Acts 6:1-11

Readings for this week June 15 – 19
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Day 1 – A Perfect Church?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 6:1

When we read about the early church, we may wish we could have been part of such a ‘perfect’ church – the miracles, the growth, the fellowship and worship of a community of believers united in love. But things weren’t always sunshine and light in the community of God’s people – as we saw with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter 5. The early church faced its share of issues, got some things right, others wrong, just like we do today. This passage, however, highlights an issue created by the very success of the church. As great as it was that new people were becoming followers of Jesus, this growth in the size of the community caused some problems. People were joining from different walks of life, different cultures, different backgrounds. Yet they were expected to live together as a single family, a family that met together, ate together, shared their possessions with each other…and was getting bigger and bigger all the time. Sometimes highly contentious issues and quarrels arose.

But these issues – and ours – are not insurmountable, not matter what they may be. They need not hinder the growth of God’s kingdom. We’re coming through a strange time at the moment – we have in the past and we will again in the future. With God’s guidance, and our own discernment and honesty, these issues can be an avenue for us to grow in grace and wisdom with each other. A church does not need to be perfect in order to serve God faithfully and well.

Questions to Consider
What imperfections do you see in your church community? What can you do to make your community better?

Prayer
Father God, help me to be honest with my shortcomings and those of my community. Help me be forgiving and wise. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Everyone is Important

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 6:2-6

Do you ever wish you could do everything? Have you ever found yourself working with a group and been frustrated with what others in the group were doing? “I could do a much better job of things if left to do it all myself,” you may have found yourself thinking. The accusation of neglect the apostles found themselves facing arose because of the growing numbers of new people joining the church. Suddenly, there were too many different things that needed to be done for the leaders to do them all themselves (whether they wanted to or not!). And so the Twelve delegated some of the work. They put seven respected men in charge of food distribution, illustrating perfectly the idea that each person has a vital part to play in the life of the church.

But delegating administrative responsibilities so they could focus on “the word of God” did not mean the Twelve were demeaning such organisational tasks. The call to practically feed, support and care for those in need is a central plank of the gospel. The fact that the Twelve required the men chosen to be full of both the Holy Spirit and wisdom, shows how important they saw those duties. Wherever we serve, whether we are in a position of leadership or not, there is a part for us in the church’s life. What matters is discerning our God-given abilities, seeing where God is moving, and using them to serve others, whatever that may look like.

Questions to Consider
Why do we often divide jobs, tasks and roles into “important/unimportant” categories? How is this damaging to the church community?

Prayer
Lord God, help me to see that everyone has an important part to play in the work of your kingdom, however big or small their contribution may seem. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Obedience in the Small Things

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 6:7

“The word of God increased.” This is a favourite phrase of Luke’s, one he uses several times throughout Acts. The proclamation of the gospel increased. More and more people were hearing the word and beginning to follow Jesus. Jesus had instructed the apostles that Jerusalem was to be the starting point of where they were to witness (Acts 1:8). Here we see that within quite a short space of time, the message of the gospel had spread throughout the entire city and had even infiltrated the top levels of society. Even some priests could be counted among the converts. Jesus had a reason for telling the apostles to remain in Jerusalem first, however counter-intuitive staying put may have seemed. It allowed the gospel to spread slowly outwards from the centre, like ripples on a pond. The apostles didn’t have to charge off and try and take over the world. Staying where they were, preaching the gospel, and living together as the community of Jesus was all that was required to start with.

That Luke has chosen to place this pet phrase of his here is significant. The previous verses simply told of an issue facing the church: inadequate food distribution to the community’s widows. The way they solved that issue allowed the preaching of the word to continue, and the active witness of caring for widows to be more effective. Obedience in small things led to big results. Solving practical considerations and necessities allowed for powerful preaching and people coming to faith in Jesus.

Questions to Consider
What “small obediences” do you struggle with? How might you learn to obey God in the small things too? How can others in your community help with this?

Prayer
Almighty Father, help me be obedient in all things, no matter the circumstances. Make each moment a place for loving obedience. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – By the Spirit

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 6:8-11

We first came across Stephen as one of the seven men appointed to be overseers of the distribution of food to the widows in the community. Now, a few verses later, he is also caught up in a very active ministry of healing and teaching. He was noted as being a wise servant (6:3), a miracle worker (6:8) and an evangelist as well (6:10). The gifts Stephen has are a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit, something that it is important to note was the case before he was appointed as one of the Seven. By the Spirit’s power Stephen was fully exercising the gifts God had given him.

Stephen was also a powerful speaker and debater, but again Luke makes it clear that this was Spirit-led also. The people who were arguing with Stephen couldn’t withstand “his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke” (verse 10). Stephen presents us with an example and a challenge. He is an example of someone filled with God’s Spirit and using his God-given gifts in everything he did and said. The temptation is to divide Stephen’s abilities and tasks into two: those of a practical nature and those seen as more spiritual. But that is a false dichotomy. Preaching and practicality are both part of the gospel. Stephen was open to God’s call and direction no matter what the call was or what it required of him. Stephen challenges us to make ourselves and our entire lives just as open and available to God, no matter where such openness may take us.

Questions to Consider
How does reading about Stephen make you feel? In what ways is his life a model of discipleship?

Prayer
Loving Lord, fill me again with your Spirit so that I might use to the fullest the gifts you have given me. Guide me to the place where these gifts can best meet and serve the world and its people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Hallelujah, Praise God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 113

Hallelujah. A word so familiar that most people would recognise it, as it has made its way into the English language and needs no translation. But of course it means, “Praise God.” This psalm is the first of six psalms of praise known as the hallel that are traditionally said in synagogues during festival week. It is a well-known paean of praise to the God of the universe – indeed, the God whose praise fills the universe, in both time (now and forevermore) and space (from where the sun rises to where it sets). God’s praise extends between all possible limits, from the horizontal span of the sun’s journey (v.3) to the vertical span of the heavens themselves (v.4).

Six verses describing the magnificence of God, praising his name, declaring the timeless depth and breadth of his praise – and then the first verse that actually mentions an action of this wholly praiseworthy God tells of how he reaches down into the dust and dirt and raises up the poor and needy. This is telling. The first act of this almighty, unparalleled, unequalled God is on behalf of the marginalised and destitute, stooping to raise them up to a place among the princes of the world; to place the barren woman in a place of honour surrounded by her children. This is the character and heart of the God so praised in this psalm. His eye is on those in need and he moves and works to rescue and restore them to a place of life and of honour. As followers we can do nothing less than do the same that he has done and is still doing.

Questions to Consider
How can we raise up those at the bottom? What will this look like?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, my heart needs to become more like your heart, and my actions need to mirror the actions that you have undertaken to show love to the poor, and to stand in solidarity with them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)