Archive for the ‘St. Stephen’ Tag

Imaginary Righteousness   1 comment

Above:  St. Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 7:48-60

Psalm 4

2 Peter 1:13-21

Mark 12:1-12

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Many of those who persecuted St. Paul the Apostle and who were complicit in the executions of Jesus and St. Stephen imagined themselves to be acting out of righteousness.  St. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had zealously martyred Christians and been present for the stoning of St. Stephen.

To read the assigned lessons and imagine that they have nothing to do with us, who have not martyred or persecuted anyone, would be convenient, would it not?  Yet we are guilty of, at a minimum, of consenting to the inhumane treatment of others–perhaps prisoners, immigrants, employees in deathtrap factories, et cetera.  We think we own the planet, but we are merely tenants.  Many of those who peacefully oppose injustice risk martyrdom or incarceration.

The minimal extent to which we are complicit is the degree to which we are invested in socio-economic-political structures that rely on and perpetuate violence and exploitation.  Yet we imagine ourselves to be righteous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter-year-b-humes/

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Martyrdom   1 comment

Above:  Stoning of St. Stephen, by Giovanni Battista Lucini

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 6:1-15

Psalm 133

2 Peter 1:1-12

Mark 16:9-20

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The solution to the lack of fraternal unity (see Psalm 133) in the church at Jerusalem was the creation of the diaconate.  St. Stephen was one of the first deacons.  His diaconal duties did lead to his martyrdom, though.  No, his preaching (see Mark 16:16) did.

The martyrdom of St. Stephen occurred soon after the crucifixion of Jesus.  The death of St. Stephen was the first Christian martyrdom.  The martyrdom of Christians has continued into the present day, unfortunately.  Many who have caused a host of these martyrdoms have done so in the name of God.  A plethora of Christians have gone to their martyrdoms at the hands of other Christians.

One can correctly derive more than one valid lesson from the death and resurrection of Jesus.  One of these lessons is never to take life in the name of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-easter-year-humes/

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Posted June 27, 2019 by neatnik2009 in 2 Peter 1, Acts of the Apostles 6, Mark 16, Psalm 133

Tagged with ,

The First Christian Martyr   1 comment

Above:  St. Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

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The readings for the Feast of St. Stephen remind us of the grim reality that suffering for the sake of righteousness is frequently a risk.  We read of one of the many difficulties of the faithful prophet Jeremiah, a man who spoke truth to power when that power was dependent upon hostile foreigners.  The historical record tells us that the Pharaoh of Egypt chose both the King of Judah and his regnal name, Jehoiakim.  Matthew 23, set in the Passion Narrative, reminds us of some of the prophets and teachers, whom God had sent and authorities at Jerusalem had martyred.  Contrary to the wishes of the author of Psalm 31, God does not always deliver the faithful from enemy hands.

St. Stephen, one of the original seven deacons, was probably a Hellenized Jew.  As a deacon, his job in the Church was, in the words of Acts 6:2,

to wait on tables.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The deacons were to provide social services while the Apostles preached and taught.  St. Stephen also debated and preached, however.  His speech to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:1-53) led to his execution (without a trial) by stoning.  St. Stephen, like Jesus before him, prayed for God to forgive his executioners (Acts 7:60), who, in their minds, were correct to execute him for blasphemy, a capital offense in the Law of Moses.  Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul the Apostle, was prominent in the killing of St. Stephen.  The Apostle recalled the death of St. Stephen and his role in it in Acts 22:20.

