St Stephen, the First Martyr
Behold, I see the heavens thrown open, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7:56)
Hymn: Good King Wenceslas
Morning Reading: Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-60 NLT
Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.
The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.
Morning Reading: Matthew 10:17-22 NLT
“But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
“A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.”
Thank You, Lord God, for Saint Stephen, whose life on earth was lived in the service of Christ, and who in death witnessed to Christ with his blood.
+ For all who have found the freedom to lay down their lives for Your sake – We give You thanks, O Lord.
+ For all whose desire for you has brought them through death with a joyful heart – We give You thanks, O Lord.
+ For all who have followed, through suffering, the way of the cross – We give You thanks, O Lord.
+ For all who have undergone martyrdom for the gospel – We give you thanks, O Lord.
Give us grace, Lord, to practice what we worship. Teach us to love our enemies as we keep the feast of Saint Stephen, who prayed even for the men who stoned him to death. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
New Song: “Noel” – Lauren Daigle
Praise the Lord ! Sing to the Lord a new song. Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful. O Israel, rejoice in your Maker. O people of Jerusalem, exult in your King. Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by tambourine and harp. For the Lord delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. (Psalms 149:1-4 NLT)
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Judea 24-25)