Perhaps they were doing what was required or an adequate measure of their job. Then, all of a sudden, something occurs in that person and they take a step and go all in. We know the dynamics of that group. Most of the time, when somebody does that, it ends up improving the rest of the group. It ends up elevating everybody else, especially when it’s organic. I would say mainly when it’s organic. Something happens. It’s like a catalyst.
I’m suggesting that God would want us to consider what it would look like for us to commit ourselves that way to an overflowing community. He wants that for us even though faith in Him is meant to be much more than personal faith. As real, true, and good as that is, He leaves the choice of doing so up to us. He gives us the freedom of deciding how in are we. This idea is captured pretty effectively when we start to look at the origins of this movement we have now come to understand as an institution called the church. In reality, it began as a movement and is supposed to continue to be a movement. It was never intended to be a stale institution, static and irrelevant. From its inception, it was always meant to be something that was vibrant, overflowing, and causing movement. We see this when Jesus stepped onto the scene and is doing His ministry. He tells the disciples that He is going to build His church on what He is going to do based on who He is. He’s going to build this church.
This is going to be a little bit of church history. It’s just good for us to know, especially in light of the fact that we, ourselves, are gathered because of where this all began. The word church, just so we understand, comes from the Greek word ecclesia. The Greek word ecclesia was the way the Romans referred to a gathering of citizens. It wasn’t a religious word. It was a word that said, “There is a unique group of people gathering who have a claim on this land and on a certain status in this land.” Jesus took that word, and He says, “Okay, I’m going to make my gathering. My gathering is going to be made up of people who have a unique claim on a certain land or realm where God operates. They have a unique status. It is one of acceptance, adoption, and great promise.” He says, “I’m going to make an ecclesia, too, but my ecclesia won’t be on Roman citizenship or defined by those lines. My gathering is going to be defined by what I’m going to do.” Jesus ended up giving His life on the cross, sacrifice. The disciples were devastated. They ran away and were fearful. They thought the movement was over. Three days later, they were stunned, more stunned than anyone else that there was an empty tomb. Jesus did the unthinkable to them. He revealed Himself as one who was alive, resurrected from the dead, and that transformed the disciples.
He told them to do two things. One, He says, “I want you to tell everybody that I am alive.” He says, “Another thing, I want you to go to Jerusalem and wait there. God is going to move on you in a unique way.” We could read this in Acts 2. What we know happened is scholars, historians, and commentators believe there were around 120 people that ended up gathering in Jerusalem. We don’t know exactly where. They call it the Upper Room near the temple. They were gathered together. They were praying. These were people that had come to a point of believing Jesus to be who He said He was. They had now been convinced that Jesus was alive and were praying. They were doing what Jesus told them to do, which is to gather and to wait on God. They were doing it on a particular Jewish holiday, a holy day known as Pentecost.
At this time, they’re gathered together. There seems to be more than 120. There were other people. It was a spacious place. This remarkable account takes place. You can read it in Acts 2. God’s spirit descends upon them in a historic fashion. One that has never been duplicated since. Not in the same way at least. God’s spirit descends in such a way that this group of 120 people was told they are filled. They sense something of God’s presence in their soul. They, themselves, end up erupting with enthusiasm and joy. They start singing songs and praying prayers. The thing about that is this gathering wasn’t just a localized group of people. They were Jewish people from all over the Roman Empire. So, they spoke different tongues and languages. They came from different cultures. They were all gathered together. These people start hearing prayers and worship songs in their own language, which was in itself stunning.
It ends up surprising the people watching. All of a sudden, this group of people who were praying were just overjoyed, enthusiastic, praying, and singing in this amazing way. Some people are weirded out. “What’s going on?” Others start mocking and accusing this group of people. They say, “Would you believe that? They had too much to drink. They’re tripping out.” It’s my slang, but that’s essentially in Greek, but basically, “Man, they had too much to drink. Look at them. They’re drunk. Can you believe that? They’re acting so foolishly.” Peter, on the other side of that, steps up and ends up saying, “Oh, time out, hold on, hold on. First of all, it’s 9:00 AM. No one has had too much to drink. The wine has not been flowing. We’re just getting started with our day. Peter delivers the church’s first recorded sermon.
