Acts 7: 51-60

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Illustrated Resources from the Archives

  • Sticks and Stones

    by Scott Bader-Saye
    T S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral dramatizes the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170. The story builds to the final moments when Becket is pulled inside the cathedral by three priests trying to save him from the king’s forces. They bar the door for safety, but Thomas, with a boldness befitting Stephen himself demands: Unbar the doors! throw open the doors! I will not have the house of prayer, the church of Christ, The sanctuary, turned into a fortress.. The church shall be open, even to our enemies. We are not here to triumph by fighting, by stratagem, or by resistance, Not to fight with beasts as men. We have fought the beast And have conquered. We have only to conquer Now, by suffering. This is the easier victory. Now is the triumph of the Cross, now Open the door! I command it. OPEN THE DOOR! Like Stephen and like Jesus, Thomas went to his death opposing the forces of evil not with power but with faithfulness.
  • Easter 5A (2017)

    by Doug Bratt
    Plaques inscribed with the names of three Princeton Theological Seminary graduates greet hungry seminarians as they enter their dining hall: “Walter Macon Lawrie – Thrown overboard by pirates in the China Sea, 1847. John Rogers Peal – Killed with his wife by a mob at Lien Chou, China, 1905. James Joseph Reid – Fatally beaten at Selma, Alabama, March 11, 1965.” It’s enough to make a seminarian lose her appetite, if not look for some safer line of work, like, say, bull-riding.
  • The View from the Father's Right Hand

    by John Christianson
    ("A young woman was making her debut at Orchestra Hall. She concluded her concert with a brilliant rendition of Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata. The crowd went wild. They thundered their approval...")
  • But They Covered Their Ears

    by Jessica Christy
    It makes me think of Star Wars, how the evil empire's Stormtroopers always wear identical white helmets that cover their faces. The audience knows there's a person under that armor, but that person's individuality is totally erased. So when we look at them, we don't see a human being; we just see a "bad guy." And, that's why the audience doesn't feel anything when a Stormtrooper dies: we don't have to think of them as real people. That's fine in a space opera set in a galaxy far, far away, but it's dangerous when we do it in real life. When we stop listening to someone, when we cover our ears and start shouting over them, it's like we're sticking that Stormtrooper mask over their face. They're no longer a thinking, feeling, beloved child of God; they're the enemy. And no matter what Jesus tells us, we're not very good at loving our enemies.
  • When Jesus Stands

    by Stephen Clyborne
    Fred Craddock (Craddock Stories) said: I pictured myself against a gray wall and some soldier saying, “One last chance to deny Christ and live.” And I confessed my faith and someone else said, “Ready? Aim! Fire!” The body slumped, the flag was at half mast, and widows were weeping in the afternoon, and later a monument is built. People come with their cameras, “Johnny, you stand over there where Fred gave his life and let’s get your picture.” No one warned me that I would not write one big check, but that I would spend these forty-five years of ministry writing a series of small checks .
  • My Mother the Martyr

    by Owen Griffiths
    in Greek the word “martyr” actually means “witness.” It didn’t start out meaning someone who died for their faith (although getting killed for what you believe in is, you must admit, a pretty darn strong testimony!); rather, it simply referred to someone who was willing to speak of what they knew to be true. When I asked the students in the Diakonia class I’m teaching to name the person who most influenced them in their Christian faith, they almost unanimously answered, “My mom.” Moms are powerful “martyrs” in this respect.
  • Easter 5A (2011)

    by Scott Hoezee
    ("All good stories move toward a climax. It doesn't matter whether it is an ancient Greek tragedy like Oedipus Rex, a Shakespearean play like Much Ado About Nothing, or a Star Wars movie, most of the best narratives spend a good deal of time tugging at and weaving various narrative threads throughout the story until finally the moment arrives when the threads all converge on one spot and at the same, single climactic moment...")
  • All in the Same Boat

    by Paul Rooney
    ("a group of shipwrecked people is adrift in a long, narrow lifeboat. The boat is so long that people in the front think of themselves as the 'front' people, and those in the back think of themselves as the 'back' people. One day the front of the boat develops an uncontrollable leak...")
  • The Facts of Life after Death

    by Jeeva Sam
    ("Listen to these words from Betty J. Eadie: 'I saw a pinpoint of Light in the distance. The black mass around me began to take on more of the shape of a tunnel, and I felt myself traveling through it at an even greater speed, rushing toward the light...")
  • Look, I See the Heavens Opened

    by Shannon Schaefer
    One way of reading Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” is to understand it as a story about theological imagination, and how it is we come to envision the world rightly. At the center of this story is a nameless child who, being rather remarkable in her imaginative capacities, manages to see beyond the ordinary around her to a world shot through with importance and the work of the Spirit. In one particularly poignant passage, she’s considering freaks in the freak-show at the fair, and understands them to be martyrs...

