Reading Luke and Acts in 2020
Week 30 | Acts 6
Acts 6 Reflections and Questions
By Nate Abrams
One June evening, three years ago, I stepped onto the stage of the Classic Center, trembling, frightened, and yet full of excitement and expectation. It was the end of the Service of Commissioning and Ordination and Bishop Sue had issued an invitation to anyone who felt they were being called to ordained ministry to come forward. I’d been struggling with a sense of call for years, but I had a family and bills and the opportunity to break away and pursue that call had never presented itself. That night though, something – call it the Holy Spirit – moved in me and I could not stay seated. There were no more excuses that I could offer, no responsibilities that I could keep blaming. I stood and presented myself and embarked on the path of candidacy in The United Methodist Church. I was certain that God was calling me to be a Deacon and publicly admitting that call was the first step on that journey.
It was a short trip.
A little less than a year later I exited the candidacy process, bitterly disappointed to have discerned that God was not calling me to be ordained. I was confused and angry. If God wasn’t calling me to be an ordained Deacon, then why did the sense of being called resonate so deeply with me? Why did the call to Word, Service, Justice, and Compassion ring so loudly in my soul?
The church traditionally regards the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts as the genesis of the order of Deacon. The Apostles were preaching and healing and converting people in droves, yet many of the least among the new disciples were not being cared for as the faith required. The Apostles felt that it would be improper of them to divert their attention from teaching and preaching the Word in order to “wait tables,” so they had the community choose seven faithful men who would do the work of service, to fulfill the call of connecting the Word and the world. It is from the Greek word diakonia, which means “to serve,” that the title deacon comes. These seven were given the task of caring for the poor and the widows among the new disciples. They were to take God’s Word and make it real among the people.
But what does this have to do with most of us? Methodists believe that all are called by God to serve by virtue of our baptism. We are all, laity and clergy alike, part of the Priesthood of all Believers. Yet those who are called to the order of Elder and Deacon have specific and well-defined calls. Elders are charged with ordering the life of the church. Deacons “serve the needs of the world, encourage others to serve, and create settings that equip and empower service." The matter of call is a bit murkier for those of us who are called to the laity. It is part of our job as Christians to discern how God is calling us.
What is your call? How is God calling you to be the hands and feet of Christ in every area of your life? How are you called to bring the Word with you to work, to school, or home? In what spaces and among what people is God calling you to live the grace and love of Jesus such that the world may be transformed through the power of God’s grace?
The final passage of Acts 6 tells us that, after Stephen and the other deacons were called, “God’s word continued to grow,” and “the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased significantly.” This is good news. When the people of God serve, disciples are made and the world is transformed.
But the chapter also carries a warning. Any who faithfully follow the call of God to serve, whether they are ordained or laity, should expect trouble. If you are earnestly following God’s call on your life and are not getting into some “good trouble” in the words of the late Civil Rights legend John Lewis, or creating some “Holy Mischief” as the UMC Deacons like to call it, you may need to seek God’s call more deeply. Jesus showed us that the Word of God is disruptive. It does not let well enough alone. It does not quietly accept the status quo. And those who speak it and serve because of it tend to get into trouble. But the trouble is worth it because, through our faith and through God’s grace, the world is transformed through the service that we offer.
Once I finally accepted my call to the laity, God opened more doors to service than I could imagine. There has been good trouble since then and many experiences of grace and of the movement of the Holy Spirit. May God bless you with a sense of call that won’t leave you alone, a call that will lead you out into the world to live out the grace and love of Jesus. And may God bless you with peace in the midst of the “good trouble” to follow.
1) How is God calling you to serve?
2) How are you bridging the Word and the world in your everyday life?
3) Are you prepared for good trouble?
4) How will you discern your call and make some good trouble?
Nate Abrams is a lay person in the Central West District. He is married to Rev. Joya Abrams, Senior Pastor of Bethany UMC, Smyrna.