Scripture Reading: Acts 7:54-60
Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died. –Acts 7:58-60
One older deacon spoke out strongly against allowing women to serve as deacons in the church I attend in the early 1980’s. We had passed the threshold of a woman becoming and elder the year before. I was in the second class of women elected to serve as deacons. The man made a point of coming to me and asking for forgiveness for his strong stance against female deacons saying, “I was wrong.”
Fast forward 30 + years, a different man who had left a church because it chose to welcome persons who identified as LGBTQ became a part of the church I attend. I do not think he knew that the only basis for membership we recognize is belief in Jesus Christ. To my knowledge, we have always practiced an open table. He was a consummate student of the Bible; I imagine him reading and re-reading some scripture as a light shone brightly on ancient words that were there all along. I do not know the circumstances of his epiphany, but in a Bible study class, he said those same three words, “I was wrong.”
I wonder when and to whom, Saul, now Paul, who watched in support as Stephan was stoned, said, “I was wrong.” Surely, he said it to God. More importantly, he said it with his life dedicating every fiber of his being to throwing open the doors of the church to the whole world. I am certain we all can identify one or more moments in our lives when one of our absolutes crashed to the ground upon encountering the love of God through Jesus Christ. It is what we do from that point on that matters most.
Prayer: Lord, open our eyes to our bigotry of any kind, forgive us for not seeing you in each person we encounter, let our lives speak to the forgiveness we receive. Amen.