Religion, by itself, is generally morally neutral; one can be a moral atheist just as easily as one can be a moral or immoral adherent.  Good religion and bad religion certainly exist.  The test, in moral terms, yet not theological ones, is what kind of adherents they create and nurture.  Regardless of the name of a religion or the content of its tenets, does the reality of living it make one a loving, merciful human being or a judgmental person who might be quick to execute dissenters or consent to that?  This question is always a relevant one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen,

who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ,

who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15

Psalm 31 or 31:1-15

Acts 6:8-7:2a; 51c-60

Matthew 23:34-39

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 139

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/second-day-of-christmas-feast-of-st-stephen-deacon-and-martyr-december-26/

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Christ, Violence, and Love   1 comment

icon-of-the-resurrection

Above:  Icon of the Resurrection

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 34:27-28 (29-35) or Deuteronomy 9:8-21

Psalms 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76

John 21:20-25 or Luke 24:36-49 or John 20:19-31

2 Corinthians 3:7-11 (4:16-5:1) 5:2-5 (6-10) or Revelation 1:1-3 (4-8) 9-20

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Once again we read of the coexistence of divine judgment and mercy.  This time the emphasis is on mercy, given the context of the assigned lessons.  The bleakest reading comes from Genesis 34, where we learn of two brothers committing violence (including honor killings) in reaction to either the rape of their sister (Dinah) by a foreign man or to her consensual non-marital sexual relations with a foreigner.  This story contrasts with the crucifixion of Jesus, in which those complicit in that act of violence unambiguously targeted an innocent man.

We who call ourselves Christians have a responsibility to follow Jesus–Christ crucified, as St. Paul the Apostle wrote.  St. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had approved of the execution of at least one Christian, St. Stephen (Acts 7:54-8:1a).  Saul of Tarsus had also dragged other Christians to prison (Acts 8:1b-3).

We who call ourselves Christians also have a responsibility to follow Jesus, the resurrected one.  May we die to our sins.  May we die to our desires to commit or condone violence against those we find inconvenient and/or who threaten our psychological safety zones.  May we die to the desire to repay evil for evil.  May we die to the thirst for revenge.  And may God raise us to new life in the image of Christ.  May we seek to glorify God alone and succeed in that purpose, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-easter-sunday-evening-year-d/

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Two Stonings   1 comment

Murder of Zechariah

Above:  The Murder of Zechariah, by William Brassey Hole

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 4:17-24

Psalm 148

Acts 6:1-7; 7:51-60

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Psalm 148 is a song of praise to God, especially in nature.  The text begins with references to the created order then moves along to people in social and political contexts.  Finally we read:

[The LORD] has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

–Verse 15, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In the context of this day’s pericopes Psalm 148 functions as a counterpoint to the other readings.  In them holy men of God died for the sake of righteousness.  Zechariah, a priest and the son of Jehoida, also a priest, died because of his condemnation of idolatry.  Zechariah said:

Thus God said:  Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD when you cannot succeed?  Since you have forsaken the LORD, He has forsaken you.

–2 Chronicles 24:20b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

His punishment was execution by stoning at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Similar in tone and content is the story of St. Stephen, one of the first seven Christian deacons and the first Christian martyr.  The diaconate came to exist because it was necessary.  Apostles perceived the need to divide labor:

It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.

–Acts 6:2b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So the deacons fed the hungry widows.  St. Stephen died by stoning not because of his participation in an ancient Means on Wheels program but because of his preaching.  He, like Zechariah son of Jehoida, accused his audience of having abandoned God.

These two stories end differently, though.  The dying words of Zechariah son of Jehoida were:

May the LORD see this and exact the penalty.

–2 Chronicles 24:22b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The interpretation of subsequent events in that book is that God avenged the priest (24:24).  King Jehoash/Joash of Israel (reigned 836-798 B.C.E.) died after becoming wounded in a devastating Aramean invasion.  His servants murdered him on his bed.

In contrast, St. Stephen prayed for his killers:

Lord, do not hold this sin against them.

–Acts 7:60b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The text does not indicate what effects, if any, that had on any of his executioners.  We do know, however, that Saul of Tarsus, who approved of the execution, went on to become St. Paul the Apostle.  One need not stray from the proverbial path of reasonableness to say that St. Paul, pondering his past and God’s grace, to say that he regretted having ever approved of St. Stephen’s death.

