Today’s author is Emma Gray, a sophomore studying Special Education and Spanish Studies at the U of M and a Lutheran Campus Ministry leader. She is currently working at an early childhood center, with high school students with special needs, and as a nursing assistant at an assisted living facility. The following is from her sermon last Sunday.

Acts 4:32-35 – All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the salesand put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

The first time listening through, it sounded as though we are supposed to give up all of our belongings and possessions to then share them with everyone. How does that sit with us as a society living in 2024? Most people I know are very materialistic, including myself.

I have fallen victim to the idea of “retail therapy”, where one goes shopping as a way to boost their mood. I have been known to buy, (what my friends would call), several “teacher outfits”. This consists of bright and peppy colors, fun earrings to match my outfit of the day, occasionally a fun headband, and some patterned or silly socks to finish the look off.

I realize that this passage can spark some tension in a lot of people. It’s hard to consider giving everything up. I want to just acknowledge that I am still grappling with this concept as I imagine many others may be as well. However, for today, I want to focus more on the parts of these verses that get at generosity. Does this passage instruct us to give up every single thing we have OR is it getting more at the conversation of being generous in the way that God is generous to us?

How are we as a community called to exercise our generosity by caring for others who have greater needs than we do?

I have a wide range of super awesome people that I have the privilege to interact with on a daily basis. The amount of wisdom I feel that I receive from my two-year-old students and my 100-year-old residents alike is unsurpassable.

I felt through hearing these verses for the first time that envisioning a community without any needy people was really challenging for me. I chose specifically to preach on this passage from Acts 4 because every single person that I directly work with has needs, and my job is to support them through those.

The main theme of these different populations of people that I have the opportunity to serve, is that they all have various needs, but the greatest of these is the need to be LOVED, CARED FOR, AND RESPECTED.

When we read texts like this one from Acts, how are we perceiving the notion of having needs?

The passage says that “there was not a needy person among them”. You all know just as well as I do that as humans, our nature is to be needy. We all have various social, educational, physical, emotional, and mental needs of all kinds.

Does this passage from Acts make it sound as if having needs is something that others should respect you for?

I had a really hard time with this because the connotation of needs in this text is that they should not be present when the community is filled with God’s grace and when community members are making sacrifices. I am positive that everyone in this room makes sacrifices and holds space for grace for those they care about so that their loved ones’ needs can be met. Whether those are the basic human needs like food and water, or whether those are the underlying needs of needing to be loved, cared for, and respected.

Could we instead reframe this passage to think about it in a way that prompts us to EMBRACE and RESPECT the community’s needs so that not one single person feels ostracized from the rest or that their needs are too great?

I have slowly begun to encounter God in the midst of helping others and also allowing myself to receive help from people in return.

If we go back to the beginning of these verses, it says “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” Have you ever had a time in your life when you felt so deeply cared for and taken care of by your community members at a time when you could not take care of yourself?

I cannot even begin to express in words the way that I genuinely feel so listened to, supported, and cared for by my fellow community members not just at LCM, but at Special Olympics Minnesota, with my roommates, with my friends from home, and all of the other spaces and communities that I am a part of.

I have found that my most valuable experiences in community are when I can show up, FULLY MYSELF. I am not worried about how I show up, because ultimately, my community ACCEPTS and EMBRACES me, no matter what I am bringing to the table.

As I care for those around me, they also help and care for me in return, sometimes unknowingly. I receive love from my community and I am able to be vulnerable in such a judgment-free and safe space.

There is so much room for grace and mercy in our most vulnerable moments!!! When we invite God into those moments, we experience some radical love and transformation for ourselves and for the community!

I want you to reflect on all of the various communities and spaces that you contribute to.

What would it look like if all of us took steps to give up our time and resources to fulfill the needs of others, but also allowed ourselves to more willingly take that help when others are extending that to us? This will build and strengthen the foundation of our communities.

Whether you are in a season of consistently helping others or in a season of embracing the vulnerability to receive help, God sees that and can fulfill each of our needs to be LOVED, CARED FOR, and RESPECTED.

God’s love for each and every one of you is UNCONDITIONAL. God LOVES you, no matter how “needy” you might feel.


Watch Emma’s full sermon here: