Stephen, one of the first deacons, is accused, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us. (v.13)” Stephen is accused of spreading misinformation about the Temple and about the Mosaic law, both key to the Jewish identity. Stephen’s testimony traces his awareness of the Jewish history from Abraham through the patriarchs to Moses and the formation of Israel. At the same time he traces next to God’s leading, people resisting leadership seen in the selling of Joseph to Egypt and deeds like with the golden calf. The patriarch Jacob, father of Joseph, and ancestor of Moses, asks to have his body returned and buried with Abraham in Israel. Stephen is laying the foundation for the core issues to religious identity as well as stating the controversy around them. Most of this does not touch us that personally as our religious identity follows a different historical trajectory. The telling and retelling of the Jewish Egyptian phase in their faith formation is a common story repeated throughout the Bible.
So what are the stories, the narratives, from your faith tradition that you go back to and that lay a foundation for your life? It may be the conversion or commitment time that we talked about yesterday. Perhaps there has been an important person who appears at significant times in your life to speak into the direction you take. A man took my husband and me out for lunch and listened to our story of applying to be a missionary. Twenty years later he was my advisor for a master’s program and I received the first graduation award in his name! Thirdly I have found certain Bible verses that have appeared at crucial times in my life. They may appear in a reading, a sermon, shared by a friend but somehow they continue to speak into our lives and guide us. How about that song that seems to come on the radio just at that moment when you need it?
Stephen is laying a foundation historically by tracing those themes that have brought him to this point of conflict. Sit back and think of some of the themes in your life. It is so easy to trace our grumps but lets trace blessings today and say a prayer of thanks to a God who works over time to build our faith story. Blessings.