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Faith of A Mustard Seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

“And what they said pleased the whole multitude, 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 upon them”.  (Acts 6:1-7).  Another look at the second ‘Faith̓ event in Acts— two uses.  First, used here to describe the character of Stephen.

While Jesus was around to define for ‘The Twelve’ their humanity when the grumbling and the moaning came upon them, ‘he is not here’ as they have now become The New Generation ‘Apostles’, with ‘all earthly authority’.  On one such occasion Jesus overheard them talking about who is greatest among them and defined greatness for them by means of— service.  Neither was it enough that Jesus had preached, taught, healed, and fed multitudes in their presence.  They, now in their own minds, have already dismantled the ‘multi-task ministry’ of Jesus to ‘elevate themselves’ to purposeless greatness— “no, we will not serve (tables)!”  To the point of judgment— “it’s just not right!”  Pick out seven to whom we can appoint this duty.  Thus begins, historically, the institution of the office of the Deacon.  But, not before an additional sect? division? denomination? class? caste? appears in Judaism— ‘The Hellenists’.  So who are these ‘Hellenists’ who murmured against the ‘Hebrews’ that caused the effect of ‘The Twelve’ appointing ‘Seven’?  So glad you asked.

The term ‘Hellenism’ gives meaning and purpose to the spread of Greek language and culture throughout the Mediterranean world which staged the setting for the birth of Jesus.  By now, the ‘proselytes of Judaism’ (those converted and in process of entering a faith), included ‘Hellenists’: Jews who were of Greek language— the NEW Testament and culture; as opposed to ‘Hebrews’— Jews who were of OLD Testament and culture.  Racial discrimination? bipartisan?  A bit much for ‘The Twelve’?  “it’s just not right!”  Pick out seven to whom we can appoint the duty of ‘sorting through all this humanity; or to simply see to it that all the widows are given their daily bread.

I am reminded of my life and time in the 1980 session of the North Georgia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. This year’s meeting was convened in Augusta, GA with the Deacons Ordination Service held in the Payne College Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel.  As I kneeled at the altar, Bishop William R. Cannon laid his hands upon my head; conferred upon me the authority of the Office of The Deacon.

I first thought during the Pandemic of 2020 beyond, that the effects of the “State” mandating the closing of the “Church” was a move that would be drastically detrimental to Faith of the American Society.  I now see that it is God who closed the church!  I know.  I know.  But when I consider the act of Revolution of January 6th 2021 that remains… in progress; I know that Reformation is required of the Faith Community.

Stephen was ‘called out’ and identified by ‘The Twelve’ among ‘Seven’— the only one spoken of as a man ‘full of faith’ and ‘full of the Holy Sprit’.  He was also spoken of as being ‘full of grace’ and ‘full of power’.  Chosen as a ‘full armored’ disciple to take on the task of sorting through the dynamics of faith in the day to day provisions for the widows.  He had to have been ‘right’ as he takes his place as ‘the First Martyr’ of this ‘New Faith’ with Saul being present at his stoning.

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