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Saul Persecutes the Church, Acts 8:1-25

Christ's Freedom - Too Powerful to Silence

It was a dangerous and tricky time to be a Christian. Saul and others were persecuting and killing Christians. Yet the apostles continued to travel throughout the countryside because the news of Christ's freedom was too powerful to silence.

The whole thing brings to mind the underground railroad in the US in the early to mid 19th century. It was a network of safe homes where escaped slaves could find refuge on their way to free states. People risked their homes and their lives because the news of Christ's freedom was too powerful to silence.

In 2017, we are living in a time when there are still people frightened for their lives and livelihoods. Immigrants from a number of countries around the world fear that their families will be deported and torn apart. A number of churches, schools, and cities have identified themselves as sanctuaries - places where people can go when they fear for their safety. These organizations risk losing government funding if they continue to offer relief. They risk funding, vandalism, and ostracism because the news of Christ's freedom is too powerful to silence.

Narrative Lectionary Text: Acts 8:1-25

And Saul approved of their killing him.

That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.

Now a certain man named Simon had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money! You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.” Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.”

Now after Peter and John had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, proclaiming the good news to many villages of the Samaritans.