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Sermon Excerpt: A Convenient Story, Acts 8:26-40 Rev. Karen A. Goltz

    A few weeks ago at the pastors’ text study that I attend, one of my colleagues made the comment that he thought the book of Acts was written by a PR guy for the church.  I kind of agree with him.  Everything happens a little too perfectly in Acts.  By the beginning of the fourth chapter, Peter has preached two sermons, and a total of eight thousand devout Jews abandon their heritage and religion, get baptized, and become followers of the way of Jesus.  Peter gets arrested, preaches another sermon, and is let go.  He and the other apostles continue preaching, and the church grows at an insane rate, with all believers living in perfect harmony with one another, unencumbered by greed, mistrust, ego, differences of opinion on how things should be done, or any of the other human failings that have plagued every other institution I’ve ever heard of, religious or otherwise.

            The church is growing so quickly that they have to form a social ministry team, which consists of Stephen, Philip, and some others.  This impresses the people of Jerusalem so much that now even some of the priests begin to follow the way of Jesus.

            Now the religious authorities are getting really peeved, and they arrest Stephen on false charges.  At his trial, Stephen preaches a sermon, which really ticks them off, and they take him out of the city, have a young guy named Saul watch their coats, and then throw rocks at Stephen until he dies.  First real negative thing to happen to the church, but Stephen faces it with grace and courage, the model for all martyrs to come, and doesn’t seem to mind dying at all.  He even pulls a Jesus, and prays that God will forgive his murderers even as they’re in the very act of murdering him. . . .

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