Welcome to Episode #83 of the Sunday Scripture Podcast!
We’re in a series for the summer that will walk through the book of Acts.
Acts 6 New International Version (NIV)
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[a] among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Acts 7:54-60 New International Version (NIV)
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Quote of the Week
“The point of being a ‘martyr’, then, a ‘witness’, is not just that giving one’s life to death provides striking confirmation of one’s faith (when facing death, what’s the point in being a hypocrite?). It may be much more: that the point at which a person stands at the very threshold of heaven and earth, still in earth but called to give up their life for the faith, is the point where they may for a moment be in a position where they can, as it were, see both dimensions of reality, and speak about the normally hidden one to the people who cannot yet see it for themselves.” N.T. Wright
1 While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees confronted them. 2 They were incensed that the apostles were teaching the people and announcing that the resurrection of the dead was happening because of Jesus. 3 They seized Peter and John and put them in prison until the next day. (It was already evening.) 4 Many who heard the word became believers, and their number grew to about five thousand.
5 The next day the leaders, elders, and legal experts gathered in Jerusalem, 6 along with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and others from the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and asked, “By what power or in what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, answered, “Leaders of the people and elders, 9 are we being examined today because something good was done for a sick person, a good deed that healed him? 10 If so, then you and all the people of Israel need to know that this man stands healthy before you because of the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 11 This Jesus is the stone you builders rejected; he has become the cornerstone! 12 Salvation can be found in no one else. Throughout the whole world, no other name has been given among humans through which we must be saved.”
13 The council was caught by surprise by the confidence with which Peter and John spoke. After all, they understood that these apostles were uneducated and inexperienced. They also recognized that they had been followers of Jesus. 14 However, since the healed man was standing with Peter and John before their own eyes, they had no rebuttal. 15 After ordering them to wait outside, the council members began to confer with each other. 16 “What should we do with these men? Everyone living in Jerusalem is aware of the sign performed through them. It’s obvious to everyone and we can’t deny it. 17 To keep it from spreading further among the people, we need to warn them not to speak to anyone in this name.” 18 When they called Peter and John back, they demanded that they stop all speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus.
19 Peter and John responded, “It’s up to you to determine whether it’s right before God to obey you rather than God. 20 As for us, we can’t stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 They threatened them further, then released them. Because of public support for Peter and John, they couldn’t find a way to punish them. Everyone was praising God for what had happened, 22 because the man who had experienced this sign of healing was over 40 years old.
23 After their release, Peter and John returned to the brothers and sisters and reported everything the chief priests and elders had said. 24 They listened, then lifted their voices in unison to God, “Master, you are the one who created the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them. 25 You are the one who spoke by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:
Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand
and the rulers gathered together as one
against the Lord and against his Christ.[a]
27 Indeed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with Gentiles and Israelites, did gather in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and plan had already determined would happen. 29 Now, Lord, take note of their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with complete confidence. 30 Stretch out your hand to bring healing and enable signs and wonders to be performed through the name of Jesus, your holy servant.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were gathered was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking God’s word with confidence.
Three Points of Discussion
Quote #1 - “As Jesus himself had hinted, he is the one prophesied in Psalm 118, which speaks of a stone that has been rejected by the builders but has become the head cornerstone of the whole building. When builders are searching around for ordinary stones to put up a wall or a house, they reject the one with the odd shape, because it won’t fit.” N.T. Wright
Quote #2 - “But resurrection always was a radical, dangerous doctrine, an attack on the status quo and a threat to existing power structures. Resurrection, you see, is the belief which declares that the living God is going to put everything right once and for all, is going (as we saw in the previous chapter) to ‘restore all things’, to turn the world the right way up at last.” N.T. Wright
Quote #3 - “Where God’s power is at work to bring real change, real healing, real new life, there the people who are naming the name of Jesus to bring it about can stand up before judges, whether political or religious, and say with integrity that they are speaking for God. It will be costly; that’s part of the deal. But it will be true.” N.T. Wright
Welcome to Episode #81 of the Sunday Scripture Podcast!
