Cafeteria management- Saturday, 2nd week in Easter- Acts 6:1-7
For many who read the Acts of the Apostles as one romanticised community of believers, Acts chapter six comes in as rude shock. Not long ago in chapter four we were told rather emphatically, that the believers “were of one heart and soul, that no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, and that there was not one needy person among them.” (Acts 4: 32-33)
Turn the page of the Bible and all of the above seems to have disappeared in oblivion. There is clearly a dispute in the community, and a clue to this dispute lies in the opening lines. The tiny group of ardent apostles had now begun “increasing in number”. The Church was hit by organizational issues and the board of management was asked to settle cafeteria issues.
So what were these cafeteria issues? The Bible mentions two groups of widows, Hellenists and Hebrews. In all probability these two groups were Jews but at some time in history, some of the Jews settled in neighbouring countries that were influenced by Greek language and culture. These people were known as the Hellenists and since they lived outside of Jerusalem, were called the Jews of the diaspora.
So was this just a kitchen squabble or was it an assertion of power by two groups in the Early Church? While we may never know the answer to this, we certainly know that management was forced to step in. They soon came to realize that as a consequence of this action their ‘board meetings were neglected’ while they were forced to stand as ‘kitchen supervisors’.
The apostles, recognizing the need to steer the organization with preaching and teaching of the word of God, began an efficient process of decentralization. They chose seven men of good repute amongst them, of whom Stephen and Phillip will be the only ones who find mention in the New Testament beyond this text.
Today, appointments are inked, signed, sealed and delivered; not so for the apostles who simply laid their hands on the seven chosen. They now had a ministry to care for, guided by no earthy human resource team but by the Holy Spirit Himself. Such is the beauty of the Church that through the ages, men have been ordained by a simple, yet power filled action known simply as the ‘laying of hands’.
All bad things must come to an end, as did this rather unfortunate incident. The openness of the community to resolve conflicts found approval and reward, for “the number of disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem. “
Fr Warner D’Souza
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