As the community of Jesus’ followers grew, the leaders needed to explore new structures and ways of being community. Some within the community took on the responsibility of caring for those who were often neglected. These caring leaders were called deacons. One of the deacons was Stephen. Stephen had a kind heart and showed love to others the way Jesus did. In Acts 6:8–12, we learn that Stephen “did great wonders and signs” and spoke with “wisdom of the Spirit.” The temple leaders charged Stephen with blasphemy and lack of respect for God. This charge was punishable by death. Stephen stands trial and defends his witness in a powerful sermon, recorded in the first part of Acts 7.
As we enter the focus scripture for this Sunday (Acts 7:55–60), some who were not part of the community became angry at the way Stephen talked about Jesus and shared love like Jesus. Stephen was dragged away and taken outside of the city. But even when a crowd began to throw stones at him, Stephen was filled with God’s love. He prayed, “God, please forgive these people for what they are doing” and then he died. Stoning is killing a person by throwing rocks at them. It is a very cruel way to kill a person. The community grieved and remembered Stephen’s loving ways. Stephen is a hero who stood up to the crowd. Doing so cost him his life, but he thought speaking about Jesus was worth dying for.
Our youth often find themselves in situations in which they must stand up to their friends refusing to do something they know to be wrong. Stephen’s story provides both a hero to emulate and a warning that standing up to the crowd often causes trouble – fortunately the trouble is not often lethal. Still sometimes standing up to the crowd is the right thing do, even when the crowd fights back. Older children may have become desensitized to violence. Studies indicate that the average child in North America will have watched thousands of acts of televised murder by the time they reach age 12. Depending on their exposure, some may be indifferent to the story and some will be horrified. Our time together offers an opportunity to explore the story and discuss how rage and prejudice can still lead to the death of innocent people today.
This Sunday is Mother’s Day and Women of the Church celebration. Faithworks’ children and youth will mark this day by distributing gifts to the women of our church after the service. Also, please join us for our Annual Mother’s Day Cake Auction. Take part in all the fun and support our Mission Team and volunteers as they prepare for the Maine Mission Trip this July 1-8.
All children and youth are welcome to join us for Bible story time and activities on the 2nd floor after the time of conversation with the pastor.