by Maria Evans
In our reading from Acts today, Stephen tells the people a hard truth and he ends up being brutally stoned to death–a reminder that following Jesus is not always an “And they lived happily ever after” proposition. Yet, in that highly orchestrated way Luke builds on his storytelling, we also get a sneak preview of a coming attraction–some dude named Saul, holding the coats of the witnesses. In the end of Stephen’s time on earth, we are also shown a beginning. Because we know what will happen to Saul-who-will-become-Paul, we pay attention. We know that as tragic as Stephen’s death is, something big is about to happen. Our heads remain in the story and we actually begin to anticipate what’s going to happen next.
Luke has placed in the story what Alfred Hitchcock used to call the “MacGuffin”–a seemingly unimportant detail that turns out to be a big deal later. Although we think of this as a modern movie plot device, in truth it works as a movie plot device because life is full of MacGuffins. I’m certain each and every one of us knows a detail in our lives, that seemed insignificant at the time, that one day in the future we know was actually VERY significant.
In my own life, I remember simply taking a road trip on some back roads near Columbia, MO and driving through the little wide spot in the road known as Browns Station, and thinking at the time, “This is kind of a cool little berg; there’s nothing here but it seems kinda peaceful.” A few years later, when I entered medical school at the University of Missouri, guess where I ended up living for the next sixteen years? Yep. Browns Station–a 20 minute drive to work and a quiet peaceful place to escape the stress of medical school residency, and being a new attending physician.
Ponder for a moment the events that led you to closer to Christ, whether it was “How I came to the church,” or “How I started to get closer to living the life of a Jesus follower,” or “How a set of events sort of lined up in a way I later understood God was in it.” I’m willing to bet my house payment you had at least one MacGuffin in that story!
Clearly, God works through MacGuffins. When we share our faith stories in community, whether it’s at coffee hour or in Adult Formation, or when we’re just idly chatting while doing the various works of the church, we find ourselves telling each other about our own MacGuffins and hearing the MacGuffins of others. What it teaches us is there are no insignificant details to God. God can use all of it…and if God can use it, we can at least trust we can find a way to use it too.
What insignificant detail of your life turned out to be a big deal later, when it came to following Jesus?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, is a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church and a postulant to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. You can also share her journey on her blog, Chapologist.
Image: The Stoning of Stephen with Saul holding cloaks