Sunday sermon on the reading from the Book of Acts (6:1-7).
Christ is risen!
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
The Book of Acts, in general, is a very good text to read. Not only is it part of the Bible, and reading the Bible is never a bad thing, the Book of Acts also shows the early life and the early struggles of the first Christian communities, a very young Christian Church.
We can see that the apostles and people who were converting to Christianity, thousands at a time, were still just human beings. And as most human beings, they got into conflicts with each other … Shocking, I know, two thousand years later, obviously we have become much better than them, we have learned to live in complete peace and harmony with each other … oh wait …
So what were some of the problems in this early Christian community? Some widows were neglected in daily distribution of food. The Jewish custom of that day was that a woman could not receive an inheritance, and was completely dependent on her husband or another relative. If she became widowed, and didn’t have a son, everything she owned with her husband would to the closest male relative of the husband.
The Christians did not change this custom right away because most of them were Jewish converts into Christianity. But what the Christian did do was support the widows. They had daily distribution of food. In fact, Christians took care of everyone in their own community, and then went out and served non-Christians.
They actively practiced their faith and showed, instead of talk about it, the love of Christ. And this was so wild and unusual at that time, a time when different ethnic, religious, and national groups would only care about their own and despise all others, that people were converting to Christianity in masses.
But the bigger your community gets, the harder it is to keep track of who needs help. Neglecting someone from the daily distribution of food was a serious issue when your calling card is love and care. So the twelve apostles, as the leaders of these communities, did what any leader would do – they fired everyone and blamed others for this problem.
Well, not exactly. And this is the main point I would like to make today – to learn leadership from the twelve apostles.
Now, most of us are leaders, in different capacities, but still we hold a leadership role. Be it in a parish – parish council, Sunday School teacher, choir director, priest. Be it a CEO, manager, the boss of a company. Be it in a family, where we have leaders who are responsible for different tasks. Parents are the leaders of their children, until they are ready to live independently (hopefully that happens around college time). In any case, you get the point, in one way or another, we hold some sort of leadership roles.
And as leaders, it is inevitable that we have conflicts. How we respond to these conflict situations shows the kind of leaders we are, and determines the outcome of the conflict.
The twelve apostles had a problem on their hands, someone forgot the widows. There are many ways to respond to this issue. Probably the easiest, and least effective one, is go ballistic on those responsible for the food distribution. Make example out of them, blame them. It does not take much managerial effort or talent to do something like that.
But what do we see the apostles do? They called together the whole community and said, “Guys, we messed up.” In other words, instead of laying blame, they took blame. They were honest with the community and themselves. They were humble in looking in the mirror first. And they were realistic.
If you are a leader and something does not go according to your plan, then the first step is to re-evaluate yourself and your plan. The apostles’ main task was to preach the Gospel of Christ, teach, and baptize. Out of that flowed the mutual care and love in the communities.
But there were too many people now, as any good leader would do, they decided to expand and give more people more responsibilities. And that’s how we got deacons in our church. The word deacon means a servant. Their initial and primary responsibility was to serve the people and take care of money contribution and distribution, as well as food distribution.
The apostles could not take care of everything alone, so with the help of the whole community, they picked capable people who could help them in the task. As leaders in different capacities, we can’t do everything on our own. A good leader is not someone who accomplishes the most alone, but the one who can delegate and maximize the achievement of goals.
The apostles received and were guided by the same Holy Spirit we receive. They followed the same teachings of Christ that we follow. This apostolic style of leadership has been passed down from them to us, from generation to generation.
All of us are leaders in one way or another. Therefore, learn from the best of the best. Open the Book of Acts from time to time. Become honest, humble, and realistic leaders. And the Word of God will continue to spread in our homes, our communities, and our nation, and the number of the disciples of Christ will increase.
Through the prayers of the apostles, may our Lord Jesus Christ, our Humble Leader, guide us and save us.
Unless otherwise specified, the articles here are posted by Father Aleksey, who has no sense of humor and is extremely straight forward.