Print Version April 13th, 2005
The death of Stephen marks the beginning of a great persecution of the Jerusalem Christians. Saul thinks he sees his life’s work: to destroy the Jesus-movement entirely. But the way Luke tells it he only succeeds in spreading the gospel on the tongues of scattered believers.
There’s an irony in the very word Luke uses for the persecuted people. Church he calls them—in Greek ecclesia—meaning the gathering. It is the gathered people of God who are scattered. The ones called together who spread the word by being flung apart. The gathering grows by being un-gathered.
We can read that as an irony for Saul—especially since we know the change of role and name coming up for him. But it’s also ironic for everyone involved. Though ironic doesn’t really capture the pain, the uprooting, the imprisonment. Is the Church being destroyed or being built up? Who are the heroes of the story and who are just the walk-on parts, the extras, history’s cannon fodder?
Don’t we wonder that in our own lives from time to time? Particularly at times of scattering, when the fabric is fraying, and the unknown opens ahead of us. Are we extras in someone else’s drama or is this our moment, the chance to speak our lines from the heart and move the great story on.
John has thought about that: “The will of the one who sent me is that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me and that I should raise it up on the last day”.
In his way of telling the story there are no extras, there are no loose threads or wasted lives: each of us is at the heart of the tale. As God sees it, each of us is the axle history turns upon. You and I, each one of us is the hero of a story that has God riveted.