Today’s playlist reflects the short passage at the end of chapter of Acts chapter 2 which, after the incredible events of Pentecost, summarise the response of the first Christian community in Jerusalem. The hallmarks of this infant church have become a guide for many churches ever since and it’s easy to see why so many were attracted to the fledgling community of Jesus followers.
‘Spirit of Jubilee’ by Ian Peacock
The concept of ‘Jubilee’ is found in the Old Testament book of the law, Leviticus. It contained radical instructions for the people of God regarding the way they were to deal with work, loans, land and the treatment of the poor. It really was to be great news for everyone. Nobody is sure how closely the Israelites followed it or for how long, but it was meant to be a clear sign to all that God’s economics and politics were radically different to those of other nations and tribes.
In the New Testament, the early church followed a similar set of principles, meeting together to share possessions and food, selling land to give to the poor and making sure widows, orphans and foreigners were looked after. It was a great reflection of the heart of God.
Writing this song, I wondered how far we have strayed from this in our self-obsessed and materialistic western culture and whether it is actually possible to live in the spirit of Jubilee. One thing is certain, the world would be a much better place for the poor if we did.
‘To obey is better than sacrifice’ by Keith Green
Luke uses the word ‘devotion’ to describe the first believers’ interaction with one another; their devotion to prayer, to the apostles’ teaching and to ‘the breaking of bread’ (probably eating together as well as remembering the passover meal in which Jesus said the bread and wine would symbolise his body and blood). It’s a challenging word and I doubt many of us would describe our own relationship with any of these things in the same way. For many of us, we find it a challenge to commit to reading the bible and praying once a day!
Keith Green’s songs, like his life example, often challenge Christians in to a deeper devotion to Jesus. There is a controversial line in this song which nearly didn’t stay in the song:
To obey is better than sacrifice, I want more than Sunday’s and Wednesday nights. ‘Cause if you can’t come to me every day, then don’t bother coming at all
I’m not sure if Jesus would have been quite so polarising but the principle is definitely a good one; Jesus doesn’t want our ‘Sunday offering’, our tithe or our religious rituals, he wants devotion. Devotion to him and to one another. It’s a high calling but one that is worth the ‘sacrifice’.
‘Breathing the breath’ by Matt Redman
I like this song, not just because it’s one of the only worship songs which includes an irregular time signature (6/4) towards the end (Muso’s will understand what I’m talking about!) but because the lyrics explore the idea that everything we have came from God in the first place (even our very breath!) and therefore, it’s not ours to keep; we are merely stewards of God’s resources. Like the early disciples, some of whom sold possessions and land and put it in to a common purse in order to ensure the poorer amongst them didn’t go without, we are called to hold our material wealth very lightly, putting it at God’s disposal.
We have nothing to give that didn’t first come from Your hands
We have nothing to offer You which You did not provide
Every good, perfect gift comes from your kind and gracious heart
And all we do is give back to You what always has been Yours
‘If we are the body’ by Casting Crowns
Like many of Casting Crowns’ songs, this song challenges some of the behaviour and attitudes found in the church at times; cliques, judgmentalism, apathy etc. The church, ‘Christ’s body’, may have started in Jerusalem but it’s mission was to ‘go in to all the world’, where Jewish Christians would have to welcome people of all sorts of cultural, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. The church may have changed in many ways but the call hasn’t:
Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come
‘Available’ by Elevation Worship
Some of those who joined the early Jesus movement had very little to offer; many were uneducated, unskilled and had no material wealth to speak of. And yet…. Jesus called them to follow him and to be the means of sharing his love and truth with the world. They made themselves available to his cause and that’s all that was needed. How available are you to God? Is your life so filled with your own schedule that you have little margin for the unexpected?
Narrow as the road may seem, I’ll follow where Your Spirit leads
Broken as my life may be I will give You every piece
I hear You call, I am available
I say, “Yes, Lord”, I am available
So, whatever you have at your disposal this week, whether time, talent, money, energy, creativity or whatever else, may you devote it to the God who made it yours in the first place.