Stephen speaks, “Introduction”

Acts 7: 1-3

Stephen, one of the first “deacons” in the early fellowship, was chosen for his wisdom.  He was to help make sure the distribution of food to widows was fair.  He was respected and was known for his good deeds and speech.  Opposition arose and false accusations were made and he was brought to trial in front of the Sanhedrin.  He stood up and started a long speech that is recorded for us.  Where did he start to tell his story?  Where do we start to tell our story?  Learning to tell our story of faith is an important part of our spiritual growth!

         The believers were meeting in the Temple as they still saw themselves as Jews.  Jews saw them as Jews spreading misinformation.  It feels a bit like our January 6 reports going on now except it is Stephen, the accused’s chance to speak.  He starts on common ground, not on accusations, not on defenses.  He starts with Jewish history that they all agree on.  Don’t forget he is being charged with disrespecting Moses. Stephen goes back to Abraham, though, being called by God to leave his home country and to travel to a promised land.  He does not start with law.  He starts with God speaking and calling.  He paints a bigger picture, bigger than himself.

         If you were accused of being a Christian, how would you start your story?  Many start with the word, “I,” “I decided to believe….  Others might start with a narrative of how their mother led them to believe as a child kneeling by the bed.  Some start with their baptism as a baby in their parent’s arms followed by a life of growing awareness of what that meant.  I have also heard many share about claiming Christian status because it was confirmation and that’s what you did but then one day….  I continually amazed at the variety of ways people came into relationship with Jesus.  Zaccheus climbed a tree.  A woman having bled for 12 years desperately hoped by touching the hem of his cloak, she would be healed.  A Canaanite woman was willing to be likened to a dog to receive grace for her sick daughter.  The blind, those with leprosy, and even the dead son of the woman of Nain are brought to Jesus.  Jesus does not seem to be tied to one story or one way of being approached. 

      So how do you start your faith story?  Take a few minutes now to reflect on your journey and how you would explain yourself – perhaps not to a Jewish Sanhedrin – but to a crew of people who doubted your genuineness.  Where would your story start?  Step back, reflect, and thank God for his hand in your history.

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