Saint Stephen

Vittore_Carpaccio_circaXXThe_Sermon_of_St._Stephen_in_Jerusalem_circa_1514First Martyr for the Faith

For those who refuse to change the truth of God is unbearable. This has always been true and is still true today. Let us look at some examples. God sent Jeremiah to King Jehoiakim to warn the nation of impending doom if the people did not repent. This is how the people in authority responded to his prophecy:

The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, `This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.   (Jeremiah 26:7-9)

The messenger of God is often rejected because the message of God is rejected. It is not just that the message of the prophet was rejected because God was rejected.

Jesus lamented over Jerusalem:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'”   (Matthew 23:37-39)

Jesus was crucified because the Jewish leaders could not bear His message. They rejected Him because they also rejected God the Father. They rejected His plan for their nation and the whole world. They wanted a different message and a different Messiah.

In today’s Epistle lesson we have the example of Stephen:

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.   (Acts 6:8-11)

Stephen was not only a servant of the Church as a deacon, he was a powerful purveyor of the Gospel. The leaders could not withstand the message of Stephen which was by the Holy Spirit. Thus they rejected Stephen. Stephen became the first martyr for the Faith. He was an innocent man full of God’s grace and power, yet he was stoned to death in the name of religion.

People have a certain concept of God. When challenged by God’s truth they often will do anything , including destroying the messenger of God, to keep from hearing and complying with His Word. How far are we willing to go today to reject the Word of God. The Word was made flesh for us and died on the cross as payment for our sins. Are we to reject such a great salvation? Are we to reject healings? Are we to reject prophecy in our day? Some of our religions do not allow for these things and that is because these religions do not allow for God’s truth. Church doctrine does not take the place of the truths of God.

Where do we stand today? Are we open to God. Are we seeking his revelation in our lives. Is His Word all important to us? If it is then we will be persecuted for it, even within the Church. When that occurs will we still hold on to the truth at all costs? Lastly, will we follow the example of Stephen and forgive our persecutors? We will if we have received the implanted Word which is able to save our souls.

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Filed under Christmas, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, Saint Stephen, sermon, Year A

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