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Acts 7:1-22, Stephen’s Speech to the Council

Wednesday, April 11

Seeing Ourselves in the Stories We Reject

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

seeing ourselves in the story

Stephen had been teaching and preaching, and had made some enemies of debaters who could not stand up to his wisdom or his truth. They brought him before the Council to answer the accusations against him. While there, he gave a speech that would ultimately end in his death. His truth continued to be too painful to accept, and it cost him his life.

Here, Stephen set up for the Council a history lesson -- how their ancestors failed to recognize the prophets again and again. He told of God's promise to Abraham that he would father a great nation, and a warning that his descendants would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years, but in the end God would deliver them. He told of Joseph, who was sold into slavery, which brought him and his family into Egypt, the country that would oppress them. He reminded them of the Hebrew babies left to die so Egypt could remain in power, and of the baby, Moses, who would grow up in Pharaoh's home and learn the ways of Egypt, while remaining by heritage a Hebrew. All of these stories were meant to relay how history repeats itself, and is a warning to the Council that they not make the same mistake their ancestors did in rejecting the prophet.

The lies told against Stephen to discredit him suggested that he spoke blasphemy against their history and their God. But in truth, Stephen's words were spot on -- so much so, that they could not bear to hear them. How accountable are we to the truth? When do we fail to recognize ourselves in the stories we hear? Are we bold enough to consider that the truths we reject might just teach us something about ourselves that we desperately need to learn?

Narrative Lectionary Text: Acts 7:1-22

Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” And Stephen replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’ Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living. He did not give him any of it as a heritage, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as his possession and to his descendants after him, even though he had no child. And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and mistreat them during four hundred years. ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ Then he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. 

“The patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and enabled him to win favor and to show wisdom when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. Now there came a famine throughout Egypt and Canaan, and great suffering, and our ancestors could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there on their first visit. On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent and invited his father Jacob and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five in all; so Jacob went down to Egypt. He himself died there as well as our ancestors, and their bodies were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

“But as the time drew near for the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to Abraham, our people in Egypt increased and multiplied until another king who had not known Joseph ruled over Egypt. He dealt craftily with our race and forced our ancestors to abandon their infants so that they would die. At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful before God. For three months he was brought up in his father’s house;and when he was abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. So Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds."