Has Anything Changed at All?
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.” – Acts 7:59-60 (NIV)
This is the assigned passage for the day after Christmas?! The stoning of Stephen?! We jump from the glorious birth of baby Jesus to a gruesome martyrdom after his ascension?
Why on earth would we read this now?
Maybe because you’ve been cooped up too long with family, and the stones may start flying. Maybe because you’re headed back to work after too little time off, praying, “Lord Jesus!” Maybe because you’re alone in this never-ending season, wondering if you can hold on.
On this day that is as far away from Christmas as we can get, life comes crashing back in. No more visions of new heaven and new earth. It’s back to same-old heaven, same-old earth.
And the scripture joins us there. In the ugliest of human realities. Persecution. Cruelty. Death.
Just yesterday there were shepherds and angels and hope and joy. Now there is a full inbox. Overtired children. Maxed-out credit cards. And a world of violence and greed.
Has anything changed at all?
For Stephen, the answer is yes.
Everything is different. He’s found something he cares about enough to stand trial for. News so good he is willing to die to share it. A love so powerful it moves him to forgive even his executioners.
It’s the same old earth. But he is different. That’s where it starts. That’s what it feels like. When Jesus is born in you.
Lord Jesus, transform the earth, from the inside of us, out.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.