Our readings for this week includes the stoning of Stephen, the declaration that we are God’s people, and Jesus as the Way and the Truth and the Life.
Acts 7:55-60 – At the beginning of chapter 6, Stephen was one of seven men chosen by the apostle to serve the Hellenistic (Greek speaking) widows. The power of the Holy Spirit was strong with Stephen and he began to preach and perform wonders and signs. This lead to his arrest by the council. The trial was short and full of lies. When given a chance to answer his accusers, Stephen witnessed to God’s working with the Jewish patriarchs and founders culminating in his denunciation of what the council did to Jesus and will do to him. Stephen’s defense is 7:1-53. Why the Lectionary Committee left off verse 54 is curious. It tells of the reaction of the priests, elders, and councilmen to Stephen’s words: anger. Stephen then says he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Now the leaders are furious. They haul Stephen to the outskirts of town and stone him all the while young Saul (soon to be Paul) approved. As he dies, Stephen asks God to forgive the mob.
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 – The psalmist asks God to deliver him from his tormentors as he seeks refuge in the rock that is God.
1 Peter 2:2-10 – Last week we read 1 Peter 2:19-25 and this week we skip back. The central point of this passage is that we have been chosen as God’s people and God’s church is built upon the “stone rejected by the builders”. This is a reference to Psalm 118:22 and is one of the favorite OT passage of the NT writers. Jesus is the stone that is rejected by the “community builders”; a scapegoat for all their troubles. The community of God is built on the victim. With the death and resurrection of Jesus the old way of building community around the death of a victim loses its power. The new community founded on the cornerstone of Jesus is built and held together with love, grace and service (verses 11-17).
John 14:1-14 – I often use verses 1-4 in my funeral Gospel along with verses 18-19 and 25-27 which we will read next week. Jesus is in the upper room with the disciples, has washed their feet, predicted his betrayal, and Peter’s denial. In chapters 14-16 Jesus tries to teach them about what will happen and in Chapter 17 he prays for them (and us). In this opening, Jesus tries to comfort the disciples about his coming death (“going away”). He tells them that he prepares a place for them and they know the way to that place. When Thomas asks about that way, Jesus says that he is the way and the truth and the life but doesn’t really explain what he means. In my thinking the most important point comes when Philip asks Jesus to show them God (“the Father”). Basically Jesus says that he and the Father are one and the same. Know Jesus? You know God. See Jesus? You’ve seen God. Jesus = God. Jesus is the full revelation of God to humanity and why I believe that God is without violence, vengeance, retribution, killing, or death. If you don’t see it in Jesus it is not a attribute of God. Jesus = God and “God is Love” (1 John 4:16).
Have you lived your life following the Way, Truth and Life or have you stopped up your ears and picked up a stone to throw (figuratively)?. Have you stumbled over that rejected stone or used it to build up God’s community and our churches?