The world and everything in are God’s. As stewards of divine creation we are responsible for all our neighbors.
This Week’s Passage: Luke 4:32-37
I. Establish the text
C. Other texts for Year B for 2ndSunday in Easter
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
32a Of one heart and soul, allows for conflicting opinions while seeking to serve the Lord in all things.
32b If we consider everything in all creation to be on loan to us from God, would this not follow?
33 Like the Apostles, preachers today have been entrusted with the greatest gift: forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and life ever-lasting. How could this not be shared powerfully?
34 This defines needs only in material goods, but we also need opportunities to be useful.
35 Why did they have to sell the items before giving them?
36-37 Could the community have used Joseph’s field to grow grain and teach others to grow grain?
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- Preceded by the believers praying together and receiving the Holy Spirit. Thus this communal life exemplifies the power or the Spirit to overcome individual pride.
- Lops off an example of selling a field and presenting it to the apostles. And the counter example of Ananias and Sapphira selling and pretending to give all but withholding part.
II. Literary Study.
A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?
- Written by Luke to document the spreading of the church. Thus this and the following passage demonstrate that the church did not unfold consistently.
D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?
- This is a third person news account without dialogue.
- Common ownership surrounds the preaching of apostles. Thus this behavior is an outward sign of the affect of the preaching and the presence of the Holy Spirit among the believers.
III. Question the text.
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Center of Gravity: The world and everything in are God’s. As stewards of divine creation we are responsible for all our neighbors.
- Emotional Center: Common ownership embodied the preaching of the apostles.
- Music: “One Bread, One Body”
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
- Conflict follows this passage when individual security attempts to subvert trusting the community to care for everyone.
E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?
- The community must have kept some property for communal use; e.g. the house where they were staying. How did the community share spiritual gifts and secular talents?
- Omitting these keeps the focus on the power of trusting the Holy Spirit, rather than on how to implement a commune.
F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
- Is the Bible really advocating socialism/communism? The exegete must differentiate voluntary participation in communal life from mandated sharing.
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
James J.H. Price (The Presbyterian Outlook, January 6-13, 1997, “Barnabas”.) concludes that the example of Barnabas giving the proceeds from the sale of a field is an unusual, rather than an expected, regular practice of all members of the community.
Robert W. Wall (The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon, 2002. “The Acts of the Apostles”) continues this pericope through the 5:16; incorporating both the episode with Ananias and Sapphira and the people bringing the sick so that Peter’s shadow might fall on them and be cured. He concludes this interlude in Luke’s description of the spread of the church was an example of what the church should look like in every age. He deduces from Barnabas being a Levite, a tribe dedicated to spiritual rather than physical stewardship, that this instance of communal trust marks the return toward the order God had intended. “The value we place on individual ownership, not only on what we purchase but the motives for acquiring particular brands or models, is an expression of our inmost and utmost loyalties.”
William H. Willimon (Interpretation: Acts. JKP, 1988.) continues this passage through the episode with Ananias and Sapphira (5:11). He notes that for Luke, money is not a sign of God’s favor, but a danger. “If money is somehow linked with our idolatrous attempts to secure immortality for ourselves, it is also the occasion for much self-deceit.”
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
- The world and everything in are God’s. As stewards of divine creation we are responsible for all our neighbors.
B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.
- Submitting to the Holy Spirit’s power enables individuals to trust a community over individual fears.
C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?
- Great grace works miracles in word and deed.