We have a rather lengthy passage this week, jumping from last week’s Road to Emmaus to Acts 6 and 7.
By missing the first 5 chapters of Acts, we jump over Pentecost (for the moment) and the promise of the early church, who shared what they had. “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.” (4;34)
That idealism doesn’t last, and by chapter 6, some people are complaining. The widows aren’t getting fed. There is too much work for the 12 to do. Cultural differences are rising between
the contemporary service and the traditional one the Hellenists and the Hebrews. And the 12 say, ‘It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables‘, proving that they weren’t quite paying attention the day Jesus told them “whoever wants to be first must be last, and servant of all”. (Mark 9:35)
I don’t know about you, but I recognize Acts 6 in my experience of the church more than I recognize the idealized story earlier in the Book of Acts. Will your congregation recognize themselves in the church politics on display here?
Despite the squabbles, the church starts to grow and Stephen rises as someone who “was full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people”. His success feels a bit of a cautionary tale. His outspoken defense of the gospel draws enemies, and leads him before the High Priest to defend himself. I wonder if I would speak to religious leaders as he does?
‘You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are for ever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.’
I won’t spoil it for you. Let’s just say it doesn’t end well for Stephen. Stephen brings up all the stuff for me. I want to preach as I’m called to do. I also don’t want to have enraged people throw rocks at me until I die.
What are your thoughts for preaching this story a few weeks after Easter? Will you focus on just a portion of it? Or will you preach it all?
Creative ideas for sharing the long biblical story?
Thoughts about Time with the Children?
Working Preacher resources are here.
Please share your insights, ideas, and questions here. Join the conversation!