Thought for the Day by Hannah Lievesleyfrom St Chad’s:
God is on the move.
Both bible readings today carry warnings: Don’t put God in a box. Don’t contain or limit God to fit your idea of who He is and what He’s doing.
We all do it. It’s part of the human condition. Our minds are not broad enough to understand God and so we squash Him into a shape and size that suits us, and assume he will stay there.
Stephen stands before the Sanhedrin, the council of Temple Elders, accused of blasphemy. False witnesses have been paid to frame him. He’s been causing a great stir by the signs and wonders he’s performed in the name of Jesus. Even some of the temple priests are becoming disciples of Jesus as a result of what they see and hear. The Temple authorities are enraged. In response to their accusations of blasphemy, Stephen recounts the incredible acts of God through the centuries (7:1-47). He describes a dynamic God. A God on the move. A God doing new things at every turn to fulfil His promise to bring blessing to the world out of Israel. Stephen’s point seems to be that this God cannot be contained, or stopped, or limited. The God Stephen describes has begun to work beyond the confinements of Israel’s religious authorities and beyond the boundaries of the Temple. He is there in the streets; in the house of the outcast; in the company of the prostitute and thief. Stephen says,
“The Most High [God] does not live in houses made by human hands.” (v.48)
Stephen’s problem is not the Temple itself but Israel’s false perception that the temple somehow renders God within the confines of their management and control. In Jesus, God did a new thing. He blessed the world beyond the temple. Jesus, born a Jew, came out of Israel and brought blessing to the world, in spite of Israel’s own rejection of him.
We’re not immune to the fate of the Sanhedrin ourselves. We can think that God belongs to us. In our minds we can limit God to our churches, our particular traditions, our rituals and music and liturgies. It won’t do. God has always been a God of mission to the whole world. We can cling on to who we thought He was, or who we wanted Him to be, or we can run to catch up and join in with what He’s doing now.