December 26, Year A

Inspired by Acts 7:59-8:8

“That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria…Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word.”  Acts 8:1b, 4 (NRSV)

Sometimes something terrible happens that completely disrupts our lives.  We’re forced to learn a new environment, new routines, or new people.  Whatever is comfortable and familiar is either gone completely or changed beyond recognition, and we’re left wondering how to move forward, when all we want to do is go back.

Such times are indeed painful and confusing, but they need not be tragic.  In fact, they could be the beginning of a new stage in your life, full of opportunities you’d never even dreamed of.

Those who heard the apostles in Jerusalem and came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah enjoyed what may have been the golden age of the early church.  All the believers worked together in harmony, sharing all their possessions with one another so no one had need of any kind.  They were comfortable and secure in their new faith.

And then Stephen was killed and the persecution began in earnest.  Those who had been comfortable and secure in their new faith were forced to flee their homes because of it, and scatter to the surrounding countryside with no plan beyond escaping Jerusalem with their lives.

Yet once in the countryside they recognized an opportunity.  Their lives had been so changed by hearing the gospel, and now they were among people who hadn’t yet heard it.  Rather than hunker down and lick their wounds, these people began to spread the gospel beyond what the persecutors could extinguish.  Word of Christ’s salvation spread far and wide, and endured well beyond those who sought to stifle it.

What began as a tragic death became a widespread proclamation of eternal life, because those who were forced into a new situation were able to recognize an opportunity in the midst of their confusion and loss.

Let us pray.  Lord of the unexpected, you are able to turn darkness into light, and loss into gain.  Open our eyes to the many opportunities around us, that we may seek to serve you no matter how our situations change.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.