St. Stephen, one of the first deacons, continues his defense before the Jewish leaders. He is recounting salvation history:
‘But as the time drew near for the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to Abraham, our people in Egypt increased and multiplied until another king who had not known Joseph ruled over Egypt. He dealt craftily with our race and forced our ancestors to abandon their infants so that they would die. At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful before God. For three months he was brought up in his father’s house; and when he was abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. So Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds.
‘When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his relatives, the Israelites. When he saw one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his kinsfolk would understand that God through him was rescuing them, but they did not understand. The next day he came to some of them as they were quarrelling and tried to reconcile them, saying, “Men, you are brothers; why do you wrong each other?” But the man who was wronging his neighbor pushed Moses aside, saying, “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?” When he heard this, Moses fled and became a resident alien in the land of Midian. There he became the father of two sons. (Acts 7: 17-29).
Stephen is recounting the story of Moses whom God called to lead His people out of the bondage of Egypt. Stephen recounted how Moses, a Jewish boy born to slaves, was raised in the house of his people’s oppressor. Today, in an act of anger, Moses kills one of his people’s oppressors and he flees Egypt becoming a stranger. Soon, God will call Moses to bring freedom to the downtrodden.
God is always concerned with those who have no voice, with those who are victims of power and oppression, with those whom the Pharaohs of the world use and throw away like yesterday's garbage. As a deacon, Stephen speaks truth to power, not in anger but in love. The deacon gives voice to the voiceless.
In our Western world, there are many who are without voice and there are those whose shouting and screaming tries to silence even the little sounds that the powerless try to muster. We live in a culture where the inconvenient are eliminated, where the weak are removed. Many of us sit silently by fearful that if we give voice to the voiceless that we will be shouted down and reviled.
Yet the God of Israel, the God of whom Stephen speaks of today, is the same God who cares for the widow and the orphan; the same God who liberates Israel from its bondage in Egypt. It is the same God who became flesh and dwelt among and gave his life for us amidst the shouts of the crowds to crucify him. Where is that voice today that speaks on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves? It must be with us who follow Jesus who said, “let the children come to me” (Mt. 19: 14), and to the widow of Nain whose only son had died he said, “do not weep,” and to the dead boy, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” (Lk. 7: 13, 14).
Be a voice for the voiceless.
Let us pray: Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray you, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Your servant in Christ,
The Rev. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550