Daily Devotion for May 23, 2011
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Mozart's Gloria from the Coronation Mass, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic (Karajan) at St. Peter's in Rome.
Prayer for the Morning
Heavenly Lord, you have brought me to the beginning of a new day. As the world is renewed fresh and clean, so I ask you to renew my heart with your strength and purpose. Forgive me the errors of yesterday and bless me to walk closer in your way today. This is the day I begin my life anew; shine through me so that every person I meet may feel your presence in my soul. Take my hand, precious Lord, for I cannot make it by myself. Through Christ I pray and live,
Prayer for All People
O God, the creator and preserver of all humanity, I humbly pray to you for all sorts and conditions of people; that it might please you to make your Word known to them and bring your saving health to all nations. In particular I pray for the entirety of your church, in all of its many forms; that it may be guided and governed by your Holy Spirit, and that all who profess your name and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth. May all of us live in the unity of spirit our faith in Christ provides to us, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life.
Finally, I commend to your fatherly goodness all those who are ill or in distress, in their mind, body, or circumstances. May it please you to comfort and relieve them in accordance with their needs, giving them patience during their suffering, and a fortunate outcome to all of their problems. And this I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, who was always pleased to relieve the suffering of those he encountered.
The Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. The Lord lift up his countenance upon us, and give us peace, this day and evermore.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
~ Kodee Williams
Acts 6:1-7 (ESV)
Conversion of the Hellenists
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
Notes on the Scripture
If you have ever belonged to a church, this should sound familiar; it is the first recorded dispute in church politics. The Hellenists were not Gentile Greeks, but Jews who had lived outside Judea long enough to adopt the Greek language and culture. They were readily accepted into the church, but they were "different" from the native Hebrews.
Saying that their widows were not being served was a serious matter. Women did not own land and widows generally had to earn their food by gleaning fallen grain from fields that had been harvested — hard work for little reward. But the first church lived as a commune and widows were fed just like everyone else.
Serving at the table, in this passage, does not mean cooking, serving, and cleaning up after meals. Rather it refers to sitting at the table conducting church business. Those who served at the table were the first deacons.
So the dispute was resolved, basically, by putting Hellenists in charge of things. The apostles had no lust for power; just the opposite. They gave the Hellenists the power to decide who would be served. The apostles were more needed out in the field converting new members, not in the home office. Would that intra-church political disputes were always settled in this spirit today, following Christ's command that "if a man asks you for your coat, give him your cloak also." (Matthew 5:40)
In a general election, seven of the Hellenists are elected. Seven, because that was the customary number of men who served as the local council of a Jewish community — it was what they were accustomed to. Christianity was still a Jewish sect.
The apostles were not loath to work, in addition to their preaching. Many of them must have supported themselves during their ministry; we know, for example, that Paul made tents in order to support himself on his journeys. It was rather a matter of allocating resources: the apostles were most needed out in the streets, bringing in new members.