Back in the day, the McDonald's "Happy Meal" was something I looked forward to. Maybe you remember them too. The double, golden-arched handle and the shiny red box that smiled at you. In all reality though, as a kid I wasn't so much drawn to the food as much as I was eager to play with the toy inside. McDonald's may have coined the phrase Happy Meal, but the Bible actually points us to a different kind of happy meal. And in similar fashion, the happiness factor was found in something more than the food.
By the time we catch up with Jesus' followers in Acts 2, they've experienced a huge transformation. They're 50 days past-Calvary, having just spent the last 10 days in earnest prayer, drawing closer to God and to each other in hopes of being fitted to fulfill the gospel commission. Thousands respond to the Spirit-empowered message of a crucified and now risen Savior, and a new community of faith is forged. The description of the distinctive dynamics of this disciple-making community are inspiring to say the least (Acts 2:42-47), but one quality caught my eye and captured my heart this week.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart..." (Acts 2:46, NKJV).
The Holy Spirit not only transformed the believers' relationship with God but also their relationship with each other. And one of the manifestations of their renewed interpersonal relationships was the experience of not just one happy meal, but continuous meals of gladness and "extreme joy," according to Thayer's Greek Lexicon. No, it wasn't a toy that inspired this extreme joy. And I would dare say that it wasn't even the result of the quality of their food. What made these meals genuinely happy was the quality of friendship. Look again at Acts 2:46.
The focus isn't so much on WHAT they ate, but WHERE and HOW they ate.
HOUSE TO HOUSE
Who was the last person you invited to your home to share a meal? Who was the last person you accepted an invitation from to enter their space for some table time? More likely than not, it was someone you've either built a relationship of trust with or would like to build that kind of closeness to. For these converted, Spirit-filled believers, their meals were framed by concrete expressions of radical welcome. When you know you're wanted, appreciated, and included, it's easy to be filled with extreme joy long before your tummy is filled with food.
SIMPLICITY OF HEART
The Greek word translated as "simplicity" (NKJV) or "sincere" (NIV) literally means "without rocks," a reference to stony ground that was a common annoyance and hindrance in that agrarian society. Rocky soil makes it hard to grow the kinds of harvest essential for life. Rocky hearts make it hard to grow trust and intimacy. Have you ever tried to build a friendship with someone only to find hints of resistance at certain levels of emotional depth? There are rocks of bitterness, jealousy, disappointment, hurt, ill-will, etc. or more innocent rocks of split interest, low priority, and hastiness of life. Whatever the relational obstacles, rocky hearts are hesitant and even incapable of showing genuine interest in others enough to move toward shared brotherly love and concern. But for the early church who had been seized by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, they were able to share meals with "simplicity of heart," hearts thoroughly unencumbered by the typical relational rocks that keep people at arms length. Wow, can you imagine consistently sharing meals with others who are truly present and truly interested, a meal free of ulterior motives, hurtful criticism, or apathetic coldness?
That's what these disciples enjoyed daily and extended daily. And I believe that's something God longs for us to enjoy and extend too. To do so is not possible on our own. You and I know that. We may try to emulate the connecting practices of the early church, but the essential point of imitation is simply being surrendered to the Holy Spirit like the early church. Oh that God's Spirit would transform my heart and our church to the extent that we begin to enjoy the real happy meal.