Read Acts 6:1-4
1-4 During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers—“Hellenists”—toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense, and we’ll assign them this task. Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word.” (THE MESSAGE)
Jean Vanier is a Canadian theologian and humanist. He founded a network of communities called L’Arche, which cared for those with profound disabilities. He has written about the relative ease with which you can start a community and the relative difficulty in keeping it going. The community can only be faithful to its task if its members give up ideas of being heroes or achieving headline-making great things.
He identifies the key to faithful community as thanking God for the opportunities each day of offering small gestures of love and grace. In this he echoes another humanitarian, Mother Teresa. She is reported to have said we cannot do great things in this life, but only small things with great love.
Our text today reminds us that the early-church community, full of enthusiastic disciples, encountered problems. Earlier in Acts it seems it was some ideal community where everyone just got on famously with everyone else. Not so. Any community consists of fallible people who don’t always get on with each other, or who don’t always treat one another well.
Faithful community requires large doses of grace and forgiveness and patience as well as grand statements of principle and bursts of enthusiasm. Idealism tempered with realism.