This passage recalls one of the fundamental challenges of Christianity: God’s relationship to human suffering. The brutal murder of Stephen at the feet of Saul reminds us that following Christ is not a promise of an easy life. It is certainly not a way to escape reality. Rather, it is an invitation to live with our hearts and minds turned toward God.
In Stephen, as in Jesus, we see an example of someone who is able to turn toward trust, love, and surrender in his darkest moments. Stephen is able to find peace and even forgiveness as he faces hatred, violence, and murder. What happens in him to make this possible? Here lies our hope in this difficult passage. Stephen’s example points us not toward some heavenly realm but toward a loving Sustainer who can help transform our darkest hours into hope, mercy, love, compassion, and even peace.
This passage highlights the reality that God’s power, the way God deals and intervenes in human suffering, is so radically different from our own that we often miss it. Consciously or unconsciously, we expect that God will crush down the guilty and right wrongs through sheer force. Instead, God transforms human suffering from the inside out.
Today's reading not only acknowledges the reality of being a human being in a broken world, but also calls us to participate in God’s plan for salvation. As we entrust our suffering to God, we will be transformed. And as instruments of God’s grace, we will participate in the transformation of the world around us.
Jesus, you know that being human can be hard. You know the burdens I carry even at this very moment. Help me turn my heart and mind toward your healing love, guidance, and grace. Amen.
The first three readings for the week contain variations on the imagery of stones or rocks. In Acts, Stephen is killed as the first Christian martyr by being stoned to death, while Saul (Paul) stands by and approves. The psalmist proclaims his confidence in the Lord, whom he describes as his rock and fortress. Peter tells the believers that they have become living stones in the household of God because of their connection to the chief Cornerstone, Christ. In John, Jesus makes an explicit claim to being the only way to God. In our current cultural context, many wonder about the spiritual status of followers of other religions. Jesus’ statement in John 14:6 invites us to deep reflection on this important question.
Read Acts 7:55-60. Recall a time when you have seen God’s power in action. How was God’s power different than you might have expected?
Read Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16. Contemplate your answers to the author’s questions. How do the psalmist’s hope and experiences reflect your own?
Read 1 Peter 2:2-10. When have you experienced God as a loving Mother? When has Christ been your cornerstone?
Read John 14:1-14. How do you experience God’s presence through the life or actions of others?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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