First Thoughts From The Rev. Canon David Smith: 

Most weeks Fr. David sends out an e-mail with his first thoughts on the upcoming Sunday readings. These reflections are designed to encourage people to consider the readings before they come to worship which we hope will enrich Sunday worship. People are invited to respond to David with their own thoughts and sometimes interesting ideas and conversations occur that end up in the sermon. If you would like to receive these weekly e-mails e-mail David at dsmith@ontario.anglican.ca  . 

Readings Acts 7:55-60, Psalm 31: 1-5 , 15 -16, 1Peter 2: 2-10, John 14 : 1-14

Posted by Emily Sanderson on Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Thanks to Feasting on the Word , Year A Volume 2 pages 448- 471

Our first reading from Acts is the account of St. Stephen's martyrdom. He
was the first person to lose his life for his faith in Christ. I was moved
by his courage and the fact that his faith meant so much to him that he
would die for it. Thankfully we live in a country where the issue is only
academic but I ask myself if I would be that brave if I found myself in a
similar position. Emerson Powery asking the same kind of question quoted
martin Luther King Jr.," a person who had nothing worth dying for was not
fit to live" ( Feasting on the Word, Year A , volume 2 , pg 453) . And of
course there are many Christians dying for their faith now in many parts of
the world. Our prayer team prayers for them every day. Of course another
question to ask myself is, if I found myself in a situation where it would
be convenient  , or safer , or advantageous to persecute someone along with
the mob would I have the courage to stand up for the victim? Sadly
throughout history followers of Christ have been the perpetrators of
injustice and I wonder what I would have done if I found myself in that
situation. Would I cover my ears to the cry of the victim and rush against
him or her as was done to Stephen?



Of course the amazing theme of the Acts reading is the way in which
Stephen's death was modeled after our Lord's death. Stephen offered his
spirit to be received by Jesus just as Jesus said into your hands I commend
my spirit as he died. Stephen's last words were words of forgiveness for his
killers just as Jesus forgave those who killed him. In fact it seems that
our Lord's death and love from the cross was what enabled Stephen to
forgive. It would be an important and  powerful sermon to examine
forgiveness and how we need divine strength to live into forgiveness.



The Acts story by telling us that St. Paul then known as Saul was supporting
the stoning of Stephen gives us a foreshadow of how God would not be
defeated by such a terrible event and indeed because of the persecution that
started that day people fled all over and shared their faith in the places
they ended up,  and of course we know that Saul who persecuted the church
would become a convert and a great builder of the faith. Who knows how
Stephen's witness to Christ in his death impacted Paul. Who knows how are
words and deeds of love and forgiveness witness to Christ's love and
forgiveness?



Very quickly our Psalm today is a cry for  rescue from God and a confidence
that God is for us not against us, God has a steadfast love for us.  A
sermon might want to flesh this out as we know that sometimes in life we do
not seem to be rescued as in the case of Stephen. One commentator I looked
at explored the meaning of shame, based on the Psalmists cry that he not be
put to shame and I think we would benefit from thinking about this as many
people suffer from shame.



This past week or so I lost my cell phone with all of my contacts etc. I
thought I would cry and for good measure have a nervous breakdown. I bought
a new phone( same number as before) but it is not a Blackberry and let's
just say the learning curve for me ,the luddite, to learn how to use an
android phone is steep, mountainous. I saw someone using a Blackberry and oh
how I longed for the familiar language and system. As I laboured and
continue to labour away with my new phone it occurred to me that wouldn't it
be better for me and for the parish if I spent as much time in prayer, in
Scripture reading and thinking about Jesus as I am spending on this phone?
And it seems to me that St. Peter in our second reading is reaffirming this
thought by  telling us to be nourished with  spiritual food, longing for
that  pure milk  the good food which is the Lord. St. Peter says that we
should come to Jesus the living stone and let Him be our cornerstone as we
are built  into a  spiritual house. A good sermon might flesh out what this
focus would like in our lives.



There is so much we can say about the Gospel reading as Jesus makes so many
fantastic promises which are both wonderful and yet hard to believe or
accept. So let me quote N.T. Wright ( Twelve Months of Sundays page 62)for a
provocative and hopefully encouraging take on the reading. He say's " I am
never quite sure what Jesus meant when he said you will do greater works
than these, because I am going to the Father. But I am quite sure he did not
mean you will do lesser works than these. An old cliché ; but those who used
to say expect great things from God; attempt great things from God had John
on their side far more than those who , by implication at least , simply
want a place on the sidelines where a few little Christian activities can
take the place without causing a fuss. As the world continues to reveal its
powerlessness in the face of evil, is it not time to tale Jesus at his word?
Perhaps these words can frame your reading of our Gospel reading.

As always I am interested in what you think about our readings for Sunday
and what you would preach on?