Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was being said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralysed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.
Calamity and Devastation! Stephen had just achieved the distinction of being the first Christian martyr. He had demonstrated his preaching gifts and been stoned by an angry mob of the Jewish devout.
The faithful had been scattered, although their leaders had stayed put in Jerusalem. Philip, a deacon colleague of Stephen, went into Samaria and preached the Gospel there – strange days for a devout Jew! And they had listened – in Samaria! Unclean spirits were cast out – in Samaria! And there was great joy – in Samaria!
Philip was in Samaria because Jerusalem had become too hot to hold him and his message. It was the hated and despised Samaria, with its hated and despised Samaritans, that had already proved fertile soil for the seed, that proved to be so again. What a turn-around! Who would have thought it? Well, that’s Luke all over for you, pointing out these strange matters, unexpected places and spaces of hope.
Stephen and Philip were strange places of hope themselves. They had both been recruited to carry out charitable, administrative tasks. Necessary tasks, but somewhat run of the mill. Stephen had shown courage, eloquence and charisma. Philip was developing as an insightful and effective evangelist.
We never know where the flowers will bloom, do we? When we feel depressed and cast down about the effectiveness of the Church and the effect of the Gospel around us, we could do worse than remember Stephen and Philip, and, of course, Samaria.
Dear Lord our God, Let us not bemoan the closed doors, but enable us to seek and find the open ones.
May our words and works be so positive as to provoke a reaction – friendly or hostile.
May we come to terms with the rough as we rejoice at the smooth.
May our demeanour be resolute, as our approach is understanding.
And may our lives be such as to commend us, and what we stand for, to the world Amen
Ed Strachan is a Lay Preacher, Elder and member of Heald Green United Reformed Church in Cheshire.