“Word for Today” – Acts 11 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

October 5, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Clay Walker 1Almost a decade ago, county star Clay Walker released a single titled “The Chain of Love.”  The song tells the heartwarming story of a woman stranded on the side of a road with a flat tire when a gentleman named Joe stops to fix her tire, only to refuse her payment when she offers to compensate him for her services.  Instead, he tells her:

You don’t owe me a thing, I’ve been there too.
Someone once helped me out,
Just the way I’m helping you.
If you really want to pay me back, here’s what you do:
Don’t let the chain of love end with you.

The song continues with this woman, in her newly repaired vehicle, stopping at a nearby café to grab some food when she meets a pregnant waitress.  With Joe’s words still ringing in her mind, she leaves a $100 bill on the table and slips out the door.  At the end of the song, we find out that the waitress is Joe’s wife.  The “chain of love” has become a full “circle of love,” all in the short scope of a four-minute song.

We like songs like Clay Walker’s “The Chain of Love” because of the tender sentiment it expresses toward helping others and because it promotes the belief – or at the very least, strong hope – that such charity on our parts will eventually be rewarded.  The “chain of love,” we believe, is a “circle of love.”  And it will always and eventually circle back to us.

The idea of a “chain of love” is nothing new.  Indeed, a hallmark of the early Christian church is that they “sold their possessions and goods, and gave to anyone as he had need” (Acts 2:45).  And it is this “chain of love” that plays itself out in concrete history in our reading for today.

In Acts 11, Luke records the birth of the Christian church at Antioch.  But at the same time the church at Antioch is going gangbusters under the direction of Barnabas and Saul (cf. verse 26), the more seasoned Christian church at Jerusalem has hit some hard times following Stephen’s martyrdom (cf. Acts 8:1).  Luke records the Jerusalem church’s woes thusly:

During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. (verses 27-30)

A chain of love flows from Antioch to Jerusalem when this poor church needs it the most.  Regrettably, this chain of love has to continue its flow to Jerusalem years after the initial financial support of Acts 11.  Paul writes some fourteen years later to the church at Rome: “For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem” (Romans 15:26).

As far as we know, the “chain of love” toward Jerusalem never became a “circle of love” back toward those churches which offered their financial support.  The church at Jerusalem took, but never gave back.  History’s reckoning of the “chain of love,” it seems, is not nearly so fair and reciprocal as Clay Walker’s idealized vision of it.

Jesus says, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid” (Luke 14:12).   The chain of love, Jesus teaches, does not always become a circle.  Sometimes, it is simply a one-way succession of selflessness.

Whether or not the chain of love circles back to us, our call is clear:  to share and to be God’s love to others.  We are a link in God’s chain of love.  Who can you help today without expectation of receiving anything in return?  Who can you serve without any chains attached to your chain of love?  Jesus finally promises, whether or not you ever repaid by another human for your love toward them, “you will be blessed” (Luke 12:14).  And that’s reason enough to love anyone, even as Jesus has already loved us.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Acts 10 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Acts 12 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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