Tuesday, May 8, 2018. When the church started, the apostles which Jesus himself chose led the church. We hear of problems with serving food to widows, and seven gifted and spiritual deacons are chosen to serve the people of the church, to enable the apostles to serve their way with prayer and teaching.
Problems Clearly Named …
Reading the first chapters of the book of Acts, we find quite a lot of clear speeches about the role of Jesus for Jews and all people. He is the one who frees from sin, he is the lamb of God, the source of new life. Peter preaches this, but also Paul and also Stephen, one of the deacons of the church. In Acts 7 we read a long speech of Stephen. These early sermons are a breathtaking read, have a look into it:
48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, 49 “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? 50 Did not my hand make all these things?’ 51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (from Acts 7)
Let me first note that Stephen as the other apostles of his time does not fear conflict. He is telling people where they fail. He is directly attacking his audience, telling them where they commit murder and betrayal. These speeches are very clear and demand decisions. You can be for it and against it - being without a decision or reaction is difficult to do.
Heart and Ears …
Stephen points to “uncircumcised hearts and ears”. You can be part of the church - indicated by circumcision for the Jews. But your heart can be far from God. You can be part of the church, but you do not hear and you do not listen and act. Stephen points to a long history of such behaviour. And indeed, a lot of the Old Testament is about God struggling with the Israelites, to follow his spirit.
We are not better today. We can be Christians, can be member of some church. Yet: are our hearts circumcised - to stay in this image. Is our heart fully with God? Do we understand him? Do we long to listen and to do? Are we full of truth, of trust, do we have a genuine upright heart? Do we follow God's commands? Today this is about Jesus himself, about his words, his commands, his guidance!
The holy spirit is there to guide us. We can follow the spirit, yes, we can listen and do. Stephen invites us to make our own decisions. What about me? What about you? Do we hear, do we understand? Do we follow? Come, go into prayer today, and ask the Lord to guide you through the spirit. Tell him that you want to follow. And then, when you start to see, then do! Go ahead in the spirit. It is possible, today, and tomorrow! (Roland Potthast) ... further texts