By David Baumann

A Reading from Acts 8:1-13

1 And Saul approved of their killing him.

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. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the Church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.
4 Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. 6 The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, 7 for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralysed or lame were cured. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

9 Now a certain man named Simon had previously practised magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. 10 All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.

Meditation

In 2006 a movie came out called Facing the Giants. It is about a perennially losing football team at a Christian college, headed by a coach with a lot of major problems in his life. At the end of his rope, the coach prays all night and comes up with a new philosophy. By claiming the power of God regardless of circumstances, he finds that difficulties and opposition no longer lead to discouragement bordering on hopelessness, but rather deepen resolve and create determination. In one scene, the coach blindfolds one of his players and orders him to keep pressing against a football training board until he allows him to stop. The player obeys but without much expectation. Hardly even taking a breath, the coach shouts fierce encouragement at the player until the boy reaches the end of the field — an amazing achievement.

The theme of the movie is clear and inspiring; we see the same lesson in today’s reading. “A great persecution broke out… Saul began to destroy the Church.” But “those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Hard persecution served to spread the gospel and increase the number of believers. Philip went to the Samaritans, of all people (!), with news of the Messiah, and the ages-long enmity between Jews and Samaritans was brushed aside as the power of the One whom Philip preached was manifested. In an astonishing reversal, even a sorcerer who had enjoyed a strong reputation is converted.

Who are the “sorcerers” and the “giants” of our age? Over and over in the Bible we read about how the people of God by the power of God overcame the giants who opposed them. We believe in the same God with the same power. Times of opposition are times in which God acts mightily and saints arise.

David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 47 years, mainly in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Springfield. He is now retired and has published nonfiction, science fiction novels, and short stories.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Church of St. John the Divine, Houston, Texas
The Diocese of Coimbatore (Church of South India)