This sermon, in a nutshell, is essentially Peter saying, “Jesus died and rose again. This man, whom you have all heard about, is alive.” In response to that, in verse Acts 2:37, we’re told that when they heard this, they were cut to the heart. The conviction that Peter had on the backdrop of this undeniable evidence of God’s presence ends up uniting them all. The words, the conviction, the presence of God, all of it ends up uniting. It hit them at the core of their being. They said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what should we do then? If what you’re saying is true, what are we to do?” Peter responds with something that we would say is a bit loaded. Peter said, “Repent,” which means turn around, change your mind, change directions for where your life is going, and be baptized. That is if you believe this to be true, don’t be ashamed of it. Do it publicly. Publicly claim your allegiance to God, and every one of you, in the name of Jesus, the Christ, which is a title naming King. Says, “For the forgiveness of your sins. You don’t have to live up to God’s measurements. He’s made a way for us. He has done it for us and any who claim His name. We have a pathway to God. He says, “If you do this, you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” That is the presence of God will be with you wherever you go.
Luke says that the moment on the other side of that, 3,000 people ended up doing what Peter suggested they do. Numbers aren’t everything, but if we think about this, 120 people had begun there in this prayer time. Something happens. God shows up. Peter delivers a sermon. It must have been quite a sermon because that group multiplied 25 times over. That’s a big deal. Something remarkable happened. This became the catalyst for the movement that we now know because that group didn’t just remain in Jerusalem. It extended beyond Jerusalem for a variety of reasons and events. They ended up going into Samaria, the wider Judean area and expanded into other parts of the Roman Empire. They ended up spreading throughout the entire world because, in the beginning, this group of people said, “We’re in.” Now, over 2,000 years later, something that we have taken for granted is happening all over the world. Millions of people are gathering together, and it all began right here. It was an overflowing community of people who decided to commit themselves to each other and to what Jesus was doing among them.
Luke ends up capturing some qualities of how this group was defined. I’d like us to read through this together. We’ll read through Acts 2:42. He says, “They devoted themselves,” they being this gathering. “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and the fellowship and to breaking of bread and prayers.” They had meals together. They invited each other to each other’s homes. They spent large amounts of time together. They wanted to learn. Verse 43, “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles and all who believed were together and had all things in common.” Luke is doing more than just capturing facts. Luke is trying to tell Theophilus, whom he’s writing to, “What you have heard, it is true.”
This is how it began. It was a movement. It was a moment in history that had never occurred before. Luke says, “The energy, the amount of enthusiasm that this group of people had was remarkable.” It’s hard for us to understand exactly what was happening here, but maybe we could put it in a different context. In our context, we would understand what it looked like for a group of people to gather around an idea and try to monetize that idea. We call that a startup culture. Where does balance go there? No, we’re going to change the world. We’re in. We’re sleeping, eating, working, everything together. We’re in. Luke is saying, “That’s how the church began, right there.” They didn’t hold anything back. They were all the way in. He’s saying. They were committed.
Something remarkable happens and organically flows out in verse 45. “They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Generosity erupted. It flowed. “Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.” That is they were celebrating the fact that Jesus was alive. That the fact that Jesus overcame death became the marking point of this gathering. When they gathered, there was so much joy and gladness, people would give their food to each other. They would invite each other. For the first time in human history, there was evidence that there was life after this one. There was hope gripping this community. It ended up stirring something, not within the community alone, but others, as well. We’re told in verse 47 that, “Praising God and having favor with all the people, the Lord added to their number day by day, those who are being saved.” In other words, people started to become attracted to this movement. People started seeing and hearing about it and seeing their neighbors and friends treat each other a unique way. We have to know this. They were witnessing something that had never happened before, and they wanted in. There were gatherings, but they had very strict delineations and separations. The gatherings highlighted what was different about one another.
For example, in the Roman Empire, aristocrats gathered with other aristocrats. The working class gathered with other working class. Certain ethnic groups didn’t go beyond their group. Certain religions did not go beyond that. Certain cultures stuck together. There was a very clear understanding. The merchant or business class hung out with each other. This was unheard of for a servant to gather with their master in a social setting. That simply never happened. This ecclesia, this church, was violating every single one of these delineations. For the first time in human history, there was a gathering. It began first predominantly as Jewish. It expanded beyond, where every tribe, all cultures, different religious backgrounds, socioeconomic status, and aristocrats were hanging out, socializing, and connecting on an equal basis with working-class people. Servants and masters called each other brother and sister, a familial term. It was shocking, and people wanted in. They wanted in. How is that possible, and how do I get to be a part of that?