The use of violence to rid oneself of an inconvenient person is sinful.  To commit violence for this purpose in the name of God, presumably to affirm one’s righteousness in the process, is ironic, for that violence belies the claim of righteousness.  Furthermore, there are only victims in violent acts.  The person who commits violence harms himself or herself, at least spiritually, if in no other way.  Violence might be necessary or preferable to any alternative sometimes, but nobody should ever celebrate it or turn to it as a first resort.

Whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.  May we pursue peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation, not revenge.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/devotion-for-december-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Consolation and Lamentation   1 comment

Hen with Chicks

Above:  A Hen and Her Chicks

Image Source = Yann

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that binds us,

that we may receive you in joy and serve you always,

for you live and reign with the Father and

the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 66:7-11

Psalm 80:1-7

Luke 13:31-35

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Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance,

and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Isaiah 66 exists in an immediate literary context.  God does not need sacrifices, we read, but the system of sacrifices exists for human benefit.  Some people make a mockery of sacrifices; God mocks them in return.  No, God tends to the faithful and consoles Jerusalem.  Once again, divine judgment and mercy coexist.

Jesus laments over Jerusalem in Luke 13:31-35.  Many prophets have died unjustly there.  Christ’s life was at risk during the lamentation.

Advent, the time of preparation for Christmas, is an appropriate occasion to recall the violence of the world into which Jesus came, in which he lived, and in which he died.  Yes, the birth of Jesus is a cause for celebration, but even the Christmas season provides sobering moments.  December 26 is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr.  December 28 is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  And December 27 is the Feast of St. Thomas Becket, the “troublesome priest” and Archbishop of Canterbury whom agents of King Henry II killed at Canterbury Cathedral.  We should be happy during Advent and Christmas, but we should also note the coexistence of divine light and the darkness of the world.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Dawning Kingdom of God   1 comment

Christ in Majesty Icon

Above:  Christ in Majesty

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever.

Grant that all the people of the earth,

now divided by the power of sin,

may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 28:1-10 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 28:20-26 (Friday)

Psalm 93 (Both Days)

Acts 7:54-8:1a (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (Friday)

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You, O LORD, are Sovereign;

you have put on splendid apparel;

you, O LORD, have put on your apparel

and girded yourself with strength.

You have made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

ever since the world began, your throne has been established;

you are from everlasting.

The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

forever and forevermore.

–Psalm 93, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The journey toward Christ the King Sunday (evident in the selection of the Psalm) continues.  The sovereignty of God is a major theme in Ezekiel 28, where we read announcements that the prideful King of Tyre will die and that the hostile countries around Judah will fall.  The restoration of Judah will follow, thus people will know that Yahweh is the God of the Hebrews.

Death is a punishment in Ezekiel 28 and the penalty for St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and one of the first Christian deacons.  In Acts 7-8, where we read of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the accusation was blasphemy, although anger and defensiveness were the actual causes.  Whatever those who executed the saint thought regarding theology, their violence in the name of God belied their protests of righteousness.  St. Stephen was forgiving, however.  One will know a tree by its fruits.

Death is the last enemy to face defeat in 1 Corinthians 15.  The agent of victory over death is the crucified and resurrected Christ.  As verses 17-19 say,

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those who have died in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The Pauline case continues the assertion that God has put everything under subjection to Christ, in God.

The theme of Christ the King Sunday is that, despite appearances to the contrary, God is in charge.  Pope Pius XI created the feast in the 1920s, when dictators dominated Europe and fascism was on the rise.  The message of Christ the King Sunday remains relevant today, for human nature and divine faithfulness are constants.  The Kingdom of God has been present among us for a long time, for it was “at hand” nearly 2000 years ago, when Jesus of Nazareth walked the face of the Earth.  Alas, the Kingdom of God has not become fully realized, for it is simultaneously present and en route.  Human cruelty constitutes evidence of the partial realization of the Kingdom of God, so we hope and pray for the completion of the promise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-29-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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