9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him into slavery in Egypt. God was with him, however, 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. The grace and wisdom he gave Joseph were recognized by Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over his whole palace. 11 A famine came upon all Egypt and Canaan, and great hardship came with it. Our ancestors had nothing to eat. 12 When Jacob heard there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there for the first time. 13 During their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 Joseph sent for his father Jacob and all his relatives—seventy-five in all—and invited them to live with him. 15 So Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had purchased for a certain sum of money from Hamor’s children, who lived in Shechem.
17 “When it was time for God to keep the promise he made to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly expanded. 18 But then another king rose to power over Egypt who didn’t know anything about Joseph [Exodus 1:8].
38 You know about Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit and endowed with power. Jesus traveled around doing good and healing everyone oppressed by the devil because God was with him.
Acts 7 told of an energetic early Christian named Stephen on trial for his life, charged with serious religious offenses (cf. Acts 6:13-14). His response was very much like Psalm 105 (which we read part of yesterday)—reciting the history of God and God’s people, including Joseph. “God was with him” echoed Genesis 39:2, 21, yet Joseph’s brothers rejected him (as the leaders rejected Jesus). In Acts 10, Peter shared Jesus with Roman soldiers, using that same phrase from Joseph’s story.
Lord Jesus, Daniel, David, now Joseph—all their stories were chapters of the story that led to and continues with you. Let me weave my life, too, into your great saving story. Amen.
* Wright, N.T., Acts for Everyone, Part One: Chapters 1-12 (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 110). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
** Wright, N.T., Acts for Everyone, Part One: Chapters 1-12 (The New Testament for Everyone) (pp. 166-167). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
To better understand today’s passage, I thought we might “visit” with Terrance Sedimen, Master Stone Mason & Bricklayer.
DL: Mr. Sedimen, thanks for your time. What does a career in masonry involve?
Sedimen, Terry: Please call me Terry. Masonry is an ancient profession that requires attention to detail & methodical planning. Now, being a mason isn’t always easy. Like the time the bubble in my level malfunctioned & my brick wall was off by 4 degrees. It was bad on so many levels. Worst case of Irritable Trowel Syndrome I have ever had.
DL: So, why are you such a fan of the Apostle Stephen?
Sedimen, Terry: Well, Stephen is the Patron Saint of bricklayers & stonemasons. Considering Stephen’s means of death, this indicates that some of the early Christians had a very ironic & somewhat morbid sense of humor.
DL: I feel sorry for the saintly fellow who might have been killed by a manure spreader – perhaps I’d just pass on that whole Patron Saint honorific. What can you tell us about Stephen?
Sedimen, Terry: We know he was a Hellenistic Jew, which meant he was foreign-born & his faith was a hybrid of Jewish traditions & Greek culture. (This may be why he had very little theological attachment to the Temple & its rituals.) He is described as a man full of faith, grace, & spiritual power. After Stephen complained about the treatment & care of the elderly, Stephen was appointed, along with 6 friends, to coordinate distribution of charity to the elderly & infirm. (By the way, that’s why I work pro-bono 10-hours every month to help elderly folks with their masonry issues so their house can remain up to code. I guess you could say on those days I’m a Free Mason.)
DL: What about his martyrdom?
Sedimen, Terry: Stephen was obviously a prominent & prolific speaker & not shy about sharing his views on spiritual issues, especially his thoughts on Temple worship or his faith in Jesus Christ. He’s brought up on vague charges of speaking against the “holy place & the law.” Stephen starts slowly noting Jewish history, citing Abraham, King David, & Solomon. He then begins to really pick up steam. He zings the Sanhedrin council with Isaiah’s quote about God not needing a home built with human hands. Stephen then really lays it all out on the table & slams the council for not following the Holy Spirit & murdering “The Righteous One.” The council is furious. Stephen tells the council of his vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God. The council rushes Stephen & drags him outside the city limits to stone him. As he is being stoned, Stephen prays that God not hold their sin against them.
DL: Using today’s lingo, you could say that Stephen was a victim of the “cancel culture.”
Sedimen, Terry: Indeed. So, what about Stephen stands out to you?
DL: First, Stephen knew what he believed & why. I love the old story of the elderly pastor who enjoyed chatting with his parishioners. He’d always start a visit with the gentle question, “So, why are you a Christian?” It sometimes flummoxed folks, because they hadn’t put their faith into words. But he enjoyed patiently listening to them work through their thoughts, noting that no two stories were ever quite the same. Perhaps we could pause today & consider how we might answer such query.
Secondly, Stephen put his faith into action, caring for the elderly. Maybe we need to make sure that we are being the feet & hands of Christ caring for those in our world.
Thirdly, Stephen had an amazing capacity to forgive. Could we be so brave as to forgive someone who wronged us or to even grant ourselves the luxury of grace for our own past mistakes & miscues?
Finally, I am intrigued by Luke’s seemingly throwaway line in verse 7:58, noting that they laid their cloaks at the feet of Saul. Sometimes we Christians can complain that we pray for God’s guidance but we never hear any response. What if the Holy Spirit was trying to use Stephen’s speech to help Saul come to the light? But sadly, Saul was so hard-hearted toward Jesus & so hard-of-hearing of His Word, that it would take a heavenly flash of light to get his attention two chapters later. Perhaps we should remember when we are waiting for holy inspiration that God often speaks in a still small voice, not a violent storm or earthquake (1 Kings 19:11-13).
Sedimen, Terry: That’s great. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Doctor’s appointment to treat a bad case of kidney stones. Apparently, my diet has had too many minerals – it got so bad, I would actually pea gravel.
DL: Oh my. Thanks for your time.
13720 Roe Ave.
Leawood, KS 66224
24000 W. Valley Pkwy
Olathe, KS 66061
1601 Grand Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
601 NE Jefferson St.
Blue Springs, MO 64014
8412 W. 95th St.
Overland Park, KS 66212
Can’t find something? Let us help.