Other Resources from 2020

  • The Death of Stephen

    by Neil Bishop
  • Easter 5A (2020)

    by Marissa Coblentz
  • Can I Get a Witness?

    by Kathy Donley
    When this pandemic first began, it stirred in many people memories of the AIDS outbreak in the 1980’s. The consuming fear of an unknown virus, the suffering and death, the pointing of fingers and casting blame, the ducking of responsibility by political leaders – all that sounded familiar. During that terrible time, the Rev. Tom Long went to South Africa and met a young Johannesburg doctor whose specialty was AIDS. He worked in a dingy inner-city hospital where the beds of AIDS patients spilled out of the wards and lined the corridors. The doctor said, “The numbers are growing at a fearful rate; in some areas, over half the population is infected and we don’t have enough to help them. We don’t have the medicine, the beds, the staff, the knowledge.” Rev. Long asked “What keeps you going?” The doctor spoke quietly, hesitantly, “My faith.” He looked out the window. He said, “I am holding on to the possibility of hope.”
  • Exegesis (Acts 7:55-60)

    by Richard Niell Donovan
  • Mother's Day Murder

    by Evan Garner
  • Can I Get a Witness?

    by Owen Griffiths
  • Easter 5A (2020)

    by Phil Heinze
  • Are We Guilty of Throwing Stones or Watching Coats?

    by Andre E. Johnson
    On May 22, 1917, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, a mob lynched Ell Persons. Reports indicated that 5,000 people showed up to participate or watch. Persons was tied to a log, doused with gasoline, and set on fire. According to newspaper reports, his death was slow and agonizing. The crowd cheered as the smell of burnt flesh filled the air. After he died, they mutilated his body...
  • Faithfulness

    by Kelley Land
  • Easter 5A

    by Bill Loader
  • Sermon Starters (Easter 5A)(2020)

    by Stan Mast
    I’m glad that Stephen was deeply mourned, even though God used his death in a remarkable way. That speaks to the way we wrestle with the death of loved ones. The eminent Christian philosopher, Nicholas Wolterstorff, lost a son to a mountain climbing accident. That death devastated Wolterstorff, as he relates in his wonderful book, Lament for a Son. In his memoir, Wolterstorff considers all the ways we try to square such a loss with our faith in a loving God. Wolterstorff finds none of those classic attempts at theodicy helpful, preferring instead to leave God’s ways with us a mystery that should simply be lamented. God moves in a mysterious way, says the old song, and we can’t expect to understand. All we can do is join the Psalmists in lamenting. And then, just trust God. I like that, but as our story shows us, we can both lament and trust that God used even tragedy (especially the tragedy of Stephen’s death) to accomplish something so grand that no one could have imagined it at the time.
  • Living Stories

    by Kate Matthews
  • Speaking the Truth to Power

    by Jim McCrea
    •Georgia was formerly one of the republics in the Soviet Union. When Communism collapsed, Georgia pulled away from Russia and tried to re-establish itself as an independent country. One of the ways it chose to do that was to reclaim its history and reassert the authority of the Christian Orthodox church. To do that, they sometimes turned a blind eye to persecution of Protestant churches. One extremist Orthodox priest was named Father Basil — I’ll ignore his last name for fear that I would mangle it — called his followers to put down Protestants by burning their churches and beating their pastors and priests. He even encouraged them to burn down a warehouse owned by the Bible Society. For his actions, Father Basil was defrocked, but that didn’t stop him. On January 24, 2003 he led a group of his followers in a violent attack on a multi-denominational worship service at the Central Baptist Church held in celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. More than a year later, Father Basil was finally arrested for his violent acts. During his trial, the Baptist Bishop Malkhaz was called to testify. For three hours he spoke about the values of Christianity, the ecumenical movement and religious liberty. The judge and prosecutor asked him a number of questions. Finally, judge asked Malkhaz, “What do you want to happen to these defendants?” Malkhaz replied, “I demand that these people are pardoned and released from the prison.”...
  • Glass Houses

    Art and Faith by Lynn Miller
    If you are an architect, the most famous one is probably Philip Johnson's. But Ludwig Mies van der Rohe did one, too. If you saw the film The Lake House (2006) you saw one that was designed and built for the movie in a matter of weeks and then disassembled at the conclusion of filming. There was one for sale, designed by a student of Mies. That's right, you could have been one of those people who lives in a glass house. And if you were one of those people, you'd know the truth that people have known since Chaucer first wrote it: Who that hath an hed of verre, Fro cast of stones war hym in the werre! If your Chaucerian English needs an assist: The man who has a head of glass, should beware of throwing stones, when he goes to war. Or, as the proverb has come to us: People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones...
  • Heroism Is a Fatal Disease

    by Christy Randazzo
  • St. Stephen

    by Dave Risendal
  • Easter 5A (2020)

    by Philip Ruge-Jones

Other Resources from 2017 to 2019

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Other Resources from 2013 to 2016

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Other Resources from 2011 and 2012

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Other Resources from the Archives

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Children's Resources

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The Classics

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