the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.
Luke’s story continues in the book we now call the Acts of the Apostles. Although Easter continues liturgically in our worship at church, our scripture readings do not allow us to linger long in resurrection relief. Instead, we are catapulted head-long into the complicated, gritty, controversial and sometimes painful mission of God. Luke is very honest about the struggles and the mission of the early church. Let’s look at that today.
First, Luke tells us that the Hellenists and the Hebrews are at tension in the early church. The Hellenistis or Greeks were probably not exactly people of a different ethnicity from the Hebrews. They were themselves Jewish, but they were ‘raised’ outside of Roman Palestine, away from Jerusalem and some of the customs were a bit different. They were accustomed to a greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures. And they were more comfortable with diversity than the Hebrews who lived in and around Jerusalem.
We will remember that a significant theme in Luke’s presentation of Jesus is that he crossed boundaries. He went to the Samaritans, spoke to women, touched lepers, ate with unclean and ‘sinful’ women and men, and with the despised wealthy as well. Today’s story from Luke reveals that the early church struggled with this. The Hellenist’s were different and distrusted. Some Hebrews may have wondered if this ‘church’ they had joined was becoming a ‘Hellenist church.’
Leslie Newbigin writes, ‘The mission of God changes not only the world, but the church as well.‘ Right away Luke shows us that the mission of Jesus was being carried out by the early church, whether they were comfortable with it or not. There were exclusions to be undone and relationships to be created. The mission of Jesus, of taking the good news of God’s love for all creation continued, sometimes despite the apostles.
Church as a place of disturbance of the status quo. Church as a place not where beliefs are supported, but challenged. Church as a place, going beyond beliefs, where attitudes, behaviors and actions are challenged. Church as a place of Holy Disturbance?
Could that be what church is all about, allowing the Spirit to disturb us?