"As they shared what they had with each other, so that there was not a needy person among them, they recalled the stories of their ancestors in the wilderness, and God's provision of manna, so everyone always had enough—God continued to give them daily bread.
"As time went on they embraced the mission of God, telling the Story wherever they went, finally living life together in the way that God had always intended, as God had given in Torah. They saw before their very eyes the words of Deuteronomy become reality: 'There will be no poor among you, since the LORD will surely bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you … if only you listen obediently to the voice of the LORD your God, and carefully keep Torah.' "Other people looked on at their common life and were amazed: there was nothing in their culture that could explain what they were seeing. And the same is true for many of us." She turns to the newcomers. "We were drawn to the ekklesia because of the life we saw our friends living. For in the ekklesias, people who should not be friends become friends, breaking bread together, sharing all they have with each other, unashamed to call each other sister and brother."
The merchant says, "The philosophers of my people write of the friendship you describe—and which I see you all share—as the highest ideal of human love, which few if any could ever achieve. Yet here you are, fishermen and businesswomen, slaves and masters, young and old, sitting at the same table together, sharing the same bread, and drinking the same cup. You are … not the kind of people the philosophers thought could live this way."
The woman laughs. "It's no wonder that Paul wrote, 'Take a good look friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Christ Jesus.'
"The early churches certainly were communities of ragamuffins, but people kept joining them, drawn by what God was doing in their midst. They found themselves standing square in the middle of God's covenant promises to Abraham, God blessing the nations of the world through God's people. They may have been a bunch of ragamuffins, but there were some remarkable men and women in the church."
"Especially women," her old friend says, lifting his cup to toast her. He turns to the merchant. "Besides Dorcas, who our host briefly mentioned, there was also Lydia, who was head of her household. When Paul told the Story in Philippi, Lydia heard him and gave her allegiance to Jesus. When she returned to her hometown, Thyatira, she told the Story there, and the whole community became believers. As head of the household, she became the leader of the church that met in her home—like my dear friend here.