We’re in a series for the summer that will walk through the book of Acts. Our scripture today is one of the most famous texts in the New Testament.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?....(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Points of Discussion
Quote #1 - “The whole point is that, through the spirit, some of the creative power of God himself comes from heaven to earth and does its work there. The aim is not to give people a ‘spirituality’ which will make the things of earth irrelevant. The point is to transform earth with the power of heaven, starting with those parts of ‘earth’ which consist of the bodies, minds, hearts and lives of the followers of Jesus –as a community: notice that, in verse 1, Luke stresses the fact that they were all together in one place; the spirit comes, not to divide, but to unite.” N.T. Wright
Quote #2 - “Luke clearly intends to describe something new, something that launched a great movement, as a fleet of ships is launched by the strong wind that drives them out to sea or a forest fire is started by a few small flames. He intends to explain how it was that a small group of frightened, puzzled and largely uneducated men and women could so quickly become, as they undoubtedly did, a force to be reckoned with right across the known world.” N.T. Wright
Welcome to Episode #80 of the Sunday Scripture Podcast!
Today we start a new series for the summer that will walk through the book of Acts. The book is sequel to the stories of the four gospels. We’ll read stories of the earliest faith communities..their failures, their achievements, and their questions for one another.
Our scripture today is…
Selected Verses from Acts 1
9 After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them. 11 They said, “Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven.”
15 During this time, the family of believers was a company of about one hundred twenty persons. Peter stood among them and said, 16 “Brothers and sisters, the scripture that the Holy Spirit announced beforehand through David had to be fulfilled. This was the scripture concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 This happened even though he was one of us and received a share of this ministry.”
21 “Therefore, we must select one of those who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus lived among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when Jesus was taken from us. This person must become along with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 So they nominated two: Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.
24 They prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s deepest thoughts and desires. Show us clearly which one you have chosen from among these two 25 to take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” 26 When they cast lots, the lot fell on Matthias. He was added to the eleven apostles.
Three Points of Discussion
Quote #1 - Symbols are important to biblical stories because they provide markers for their readers. There is hardly a more important numerical symbol in Scripture than twelve. Simply put, the number twelve stands for Israel as God’s people. The significance of the twelve apostles is elevated in Acts because Luke’s Jesus had placed the prospect of Israel’s restoration in the hands of his successors. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Volume Ten, page 48
Quote #2 - Peter’s job description (for the new disciple) contrasts with the prior failure of Judas: The successful candidate must be a “witness with us,” unlike Judas; and this candidate must have “accompanied us us all the time-until the day he was taken from us”, unlike Judas, whose death occurred prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Volume Ten, page 50
Quote #3 - Various models for selecting leaders are found in Scripture. In this case, Matthias’s selection follows a protocol of discernment by which a game of chance is used to complement corporate prayer in discerning God’s will…Different situations require different processes for selecting a congregation’s leaders. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Volume Ten, page 50
We pick up today one verse ahead of where we ended last week, when Jesus described God as a gardener, himself a vine, and us as the branches….the entire image was based in bearing fruit and the necessary tasks the gardener takes in order to have the best fruit possible. One of the major fruits God hopes for is love, and that is the topic today...
John 15:9-17 Common English Bible (CEB)
9 “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.
13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.
17 I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.
Three Points of Discussion
Quote #1 - Love in this sense is a theological virtue: an excellence of character that God has by nature and in which we participate by grace. Such love is primarily interested in the good of the other person, rather than one’s own. It does not attempt to possess or dominate the other. Nor is it limited by the scarcities that are imposed by time and place: one can have a few good friends and fewer lovers, but one can have agapē for all. DAVID S. CUNNINGHAM David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide (Feasting on the Word: Year B volume) (Kindle Locations 17372-17375). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
Quote #2 - Abiding and bearing fruit. From Jesus’ words in verses 9–10 of “abiding” in his love, and of “bearing fruit” in verse 16, it is clear that he is continuing the metaphor of the vine and the branches found in the opening verses of chapter 15. The fruit bearing may consist of the disciples’ reciprocal love for one another (the link of bearing fruit and loving one another in vv. 16–17 suggests this), or the fruit bearing may refer to the making of new disciples (who would likely constitute the readership of John’s Gospel) GEORGE W. RAMSEY David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide (Feasting on the Word: Year B volume) (Kindle Location 17499). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
Quote #3 - “We preachers would do well to recall that the Greek words for “grace” and “joy” share the same root. Joy may very well be a feeling of grace, the emotion of grace, even the response to grace. Joy is that indescribable sense when you find yourself experiencing abundant grace.” - Karoline Lewis
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