Saint Days: St. Stephen
Today in the Christian calendar marks our celebration of Saint Stephen. He was one of the first deacons in the Early Church. He was ordained by the Apostles who prayed and laid their hands on him (Acts 6:6).
Sadly, Stephen was put on trial by the Jewish leaders for blasphemy. Instead of defending himself, he preached a long sermon to them conveying the Gospel. Unfortunately, the religious leaders did not heed his words and stoned him to death (Saul of Tarsus, who later became the Apostle Paul was there).
Stephen is important because he set the model for deacons everywhere. The role of deacons in Anglicanism is to interpret the needs of the world, to prepare the Table for Communion, and to proclaim the Gospel. St. Stephen shows us what being a deacon is all about!
Here is an excerpt from the daily reading for St. Stephen's Day, which comes from Acts 6:8-15; 54b-60:
"Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, 'We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.' They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. They set up false witnesses who said, 'This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.' And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel...They became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!' But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him our of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, 'Lord Jesus receive my spirit.' Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' When he said this, he died."
Join with us as we collect our individual prayers together with the rest of Christ's Church:
Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of your truth, we may steadfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and being filled with the Holy Spirit, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of your first martyr Stephen who prayed for his murderers as did his Lord and Savior, who now sits at the right hand of God to intercede for all who suffer in his Name, and who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.