OREMUS: 26 December 2007

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Tue Dec 25 17:00:01 GMT 2007

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OREMUS for Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Stephen, Deacon, First Martyr

O Lord, open our lips.
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Blessed are you, loving and merciful God,
you look upon us in mercy not in judgment;
you draw us from hatred to love;
you make the frailty of our praise
a dwelling place for your glory.
We thank you for the signs of your mercy
revealed in birth and death:
save us by the coming of your Son,
and give us joy in honoring Stephen,
first martyr of the new Israel;
For these and all your mercies, we praise you:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Blessed be God for ever!

An opening canticle may be sung. 


Psalm 13

How long, O Lord;
   will you forget me for ever?*
 how long will you hide your face from me?
How long shall I have perplexity in my mind,
   and grief in my heart, day after day?*
 how long shall my enemy triumph over me?
Look upon me and answer me, O Lord my God;*
 give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
Lest my enemy say, 'I have prevailed over him',*
 and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.
But I put my trust in your mercy;*
 my heart is joyful because of your saving help.
I will sing to the Lord,
   for he has dealt with me richly;*
 I will praise the name of the Lord Most High.

Psalm 57

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful,
   for I have taken refuge in you;*
 in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge
   until this time of trouble has gone by.
I will call upon the Most High God,*
 the God who maintains my cause.
He will send from heaven and save me;
   he will confound those who trample upon me;*
 God will send forth his love and his faithfulness.
I lie in the midst of lions that devour the people;*
 their teeth are spears and arrows,
   their tongue a sharp sword.
They have laid a net for my feet and I am bowed low;*
 they have dug a pit before me
   but have fallen into it themselves.
Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God,*
 and your glory over all the earth.
My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed;*
 I will sing and make melody.
Wake up, my spirit; awake, lute and harp;*
 I myself will waken the dawn.
I will confess you among the peoples, O Lord;*
 I will sing praise to you among the nations.
For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens,*
 and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God,*
 and your glory over all the earth.

A Song of Solomon (cf. Song of Songs 8:6-7)

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;

For love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave;
its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame.

Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it.

If all the wealth of our house were offered for love,
it would be utterly scorned.

Psalm 147:13-end

Worship the Lord, O Jerusalem;*
 praise your God, O Zion;
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;*
 he has blessed your children within you.
He has established peace on your borders;*
 he satisfies you with the finest wheat.
He sends out his command to the earth,*
 and his word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;*
 he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
He scatters his hail like bread crumbs;*
 who can stand against his cold?
He sends forth his word and melts them;*
 he blows with his wind and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob,*
 his statutes and his judgements to Israel.
He has not done so to any other nation;*
 to them he has not revealed his judgements.

READING [2 Chronicles 24:20-22]:

Then the spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada; he stood above
the people and said to them, 'Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the
Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has also forsaken
you.' But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him to death in the
court of the house of the Lord. King Joash did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada,
Zechariah's father, had shown him, but killed his son. As he was dying, he said, 'May the Lord see
and avenge!'

Words: Latin; trans. John Mason Neale, 1852
Tune: St. Thomas
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Saint of God, elect and precious,
protomartyr Stephen, bright
with thy love of amplest measure,
shining round thee like a light;
who to God commendest, dying,
them that did thee all despite.

Glitters now the crown above thee,
figured in thy honored name:
O that we, who truly love thee,
may have portion in the same;
Ii the dreadful day of judgment
fearing neither sin nor shame.

Laud to God, and might, and honor,
who with flowers of rosy dye
crowned thy forehead, and hath placed thee
in the starry throne on high:
he direct us, he protect us,
from death's sting eternally.

SECOND READING [Acts 6:1-10; 7:51-8:1]:

Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing
in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews
because their widows were being neglected in the daily
distribution of food. And the twelve called together the
whole community of the disciples and said, 'It is not
right that we should neglect the word of God in order to
wait on tables. Therefore, friends, select from among
yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit
and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while
we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to
serving the word.' What they said pleased the whole
community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith
and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus,
Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of
Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles,
who prayed and laid their hands on them. The word of God
continued to spread; the number of the disciples
increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the
priests became obedient to the faith.
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.
'You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and
ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as
your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your
ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold
the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become
his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that
received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have
not kept it.'
When they heard these things, 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 out 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 had said this, he died.
And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a
severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem,
and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the
countryside of Judea and Samaria.

The Benedictus (Morning),
Magnificat (Evening), or 
Nunc dimittis (Night) may

O God, 
you came down to earth
bringing down eternal life for all.
Let us pray:
May your perfect love cast out all fear.

We praise you and ask you for courage
to accept life's sufferings.
May your perfect love cast out all fear.

We give you thanks for Stephen and all the early martyrs,
who showed faith when challenged and confronted:
May your perfect love cast out all fear.

You did not condemn Paul at the time of Stephen's death,
teach us to withhold judgment and give us patient hearts:
May your perfect love cast out all fear.

You graced Stephen with gifts of wisdom and goodness;
help us to appreciate these gifts in those around us:
May your perfect love cast out all fear.

You have strengthened your Church
through the faith and death of your martyrs;
hear our prayers for your Church.
May your perfect love cast out all fear.

Heavenly Father,
give us grace in all our sufferings for the truth
to follow the example of your martyr Stephen:
that we also may look to him who was crucified
and pray for those who persecute us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Rejoicing in the presence of God here among us,
let us pray in faith and trust:

- The Lord's Prayer

May God who has brought us out of darkness
give us a place with the saints in light
in the kingdom of his Son. Amen.

The psalms and the collect are from _Celebrating Common Prayer_
(Mowbray), (c) The Society of Saint Francis 1992, which is used with

The canticle is from _Common Worship: Daily Prayer, Preliminary
Edition_, copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council, 2002.

The biblical passage is from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized
Edition), copyright (c) 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education
of  the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by
permission. All rights reserved.

The opening prayer of thanksgiving uses a prayer from _Common
Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England_, material from
which is included in this service is copyright (c) The Archbishops'
Council, 2000.

The closing sentence is a prayer in _New Patterns for Worship_,
copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council, 2002.

All that we know about Stephen the Protomartyr (that is, the first martyr of the
Christian Church) is found in chapters 6 and 7 of the Book of Acts.
The early Christian congregations, like the Jewish synagogues, had a program
of assistance for needy widows, and some of the Greek-speaking Jews in the
Jerusalem congregation complained that their widows were being neglected.
The apostles replied: "We cannot both preach and administer financial matters.
Choose seven men from among yourselves, respected, Spirit-filled, and of
sound judgement, and let them be in charge of the accounts, and we will
devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word." The people
accordingly chose seven men, including Stephen, and the apostles laid their
hands on them. They are traditionally considered to be the first deacons,
although the Scriptures do not use the word to describe them. (The Scriptures
do refer to officials called deacons in the local congregations, without being
very specific about their duties; and a century or more later, we find the
organized charities of each local congregation in the hands of its deacons.)
Stephen was an eloquent and fiery speaker, and a provocative one. (Some
readers have speculated that some of his fellow Christians wanted to put him in
charge of alms in the hope that he would administer more and talk less.) His
blunt declarations that the Temple service was no longer the means by which
penitent sinners should seek reconciliation with God enraged the Temple
leaders, who caused him to be stoned to death. As he died, he said, "Lord, do
not hold this sin against them." One of those who saw the stoning and
approved of it was Saul (or Paul) of Tarsus, who took an active part in the
general persecution of Christians that followed the death of Stephen, but who
was later led to become a Christian himself.

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