The View from the Vicarage: Equipped by God

In our reading this evening from Acts 6:8-15 we see Stephen seized and brought before the Sanhedrin, only yesterday we saw his calling to ministry The View from the Vicarage: The Serving Church

He is accused of speaking “blasphemous words against Moses and against God” false witnesses declare that he “never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law” and that he said “Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

Those who speak against him and those who give witness are of course as confused by Stephen’s words as those who first heard Jesus say them. Stephen is merely teaching of Jesus as the Messiah who came to fulfil the law of Moses as well as telling of Jesus who at the temple spoke of ‘destroying this temple and raising it again in three days’ we know then that Jesus was talking of his own death and resurrection and this is surely the message of Stephen.

There are however three moments in the passage which capture me as I reflect on the arrest of Stephen the first is that he is “a man full of God’s grace and power” the second is the “wisdom the Spirit gave him” and the third is that face that was ” like the face of an angel.”

Those have captivated me today as I think of the tough ministry given to Stephen, the difficult world in which he lives and the opposition he must face, an opposition we will see tomorrow takes him to his death. Amid the difficulty we are told he is full of Grace and power, the account goes on to talk of the great wonders and miraculous signs he performed and we are told of his great wisdom which no-one could argue against. The concluding remark that he had the face of an angel links back to Exodus 34 when Moses came down from Mt Sinai with a face glowing like an angel, and with that same law that Stephen preaches as being fulfilled.

Stephen’s task is difficult but God not only calls him for his task he also equips him. We live in a world where church has had to take on a new personality, have a new outreach to the world around it and grow in ways it never thought it could – all to serve Jesus Christ in the world. When we locked the doors and set about the intrepid path of a new way of living, breathing and sharing the gospel we were daunted by it all. I can honestly say that when God calls he equips – he taught that to the early church, he showed it through Stephen and he has shown it time and time again over the last few weeks.

What is God calling you to do? What plans does he have on your life? Don’t be daunted, don’t worry – if he is calling you he will give you all you need.

Tonight’s hymn is by Dan Schutte and asks that very question

I, The Lord Of Sea And Sky,
I Have Heard My People Cry.
All Who Dwell In Dark And Sin,
My Hand Will Save.
I Who Made The Stars Of Night,
I Will Make Their Darkness Bright.
Who Will Bear My Light To Them?
Whom Shall I Send?

I, The Lord Of Snow And Rain,
I Have Borne My People’s Pain.
I Have Wept For Love Of Them, They Turn Away.
I Will Break Their Hearts Of Stone,
Give Them Hearts For Love Alone.
I Will Speak My Word To Them
Whom Shall I Send?

I, The Lord Of Wind And Flame
I Will Tend The Poor And Lame.
I Will Set A Feast For Them,
My Hand Will Save
Finest Bread I Will Provide,
Till Their Hearts Be Satisfied.
I Will Give My Life To Them,
Whom Shall I Send?

Here I Am Lord, Is It I, Lord?
I Have Heard You Calling In The Night.
I Will Go Lord, If You Lead Me.
I Will Hold Your People In My Heart.*

Your friend and Vicar


*(c) 1981 Daniel Schutte and New Dawn Music

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