With a loud cry the members of the Council covered their ears with their hands. Then they all rushed at him at once, threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses left their cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul. They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!’ He said this and died. (verses 57-60)
Read Acts 7:44 – 8:1a
First there is Stephen. He is being executed by stoning. His crime is the fearless proclamation of God’s word. His serenity in the face of death, however, is in vivid contrast to the hatred and hysteria of his killers. He is at peace, full of forgiveness and love. His story teaches us that when God’s Spirit directs us, fear and hatred find no room in our hearts, even in the face of death itself.
Then there is Saul. He is much cooler than the raving mob. He personally doesn’t get involved, but he approves of what is happening. When they take off their cloaks in order to throw better, he has the job of minding them. He is just as guilty as they are of the terrible act they commit. What a wonder, then, that this Saul will soon become Paul, one of the great fathers of the church. His story teaches us that no-one is beyond the reach of God’s love and forgiveness.
Dear God, no matter how far I drift and become your enemy, always bear with me and bring me back. Fill me with your Spirit so that courage and love abound in my heart. Amen.
by Richard Hauser, in ‘Guidance for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 2002)
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