Journey Through Acts.1

by admin on May 24, 2015

Reflections for 24 May 2015
Acts 7: 55-60

Short Career, Long Impact

War in any arena, specifically in the Middle East, takes on more sinister turn when young men and women intensify the struggle with their suicide bomb brigades. The deadliest weapon is the human missile.

Perhaps to counter this most personal way of attacking we have developed the drone attack—the least of all personal weaponry.

Suicide bombing in our eyes is insane. But in their eyes it’s a glorious sacrifice to the cause. In the ME there is no greater calling then to be a martyr against Israel, and by extension US imperialism.

As we sit here a world away, we just don’t get that thinking. That drive; that religious fervor that would cause someone to strap a half dozen grenades and take herself out along with a score of other kids at a disco; or shoppers at a market; or passengers on bus. We just don’t get it.

Yet today we heard that Christianity has had similar people. Not suicide bombers but religious martyrs.

The story of St. Stephen. Christianity’s first martyr. Tiny tip of story—the ending. We don’t get that kind of thinking.

Religion is optional; rational; logical.
Or—irrelevant; certainly not compelling enough to want us to die for it.

Stephen’s story: Acts 6-7.
Deacons who served. Stephen full of faith was also given to preach. Eloquently, brilliantly. Trouble: biting sermon that declared Jesus is Lord. He tells his hearers to align themselves to This One. They haul him out and kill him. He had a very short career.

Pivotal story.
—closes early days of Jesus movement
—open story of Saul—Paul
—Christianity spreads via persecution.

I’ve always wondered: What made Steve do this?
Insanity? Irrationality? Made me think: Do I believe in something so much that I’d die for it? Do you?

Story has answer: Steve has a vision: “I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side.” I.e. Jesus is Lord.

That’s what he said in his sermon.
That’s what he saw in his vision.

Jesus is Lord—absolute authority; owner.
Political idea: Caesar is Lord
Earliest Christian creed: Jesus is Lord.

What we have is profound clash of beliefs.
Caesar: power; violence; fear
Jesus: forgiveness; reconciliation; love
What beliefs would you be willing to die for?

I got a second question in all this.
What is there about St. Steve that makes him a hero? Model? Impact leader?

I keep being led back to that vision. Jesus is Lord. The absolute centrality of this. Jesus Christ is the object/focus of faith.

Why Jesus? Why not “god”?
We live in world where we are not too sure what God is out there minding the store.
Jews kill Arabs
Arabs kill Israelis
Muslims kill infidels
Crusaders kill pagans
Catholics kill Protestants
Protestants kill Catholics
Hindus kill Muslims
—–all in the name of God.

Which brings us back to the suicide bomb brigades of a violent version of Islam. Girls as young as 5, old as 65 are recruited and schooled in Pakistan. 65% of the young people who have blown themselves up have come from the Gaza Strip. These bombers—these bright, articulate, good looking, future before them kind of kids—-are fueled by alienation and futility.

I’m not sure what the promise is for women, but for a guy, the reward of such religious martyrdom is dozens of virgins in Paradise.

My libido would be working overtime….thank God I’d have all eternity.

Is there another vision out there? Some other version of reality? Another take on things other than an extension of my thinking? Isn’t there a broader sight than I win/you lose.

St. Stephen: I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at god’s side. The reason that Christianity is about the centrality of Jesus Christ is simply the product of such a focus.

No other religion, political persuasion, philosophical system can give the quality of the person that Christian faith does. I’m not talking about church, institution, cult——but a living, vital, real relationship with the living, vital and real Jesus Christ.

Last week we talked about Christianity’s revolutionary ideas Luke 6: Love your enemies; pray for those who hate you. If you love those who love back…what grace? Just think of the ramifications of this.

Endo, Silence. Christianity in 16th century Japan.
What would Jesus do?

But the opposite is true: people die every day when we are silent—i.e. don’t make a move of faith towards faithfulness.

Is Jesus Lord or not? That’s the real question. Then for Stephen…now for us and our world.

What to do?
• Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Psalm 122.
• End violence in your own life.
road rage
fight fairly
• Actively seek out Jewish and Islamic people
• Write to President Obama

Why? Christianity took a new turn with Stephen’s martyrdom.Tertullian: the blood of martyrs is seed of the church.How different would the Lordship of Jesus looked had Stephen picked up a rock…and thrown it back?

It was an urgent time then…It’s an urgent time now. A time that needs people who want to move beyond success to significance. From long careers and short impact to lasting world peace.

Is that insane? Irrational? That’s the problem with Jesus: when he’s on the loose he’s calling the whole world to his Kingdom….and giving us the vision: transforming the world will be changed.

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