Good Morning!Before proceeding with our morning Bible Study, let us offer a prayer for those in Charleston – Dear God, forgive us, where we allow hate to enter our hearts, fear of somehow losing something – status, or the "right" to think of ourselves as better than someone else, or anger at our imagined losses. God forgive us, and replace hate with love, fear with trust, and anger with peace. Help us to remember that whenever we say "they" do this or "they" do that, thinking of a group of people whom we have stereotyped based on some factor beyond their control, then we further this kind of hate. Forgive us. Bring peace and comfort to those who grieve today, and to your Church.
We pray as well for the Church in Israel, also the target of extremists this week, and again ask for peace there.
Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. 2And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, 4while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.” 5What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
Very few are the churches today who have not, at one time or another, had what we more or less fondly refer to as “kitchen wars”. Who has control of the food? How is it presented? It may surprise us, but it was not so long after we read about the unity and sharing of all things in the new church, that we read about the first “kitchen wars”. It seems that the “Hellenists” in the congregation thought their widows were being neglected when food was distributed. “Hellenists” were the Jewish people from other lands who had adopted much of the Greek lifestyle, rather than strictly adhering to the Hebrew traditions and way of life. They spoke Greek as their common language (remember, the New Testament was written in Greek). The “Hebrews”, on the other hand, were those who had never left their homeland and adhered to the old traditions. The church then distributed food to the widows who were unable to buy their own food.
And Peter responded, not by scolding them and telling them to “get along”, but by saying, we need people to be in charge of this servant ministry, so that the apostles can get on with preaching and teaching. They selected men of good standing, who were filled with the Spirit and were wise, and they commissioned them as the first “deacons”, or servant ministers, by the laying on of hands. There would be women deacons at a later time, (Romans 16, Phoebe is described, in the Greek, as a “deacon”, although some English translations list her as a “servant” because the translators could not imagine a woman being deacon) but these first seven deacons were men. This was the first instance where each person’s gifts were used in different ways in the early church, at least in Luke’s description. But, from that point on, there were people who served using various gifts, and each is as important as the others. We need each person’s gifts for the church to thrive!