“And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors. Was there ever a prophet who didn’t get the same treatment? Your ancestors killed anyone who dared talk about the coming of the Just One. And you’ve kept up the family tradition—traitors and murderers, all of you. You had God’s Law handed to you by angels—gift-wrapped!—and you squandered it!”
At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!”
Yelling and hissing, the mob drowned him out. Now in full stampede, they dragged him out of town and pelted him with rocks. The ringleaders took off their coats and asked a young man named Saul to watch them.
As the rocks rained down, Stephen prayed, “Master Jesus, take my life.” Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, “Master, don’t blame them for this sin”—his last words. Then he died.
Saul was right there, congratulating the killers.
That set off a terrific persecution of the church in Jerusalem. The believers were all scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. All, that is, but the apostles. Good and brave men buried Stephen, giving him a solemn funeral—not many dry eyes that day!
And Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail. Forced to leave home base, the followers of Jesus all became missionaries. Wherever they were scattered, they preached the Message about Jesus. Going down to a Samaritan city, Philip proclaimed the Message of the Messiah. When the people heard what he had to say and saw the miracles, the clear signs of God’s action, they hung on his every word. Many who could neither stand nor walk were healed that day. The evil spirits protested loudly as they were sent on their way. And what joy in the city!” —Acts 7:54–8:8 (The Message)
Normally, I would quote a longer piece of the Scriptures, but the way The Message conveys this is too important to leave it to our preferred translations, for it speaks in our everyday language. Two sentences in particular:
“Forced to leave home base, the followers of Jesus all became missionaries. Wherever they were scattered, they preached the Message about Jesus.”
This whole COVID/Corona season we’ve had “home base” completely disrupted. Whether it’s working from home, not working, or other “homes”, such as the church building, and the friends’ living rooms being prohibited, it has been quite a time.
As things have progressed, working from home for many became a prison rather than an escape. Not being able to go places became its own struggle. Even those who consider themselves homebodies want to get out.
The reality is that we all seek a “base”. We want a place to feel safe. We want a place to be “home”. We want a place to be “normal”.
In this case, however, perhaps “base” is actually what we don’t want. A better way to say it might be that for us to grow in gifts and graces we need to step off (or out of) the “base”.
Notice that it was after being cast out from Jerusalem (home base), Jesus was being preached. After leaving the safe confines of “home” they began to preach. Something about being out of their comfort zone caused them to share about Jesus.
1) What might the lesson be for us regarding “home base” and the world in this time we find ourselves in?
2) Why did losing “home” seem to loosen tongues and hearts for Jesus?
3) How does comfort or normal inhibit sharing the Gospel?
Lord Jesus, we offer our comfort to you that we might use it, or lose it, to fulfill your will. Amen.