Glorify God

Sunday, May 18

5-18By Dale Luffman of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

—Acts 7:55–56 NRSV

For many years the story of the early Christian martyr, Stephen, has fascinated me. Stephen’s life and witness help him serve as a transition figure in developing Luke’s account of the early Christian Church in the Acts of the Apostles.

This passage begins when an audience to whom Stephen is preaching reacts to his words of witness (Acts 7:54). With Stephen’s death Luke introduces the reader to Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of the Christian community. In ways seemingly unbelievable, Saul becomes an apostolic witness and takes on a new name, Paul, as did Abram and Jacob before him.

Luke tells us that Stephen was “filled with the Holy Spirit,” something he shares with others in the Acts of the Apostles. It is the Holy Spirit that gives Stephen not only the authority to speak, but his ability to see the heavenly vision.

This is Luke’s way of having Stephen retell the Easter story, claiming God’s Easter victory over the cross. Unlike experiences of Jesus, Paul, or Peter, when the heavens open for Stephen, there is no heavenly voice, just his witness! His witness of what he saw for himself.

The scene follows his preaching. Stephen had testified to conditions that were hard to hear. Enraged, the crowd sought Stephen’s life and stoned him to death. The story becomes a community-forming story.

It draws together accounts under the gifted, literary hand of Luke. Acting for the community, Luke forms a sacred text so the Acts of the Apostles can contribute to the community of witnesses. Here, in the words of Stephen, is another opportunity to do what the gospel writer is doing throughout his two-part literary work—to again claim God’s Easter victory over the cross.

Stephen’s life and witness claim my attention on this fifth Sunday of Easter. He gives substance to his witness of the gospel by his willingness to die by sharing the “good news.” Through his faithful witness, I, too, sense the call to join him in fearless witness and service for the glory of God.

Prayer for Peace Holy Spirit, help us continue the community-forming story by faithfully sharing Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Embodying God’s Shalom Find a way to express and embody God’s shalom. Begin by prayerfully listening to your longing for peace. Become silent and imagine you can hear the groaning of the Earth’s people, nations, and creatures. Prayerfully open yourself to God’s yearning for peace and the divine vision of shalom.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will glorify you by sharing my witness.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks Dale, for sharing your insight on the stoning of Stephen.

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