Thursday 26 December 2013

Bible Book:

“I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (v. 56)

Acts 7:51-60 Thursday 26 December 2013


Today, the Feast of St Stephen, you might say of Stephen, 'tenout of ten for courage', but very little for tact. Here is a Greekforeigner, in Jerusalem, hammering into the locals. He tells themthat they are obstinate and where it matters unfaithful, they arepart of a faith community that has always got it wrong, and theyare getting it wrong again now. What was he trying to do? Thisisn't the way to communicate to people; he shows little grasp ofthe struggles it would mean for them to accept his claims andchange their allegiances and loyalties. If he's trying tocommunicate, he is clearly not following the usual advice torespect and pay attention to the audience.

Not surprisingly they are enraged and 'grind their teeth' (verse54). You can't blame them and in their culture and at that timethey did what they did and stoned him. I'm glad for Stephen that atthe moment it became clear for him, that the heavens opened, thatglory filled the space in which he met his gruesome end, but I'mstill no clearer as to what he thought he was doing. The firstChristian Martyr goes down like a good 'un but none of us are muchthe wiser as to why.

The word martyr means 'to show' or perhaps 'to demonstrate'. Ican't imagine that he purposely sought to die in order todemonstrate anything, but that was the effect of his death. Thiswitness was to the power of love to overcome even the harshest oftreatments. It was the witness of someone driven into terminalfrustration because people who should have 'got it' didn't, and thewonder and the glory that was theirs to take was being ignored,just as God's graciousness is ignored again and again throughhistory. Stephen, beside himself in his longing for God's grace toflow, steps up to the plate and dies. Perhaps he wasn't trying toachieve anything, he was just so full of it; the love, the wonder,the promise, the possibility and the reality of this new life andkingdom. Jesus said that if his disciples didn't praise, the stonesthemselves would cry out. (Luke19:40).

Martin Luther King once said that "if you haven't foundsomething worth dying for, you aren't fit to live". Well I don'tthink we are called to follow Stephen's example, but we are alloffered the possibility of finding something so precious that allelse fades in importance and glows in significance.

To Ponder

  • What really matters to you, what matters so much that you getfrustrated that other's don't get it, what matters so much you feelyou might die for it?
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