Sometimes scripture throws us a curveball. We read it; read it
again and still ask, “What?” Acts 7:58 is such a verse for me.
It appears out of place, an anomaly to that which immediately
precedes it and that which comes next. Just as God created the
moon to guide the tides of the earth’s majestic oceans, I discern a
purpose in the ebb and flow of my life and that of others. Most
assuredly this incident impacts the life of a young man named
Saul at its ebb.
Saul believes that he is upholding and adhering to Mosaic
Law. As zealous for the risen Lord as is Stephen, so is Saul for
the Law. Yet I sense the Holy Spirit at work within Saul. The
Spirit, that barely flickering divine pilot light, sends the everso-
faint message to his soul, “This is wrong.” The scripture itself
contrasts the hatred of the crowd with the holiness of Stephen.
Saul does not know it yet, but soon he will turn God’s witness
and join the posse. How rich is this vision of Saul when
juxtaposed with the apostle named Paul who pens the wonderful
treatise on love in 1 Corinthians 13! Can we believe it is the
same person? This blood-stained guy with clothing thrown at
his feet in Acts 7 will become one of the most influential people
in the history of Christianity.
Do we dare ask, “If Saul, why not me?” This verse in Acts
reminds us that God made us for holiness not hatred. We are
worthy! Both the ebb and the flow of our lives turn toward the
author of our salvation.
Who is this guy? Saul/Paul is one whose life was changed
from hatred to holiness. May it be so for us!
Father, open our eyes to see your purpose at work in our lives. Amen.
Since the beginning, Israel’s faith has turned to God in situations of extreme trouble. In such turning, Israel has found God utterly reliable and able to rescue. Today’s psalm reading sounds those ancient cadences of reliability. The sermon in Acts 7 takes up those ancient cadences and places them on the lips and in the mouth of Stephen. Stephen’s preaching evokes hostility in his listeners. In the end, however, it is Stephen who knows the joy and well- being of life as a gift from God. Both the Gospel and epistle readings turn the faith of the psalm and drama of Stephen’s ending toward the concrete reality of the church. They tilt toward the need of a domesticated church to reengage its peculiar identity and its unusual mode of being. The language of “place” serves the practice of risky obedience.
• Read Acts 7:55-60. When have you experienced the Holy Spirit’s nudge telling you, “This is wrong”? What did you do?
• Read 1 Peter 2:2-10. How will we continue to drink of pure spiritual milk so we can repeatedly be called out of darkness into God’s light?
• Read Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16. What would it mean for you to
say to God, “My times are in your hand”?
• Read John 14:1-14. What tough faith questions have you asked Jesus? What was his response?
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