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Devotion is radical in the age of Netflix
We didn’t plan it this way, but we concluded our trek through Acts 2 to on Sunday, the Sunday before Independence Day in the United States. We were thinking about my favorite part of the chapter, and one of my favorites in the Bible, v. 42-47. When I was reading it to prepare for my message on Sunday, I got stuck on the third word in. Luke writes, The believers devoted themselves…
Devotion is not really a word that you hear much of these days, I think. I was wondering why that was the case. Sometimes I overstate the point about the U.S. propaganda artists getting us to be devoted to the country, and on the Fourth of July, we definitely feel that indoctrination. But lately, and it just be because Trump is kind of crushing morale around the country (Tweeting wrestling GIFs isn’t exactly great for most of the country’s patriotism), I’m not so convinced that my friends and family are very devoted to the U.S. Try as they might, the architects of civil religion might be failing, I just don’t think people are really into being devoted to much.
And it’s not because those seeking our devotion aren’t trying—politicians and heads of state certainly are, so are advertisers and corporations. Jeff Bezos might just buy your devotion by consuming everything himself. But I think we’re largely independent these days. We’re devoted to ourselves, to our success, to our image. I just made my own Bitmoji. We curate our CVs and résumés. We create online profiles. We are so atomized, so disparate, that we can hardly being devoted to something bigger than we are.
Why were the assembled Jews devoted to the apostles’ teaching? To a cause greater than them? And why do we struggle?
We are spread about and not connected. We have so many options for consumption and entertainment, that we don’t even need to be committed to community—we don’t even need to be devoted to a broadcast schedule. I just watch House of Cards whenever I want. For some groups, that just isn’t the case. So before we lambast ourselves for our inability to be devoted, outside of a legal contract (even like marriage), I think we should learn to be sensitive to the people in the occasion of Pentecost.
The diaspora put them in a position where they longed for what the church was providing them. This opportunity gave them a chance to be united for the first time in a long time. They were just spread around the region before this and now they had a chance to be together. They thirsted for it.
Do we thirst for it? If not, why not? What takes our desire? It might be good things: our own family, our ability to provide for ourselves; or they might be negative things, like loss of hope, loss of faith, depression/anxiety. I think it’s worth considering more.
But one thing is certain, this little fragile thing we have--faith expressed love--won’t grow without devotion. More than likely, it’ll die. I think we have a ton of it among us, so I think our plant is healthy and growing. Let’s tend our garden some more and see what other fruit we can bear.
One basic way that we express devotion in Circle of Hope is our covenant. It’s an agreement to be devoted to one another and the cause of Jesus, not unlike those early disciples. Just like Jesus is devoted to us, we are devoted to each other.
In our covenant, we commit to loving our Lord, loving our leaders, and loving each other. Just like the early disciples, we are devoted to share our heart, time, money, and our grace. We make agreements to keep us connected.
Being devoted to something bigger than we are is radical, not just because the powers that be are trying to convince us to be devoted to their causes, but rather because we seem to struggle with devotion in general. Being committed to doing and being something bigger than us and moving with God, alone, is countercultural.
I think people are looking for ways to connect and ways to deepen. I think we want to make a difference. And I think that begins with our devotion to each other and to God.