Friday, May 8, 2020

e-vo for May 7th(ish)

Dearest e-votees,

So for Sunday we have the account of the first Christian martyr, Stephen.  He was stoned to death by an angry crowd.  The coatrack, Saul, will eventually have a powerful conversion experience and become the apostle Paul.

One of the most powerful parts of the story is Stephen praying for those who are inflicting mortal harm.  I wonder where he learned such crazy behavior.



Jesus prays for his persecutors and murderers:  "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing."  (Luke 23:34).  He is enduring what he must for the sake of humanity and to bring glory to God.  In the midst of his suffering his mind and heart are directed towards those who are unjustly taking his life.

Stephen seems to have a strong resonance in Jesus in this regard.  While being killed for merely sharing what was revealed to him about God he pauses and asks God not to hold this sin against them.

There are those who, intentionally or inadvertently, bring death upon us.  They can kill our spirits or kill our bodies.  They may be malevolent actors wishing harm to come our way.  They may be oblivious to how they are exposing us to harm.  We can easily get righteously indignant and call down judgment and pile abuse on those to work us harm.  Perhaps there is need for accountability to be coerced and justice to be served.  We can also pray for those who harm us.

The truth is prayers for enemies, extending forgiveness and seeking reconciliation are as much for us as those who may have been wronged as it is for those for whom we pray, seek to forgive and try to make right.

Jesus is about the business of bringing forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration WRIT LARGE.  We are called to forgive, to seek reconciliation and to participate in restoration.  But this is only possible to do in earnest because of what Jesus did in his life, ministry, death and resurrection.  Jesus shows us how we might engage the work of forgiveness and community building.

Stephen shows us that people can rise to the high standard Jesus showed us on the high standard of the cross.  We can take up our crosses and follow after Jesus.  Stephen did it (as have many, many martyrs throughout the years) including Dietrich Bonhoeffer as shown in his writings and in his death at the hands to the death camp guards.

Things will happen to us--just and unjust.  Something will end our mortal existence--perhaps hastened by sin (our own and that of others).  We may have a chance to respond to what has happened and how our death has come to be.  May Jesus and Stephen shape our responses, our prayer lives and our witnesses to others who may be with us during our trials and tribulations and passings.

Dear Jesus, shape our hearts and minds and prayer lives through your witness and testimony on the cross in words and sufferings.  Help us bring glory to God and hope to all no matter what comes our way.  Amen.

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