Luke goes on several chapters later and tries to capture again the sense again in verse 32, “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” He keeps harping on this, but he also said that about more than 3,000 people were united. United in heart and soul. They were remarkably united, more than 3,000 people united in heart and soul. I’ve only been married seven years. But I can say it’s challenging for two people to say, “We are completely united in heart. Disagreement between us? No. What?” If we ever see the real deal, and we say, “Wow, they have extreme unity.” We would stop. “Okay. Hold on. What’s your secret? Okay? How’d you do it?” We know differences emerge, personalities emerge, things happen, disagreements occur, and there are different perspectives. We could watch the same thing, walk out, have two completely different perspectives. Luke is trying to tell us this was miraculous. It was amazing.
Luke continues saying, “With great power, the apostles were giving their testimonies to the resurrection,” there it is, “that He is alive, and great grace was upon them all. There was an undeniable transformation in their conviction, and people started to hear them. There was not a needy person among them.” This is now the third time he’s saying it. It’s almost as if he’s saying. “No, this really happened. No, this is not a joke. This actually happened.” “For as many as were owners of land and houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as one, as any had need.” Luke is trying to say, “No, this actually occurred.” No one stood up in the church, after all this energy, all of this movement happening, and all this unity was occurring, nobody stood up and said, “Okay, now, here’s the plan. Those of you who own stuff, sell it, and let’s fund this.” No one said that. It was organic. Somebody decided, “I believe in this.” They just did it.
It reminds me of this video I saw a while ago. I’m sure it’s still available on YouTube, but it was this concert. It was a group of people on a grassy field, and there was a band playing. I don’t know what band was playing, but you could hear the music in the background, and you could see the group of people. They were almost annoyed by the band as if the band was getting in the way of them socializing. They were hanging out oblivious to the music. In the video, there was one man who heard the music differently. He heard it differently. He enjoyed the music. I’m going to make an assumption he was in his right mind, but he ends up standing up, and dancing. He’s busting a move and going for it.
I’m not going to give you a demo, but he was out there, and people around him were noticing. They weren’t noticing, “Man, look at that guy go.” They were more like, “Oh, look at that guy go,” and he didn’t care. He just kept going and dancing. He was having a good time. He loved the music. He loved the environment. He was just going for it. It was a solid two to three minutes of him alone in the middle of the field, surrounded by people somewhat mocking him, just dancing. You see this guy out of nowhere, gets inspired. He runs down the hill, almost runs into him. He doesn’t know him. You can tell they’re surprised, and then they start dancing. These two guys in the middle of the fields are dancing. They’re going for it. They’re enjoying the music. The trickle effects happen. Somebody else gets inspired, a third person, then a fourth, a fifth, and before you know it, by the end of the video, the entire grassy field is filled with people going nuts, dancing. A party erupted. If you’re the band, you’re thinking, “Man, we are good. Wow, that just happened.” But what really happened is one guy decided to jump out there, go all in, and then somebody else decided, “I’m with you.”
Luke is trying to tell us that’s how the church began. Jesus went all in. People became all in too. This nameless, faceless group of people that began this movement, Luke ends up narrowing down. He says, “Let me give you a snapshot of what one of these people looks like. His name is Joseph. In verse 36, Luke says, “Thus, Joseph,” who was also called, by the apostles, Barnabas, which means the son of encouragement. He was a natural encourager. He was also Levite. His family served in a temple, a native of Cypress, which is a nearby island in the Mediterranean Sea. We’re told in verse 37, “And he sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Luke is saying this community was made up of individuals like Barnabas. It was overflowing. It was a remarkable community. It was the beginning of a movement that has lasted many, many generations. I have to be honest with you. I read this and a part of me is bothered because it feels like a different world. I wonder, “Did it actually happen? Did it really occur?” Historians corroborate. The entire Roman Empire was flipped upside down because of this movement. There’s no denying it happened.
