Read Acts 7:17-34
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“If there is one thing true of Christianity, it must always be expressible in contemporary terms. It fails if it cannot speak to people as they are” (William Barclay).
Some 600 years have passed since Abraham and 400 since Joseph, but God has not changed, nor have his purposes. The God of Abraham is the God of Moses (32). God’s promise remains sure (17) and will be carried forward through Moses. It is achieved through suffering and despite the weakness and fallibility of the agent. The people were powerless, and Moses weak. Only when God reveals himself and issues his call can things change.
Thus far the Sanhedrin are with Stephen. They would no doubt agree with all he was saying, but they miss the significance. They do not see that God has acted again in ways that were not anticipated. They have missed the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise. Nor are they really living in the light of the story. Stephen has yet to come to the climax; this is a story of the people of God who sometimes listen to his word and respond, but who frequently reject it. The episode featuring Moses demonstrates both. He was rejected by the people before his leadership was accepted and, later, he had to face their grumbling and rebellion. This story is typical of the relationship of God and his people. It is worth asking to what extent we, too, reject the word of God.
There will be a twist in the tale, but for the moment Stephen is showing that he shares their story; he is one of them, with a common ancestry. The bridges that we will build with our audience today will be different, but no less important. Our common humanity, our experiences of joy, loss, success and failure, our longing for something we cannot fully define; these are the stories we share with one another.
Think of the “stories” of the people you will meet this week. How can you bring their stories alongside God’s story?