Reading: Acts 7:55-60
This is a delightful reading, isn't it? The stoning of Stephen. Verses 55-60 give us Stephen's final moments, but if we backtrack through chapter 7 and into chapter 6, we find the fuller story of Stephen's ministry and martyrdom.
Stephen and six other disciples were commissioned to minister among the people, feeding the widows and visiting the sick, and Stephen was known for doing "great wonders and signs among the people" (6:8). His power and popularity prompted the authorities to call him in for questioning, and Stephen was unreserved in his critique, likening the leaders to those who asked Aaron to build a golden calf at Mt. Sinai.
Imagine the reaction of the religious leaders, when Stephen called them (essentially) traitors of the faith and of the God they love. Now imagine your own reaction, when someone critiques your faith and your love of God. Consider how defensive you feel when someone challenges you to reconsider a particular belief.
Maybe you don't throw stones when your faith is challenged, but many of us certainly cover our ears and refuse to hear another perspective on God, another perspective on faith. We tell ourselves that God is offended by what other people are telling us ... but perhaps it's more honest to admit that we are unsettled by the possibility that our faith may need to change. Often we prefer to cover our ears rather than opening our hearts to listen.
Prayer: Eternal God, Holy Mystery, faith would be so much easier if we knew all of the answers and never had our beliefs challenged. But you continue to teach us, often through one another. Give us the courage to uncover our ears, we pray. Remind us that you are not undermined by our questions. Amen.
Rachel G. Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ minister, author, and former CML staff.
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