We have to understand a couple of things. One, Luke wasn’t writing this in a descriptive nature. Some of us might be here for the first time. Or maybe this is the first handful of times; we’re just checking church out. We don’t know if we believe Jesus to be who He says He is. We might be hearing this, and you might be thinking, “Oh, my goodness. He’s going to ask us to sell our houses and our possessions. I mean, that’s just crazy, right?” You’re thinking, “What’s the fastest way I can get out,” because we might think, “Well, but this is how it’s supposed to be.” Luke wasn’t writing in a prescriptive way. He was writing in a descriptive way. He was describing how this whole movement began. He was trying to tell us something amazing was happening.
It continues to be amazing. It’s never been 100% duplicated, but the kernels or grains that made this an overflowing community are what we’re supposed to grab on to. We might also make a mistake. We might read this, and we might think, “Boy, you know what? This was the one time in history when the kindest, most loving, generous group of people just happened to gather together. That’s why this happened. People were just giving stuff away, selling their stuff, giving it to each other. They used to be strangers and now they’re treating each other like family. What is this?” We could think that, and we would be severely mistaken because the very next sentence in this account tells of a couple who wanted PR points. They sold their field. They gave a portion of it, they kept portion back, and they said they gave all of it. They pretended to be more generous than they were.
We’re told later throughout the account of Acts that the church ended up accusing each other. All we have to do is read a couple of epistles that Paul writes to different churches. He says to them, “Why are you gossiping? Why are you lying to each other? Why are you stealing from each other? You’re suing each other. What’s going on?” Paul is saying, this church was made up of normal, imperfect, broken people. It’s made up of people with baggage, which is why it’s so amazing. It was something that God did and I believe He longs to continue to do. It was impacted by individuals, organically, not of compulsion, deciding to do a couple of things. I’d like us to consider what they model for us because God longs for us to be committed participants of an overflowing community, the local church. He really does. It is our choice, though. I think the first thing He, this church, and this gathering models for us, is an overflowing community commits itself to learn what faith in Jesus is all about. I love this because when they came to a point of faith it wasn’t the finishing line. That was the starting line. They didn’t put their intellect aside because of their faith. They didn’t put their logic aside because of their faith. They didn’t put their understanding aside. They called upon every faculty at their disposal to learn. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, which was the gospel.
Peter, the man who delivered that first sermon, ends up writing to the churches. He says, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue and knowledge.” Know the depth and the width of what you believe. This faith of ours is simple enough for a child to grasp. It is deep enough for a scholar to swim in. The full dimension of it takes a lifetime to enjoy and discover. They were saying, “How does this faith in Jesus impact me personally?” We do that readily, but they went beyond that. They said, “How does faith in Jesus impact me relationally? How does faith in Jesus impact me occupationally? How does faith in Jesus impact me with my resources, time, energy, involvements, and commitments? How does faith in Jesus inform all of those aspects of who I am? Doing and learning more about that naturally flows into what happens in an overflowing community. It devotes itself to loving one another.
This might be somewhat startling for us to hear. It wasn’t charity the church demonstrated to those outside the church that impacted people. It was the charity the church demonstrated toward one another that impacted people. It was the level of love, acceptance, grace, and forgiveness that this gathering demonstrated toward each other that so grabbed the attention of everyone outside of it. They saw something they had never seen before. They were united by Jesus, not personal interest, which is what every other movement had, except for this one. It gripped them. They ended up in a committed, loving relationship. I tread here with some trepidation, but marriage, at its best, is supposed to exemplify a committed relationship. Marriage removes the ability for us to say, “You annoy me. Peace. Get out. De-friended.”
We can’t do that when we’re committed. A committed relationship strips us of the ability to check out. It gives us the opportunity to exercise some muscles. In a committed relationship or community, when we say, “We’re all in and I’m here to stay,” we learn how to remain through the ups and downs of emotion. We learn how to forgive. In a committed relationship, we get ample opportunity to do so. We learn how to ask for forgiveness. We learn how to give and receive grace. We learn how to be merciful because there will be a day when we will ask for mercy. We learn how to give and to receive what is given to us. We learn how to serve and be served. We learn how to be a part of something that is larger than our individual life. They were modeling what Jesus said they should do.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another just as I have loved you. You are to love one another.” When we sign up with and explore faith in Jesus on a purely personal level, but cut ourselves off from His people, then we cut ourselves off from the full dimension of what this faith is supposed to be in the first place. It’s not supposed to be just personally holistic and healing. It is also meant to be relationally holistic and healing. It is also meant to be relationally strengthening. We become people that others can count on. We end up becoming a piece of a movement that overflows.
