Seditious Households: How Holy Kisses, Tables, and House(hold) Church Habits Subverted Oppression and Slavery (Part 2b)
A Household Table-Waiter Preaches. Luke’s story of Stephen’s sermon before Jewish leaders (Acts 6:1–7:60) is framed by the gathered-church household-venue (5:42; 8:3; cf. 2:46). At some point the widows of Hellenist converts were being overlooked in the daily serving of food (Acts 6:1c) at the deipnon (i.e., supper) component of the gathered-church. The Acts 6 setting assumes a house-venue (from house to house, Acts 5:42) where the Greek-speaking widows were to have found a place at table (certainly a trajectory application of the distributed Spirit upon aged women!) As a response, the twelve (apostles) determined their role was prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:2) and that reputable, Spirit-filled men were to be selected to serve (diakoneō) tables at the deipnon and care for the widows. Men! Not slaves. Not women. This was an astonishing trajectory application of the gospel and the inaugural distribution of the Spirit. Men did not do this in a Greco-Roman household. Furthermore, when Luke choose his very first scene afterward for the “ministry of the word,” he does not pick one that included an apostle; it was a table-waiting lay-person from among the household gathered-church, Stephen.
Furthermore, we should not treat lightly the “house” theme in table-waiter Stephen’s defense before temple-leadership, for he draws upon a text that deconstructs temple-imagery and his trajectory application constructs God’s new dwelling of “house.” Stephen quotes Isaiah’s words to Jewish exiles to stress that the Most High does not dwell in anything made by human hands (cheiropoiētois):
‘Heaven is My throne,
Given Luke’s “house” theme elsewhere, it is not a stretch to answer the Isianic question--What kind of house will you build for Me?—by pointing to the newly distributed Spirit among the household gathered-churches. And, after Stephen is stoned (Acts 7:54–60), Luke’s narrative pans straightaway back to the house church venue as Saul makes his arrests from house to house (8:3). The first narrative contrast to the temple is the new resting place of God among believers, that is “house to house.”
 Note the 14 house-banquets in the Gospel of Luke and the numerous occasions in Acts.
This is a thread consisting of parts of a a recent paper presented at the 2017 Evangelical Theological Society's annual meeting in Providence, RI. The goal is to develop an anthology of essays (by various authors) on the subject, Christian Responses to Tyranny.
Part 1 | Part 2a | Part 2b | Part 2c | Part 3 | Part 3a | Part 3b | Part 4a | Part 4b | Part 5
For the entire thread (remember to scroll backwards for previous posts) << Gathered-church >>
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Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.