Fri., Dec. 26, 2014 – Acts 6:1-8:3
“Stephen; chosen to just wait on tables, but God had bigger plans.”
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit gazed steadily into Heaven and saw the glory of God, and saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. (Acts 7:55, NLT)
There have been times in my life, when I wish my parents had named me David, Joshua, Caleb or Jonathan, or Gideon, you know, warriors. Instead, they named me after a man who got a mob mad enough to stone him to death. His last words: “Lord, please don’t hold this sin against them.” There were times when I tried to speak the truth in love or tried to be a peacemaker between two parties that the mob turned on me. Of course I forgave them and bowed out of the picture. Secretly I would ask God why I was named Stephen. But, the more I’ve studied Stephen in Acts, I’ve learned it is a name to try to aspire to. He was chosen to wait on tables because he was filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom and trusted even by those of a different culture. He knew his scriptures well and was so good at the art of debate and reason that those that tried to oppose him always lost. That’s what go him in trouble with the authorities. When they put him on trial, he gave them a history lesson of God’s work and their constant rebellion. He accused them of having an illegal trial to crucify God’s Son. His words signed his own death warrant. But the way he died; proclaiming to see Jesus standing beside God and asking forgiveness for those stoning him; sparked a fire that has never gone out.
There was a young man there who held the coats of the stone throwers. He felt so threatened by the word of Stephen that he went on a rampage of persecution against Christians in an attempt to drown out those words. One day on the road to Damascus with papers that gave him authority to arrest Christians; a blinding light knocked him to the ground, a voice spoke: “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, Lord that I am persecuting?” “I am Jesus of Nazareth. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” In other words; “It’s hard for you to fight against the words of Stephen.” Saul converted to Jesus and would become known as the Apostle Paul. His powerful proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ is read all over the world even today. Stephen was chosen to wait on tables, but started a fire that the whole Roman Empire could not snuff out.
Please forgive me Lord for whining about the name my parents gave. Please give me the courage and grace and love to live up to it.
– The Rev. Stephen C. Floyd, First Church of the Nazarene