Jesus said, “There’s a unique love you share with each other, unlike any other.” It also means that an overflowing community becomes attractive to those who are not followers of Jesus. How do I become a part of that? How do I get in on that? They see what the human heart longs for. We long for purpose. We long for something beyond ourselves. We long to be loved and to love. We long to be known and to know. We long to be accepted and embraced. We long to belong. When they see a group of people that are wildly different, loving each other from different economic statuses, backgrounds, ethnicities, heritages, religions, and different ways of being, what ends up happening is they say, “I want to belong to that. How do I belong to that?”
A little while ago, my wife and I wanted to celebrate my 30th birthday. We had made plans to invite friends, cater, and different things, and have a celebration. On the day of the party, everything fell through. Everything caved in. Things just happened and we were scrambling. We told people together. Now we didn’t know where to go. So, we went online and found this barbecue spot in the city. We called and they had a table available. We went ahead and said, “Just give us as many seats as we can to take the table.” We told our friends, “Meet us at this spot.” They said, “Yeah, sweet. Is it good.” “I don’t know. I’ve never been there. We’re just going to go check it out.” or “All right, let’s go.”
We showed up, and we took over this barbecue restaurant. There was a bar on the left. The rest of the space is the restaurant and sports TVs. It was packed. We had a table in the center of the restaurant. It was like walking through hug row for everyone who came in. They were just like, “Hey, what’s up, man?” giving each other hugs and doing the whole jazz. It was just natural. It’s what friends do. As we were gathering around the table, it was time to eat, everyone waits for everyone to get the meal in front of them. We all get the meal, and then we said, “Hey, why don’t we pray?” This is what we naturally do. We pray and ask God, “Would you bless this meal?” Throughout the course of the night, I wanted to express to my friends how much I appreciated them and why I appreciate them. It was my birthday. They were very kind and generous, as well.
This whole thing is going on. By the end of the evening, one of the servers comes with the owner of the restaurant He asks, “Hey, who are you guys? Are you guys a club or something” We said, “We are friends and it’s his birthday. We’re part of this church, Cornerstone.” He said, “Man, you guys are the largest group here. You’re the cleanest and so kind. You’re helping our server out. She was stressing out a little bit. What is this about?” We just start talking and sharing. By end of that, he said, “Your group is invited here anytime.” Our way of being says the way we love each other. It says to others, ‘Hey, you, you’re invited here anytime. Anytime.” Because they saw Jesus among us. They didn’t know it. They saw God among us. It’s what happens when we are part of a community that’s vibrant, alive, loving each other, and sacrificial. Love is risky. Put yourself out there. It’s also painful. To say otherwise is a lie. But love is beautiful. It is so attractive. We get to say, “Come. Come on. You want to be part of this?” “Yeah.” “It doesn’t matter where you came from. It doesn’t matter. Come on, come on, let’s talk about Jesus. You’re always invited here, always. Come on.”
That’s an overflowing community. It’s what we’re invited to be a part of. That’s what our involvement creates. It’s what God would long for each of us to commit ourselves to. Would the church community, not just ours, many in the city and throughout the world, be known as the places in their cities, towns, and villages for others to see and say, “Wow, look how they love each other. I want in. I want in.” In a moment, we’re going to receive our time of giving and closing song. I’m going to pray. God, I thank you. I thank you, Jesus, that you come to us personally in the most intimate ways in the core of who we are. You know it. You speak to it. You meet us right there, but then you do beyond that. You don’t leave us alone. You invite us to be a part of your people. You invite us to be a part of a community, a relational connection that is larger than our small lives. You invite us into a movement. I pray, God, for our community. I pray, spirit of God, that you would descend upon us in such a way that we would be inspired, encouraged, and filled with joy that causes us to say, “I’m all in, I’m all in.” I pray that your beautiful love would flow through this community, into the city, and you would be honored. In Jesus’ name, amen.