Happy Sunday everyone! I’ve been feeling under the weather a little the last few days. That won’t stop me from writing a blog for all of you however.
Stephen is a character in the Bible I didn’t know much about until I actually named my Son Stephen. My husband is also Stephen. There’s a church in a town close to where I live named St. Stephens. So who was this character?
The only mention in the Bible of Stephen is in Acts 6. He was appointed as one of the seven deacons to hand out food and aid to members of the community. He was known to have performed miracles. The Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians Synagogues challenges Stephens teachings and claimed he committed blasphemy against Moses and God. They forced him in front of the church elders for questioning. Stephen made a speech to the elders which makes up almost all of Acts 7. (I’ll let you read that). One of the main details of his speech was that God doesn’t dwell in one place such as the Temple. He gave the example of God presenting himself to Moses at the burning bush.
The crowd grew angrier as he spoke and made assertions that Jesus would destroy the temple in Jerusalem and that the killing of Jesus. People in the crowd started throwing stones at him, including a man named Saul of Tarsus (later known as the Apostle Paul). Stephen looked to heaven and stated that Jesus was standing on the right hand of his Father, he asked forgiveness of those who stoned him and ask for God to receive his spirit. In fact Stephen did die.
Stephen has immense faith and was willing to die for what he believed. Through our history religious persecution has existed. Even today we see any mention of God being removed from schools, government buildings, public places, etc. Yet when something happens people want to ask “where was God?”. We can’t continue to remove him from our lives then expect him to show up after we’ve stripped him from everything.
We are supposed to treat Muslims and other religions kindly and be politically correct, yet anytime we as Christians celebrate our religion we are asked to change. Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. I say let us have our holidays just as others have theirs. I’ve worked with several Jewish people in my past and I enjoyed asking questions and learning about their faith. It helped me to understand and respect why they did certain things.
We need to embrace each other’s differences whether we understand them or not. We live in country that gives us the freedom to worship as we like. My ancestors fled religious persecution to come here to serve a God they loved and believed in. Where has that tenacity gone today?
Father, I pray for those who are afraid to worship you as they wish. I pray for those oppressed by religious persecution even today and that they somehow still seek and find you. Amen