OREMUS: 26 December 2011

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Sun Dec 25 17:00:01 GMT 2011


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OREMUS for December 26
Stephen, Deacon, First Martyr

Lord, open our lips,
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Blessed are you, O God,
who became human and poor for our sake,
to raise up our flesh,
to recover our divine image,
to recreate humanity.
You became human so that we might no longer
observe the distinctions arriving from the flesh,
but instead bear within ourselves on the seal of God,
by whom and for whom we were created.
Your Son Jesus forms us and molds us into his own family,
so that we can be what we hope to be,
by your great kindness, O generous and loving God.
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. 

http://www.oremus.org/chrocant.html

Psalm 119:145-176

I call with my whole heart;*
 answer me, O Lord, that I may keep your statutes.
I call to you; O that you would save me!*
 I will keep your decrees.
Early in the morning I cry out to you,*
 for in your word is my trust.
My eyes are open in the night watches,*
 that I may meditate upon your promise.
Hear my voice, O Lord,
   according to your lovingkindness;*
 according to your judgements, give me life.
They draw near who in malice persecute me;*
 they are very far from your law.
You, O Lord, are near at hand,*
 and all your commandments are true.
Long have I known from your decrees*
 that you have established them for ever.

Behold my affliction and deliver me,*
 for I do not forget your law.
Plead my cause and redeem me;*
 according to your promise, give me life.
Deliverance is far from the wicked,*
 for they do not study your statutes.
Great is your compassion, O Lord;*
 preserve my life, according to your judgements.
There are many who persecute and oppress me,*
 yet I have not swerved from your decrees.
I look with loathing at the faithless,*
 for they have not kept your word.
See how I love your commandments!*
 O Lord, in your mercy, preserve me.
The heart of your word is truth;*
 all your righteous judgements endure for evermore.

Rulers have persecuted me without a cause,*
 but my heart stands in awe of your word.
I am as glad because of your promise*
 as one who finds great spoils.
As for lies, I hate and abhor them,*
 but your law is my love.
Seven times a day do I praise you,*
 because of your righteous judgements.
Great peace have they who love your law;*
 for them there is no stumbling block.
I have hoped for your salvation, O Lord,*
 and I have fulfilled your commandments.
I have kept your decrees*
 and I have loved them deeply.
I have kept your commandments and decrees,*
 for all my ways are before you.
Let my cry come before you, O Lord;*
 give me understanding, according to your word.
Let my supplication come before you;*
 deliver me, according to your promise.
My lips shall pour forth your praise,*
 when you teach me your statutes.
My tongue shall sing of your promise,*
 for all your commandments are righteous.
Let your hand be ready to help me,*
 for I have chosen your commandments.
I long for your salvation, O Lord,*
 and your law is my delight.
Let me live and I will praise you,*
 and let your judgements help me.
I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost;*
 search for your servant,
   for I do not forget your commandments.

FIRST READING [Baruch 3.1–8]:

O Israel, how great is the house of God,
   how vast the territory that he possesses! 
It is great and has no bounds;
   it is high and immeasurable. 
The giants were born there, who were famous of old,
   great in stature, expert in war. 
God did not choose them,
   or give them the way to knowledge; 
so they perished because they had no wisdom,
   they perished through their folly. 

Who has gone up into heaven, and taken her,
   and brought her down from the clouds? 
Who has gone over the sea, and found her,
   and will buy her for pure gold? 
No one knows the way to her,
   or is concerned about the path to her. 
But the one who knows all things knows her,
   he found her by his understanding.
The one who prepared the earth for all time
   filled it with four-footed creatures; 
the one who sends forth the light, and it goes;
   he called it, and it obeyed him, trembling; 
the stars shone in their watches, and were glad;
   he called them, and they said, ‘Here we are!’
   They shone with gladness for him who made them. 
This is our God;
   no other can be compared to him. 
He found the whole way to knowledge,
   and gave her to his servant Jacob
   and to Israel, whom he loved. 
Afterwards she appeared on earth
   and lived with humankind. 
 
HYMN 
Words: Heri mundus exultavit, Adam of Saint Victor (12th century) translated by John M Neale (1818-1866)
Metre: 887 887

Yesterday with exultation
Joined the world in celebration
Of her promised Saviour's birth;
Yesterday the angel-nation
Poured the strains of jubilation
O'er the Monarch born on earth:

But today, O deacon glorious,
By thy faith and deeds victorious,
Stephen, champion renowned,
Thee we hail who, triumph gaining,
Mid the faithless faith sustaining,
First of martyr saints wast found.

For the crown that fadeth never
Bear thy murderers' brief endeavour;
Victory waits to end the strife:
Death shall be thy life's beginning,
And life's losing be the winning
Of the true and better life.

SECOND READING [Acts 6:1-end; 7:51-60]:

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 at 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. 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. 

'You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are for ever 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.

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

Prayer:
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.

Free and loving God,
unpossessed by any earthly power
whatever its claims to truth:
we remember the challenge of Stephen
to the complacency of the holy,
his answer of forgiveness to those who persecuted him.
Give us grace in all our sufferings for the truth
to follow as our Lord the One who spoke with truth authority,
and overcame hatred with the gift of peace;
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.

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

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 is based on a sermon by St Gregory of Nazianzus. The collect includes phrases from Prayers for an Inclusive Church.

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

In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, Stephen is described as one of the seven deacons whose job it is to care for the widows in the early Church in Jerusalem. His eloquent speech before the Sanhedrin, in which he shows the great sweep of Jewish history as leading to the birth of Jesus, the long-expected Messiah, and his impassioned plea that all might hear the good news of Jesus, leads to his inevitable martyrdom by being stoned to death. As the author of Acts, Luke's description of Stephen bears direct parallels to that of Christ: for example, the passion; being filled with the Holy Spirit; seeing the Son of God as the right hand of God, as Jesus promised he would be; commending his spirit to Jesus, as Jesus commended his to the Father; kneeling as Jesus did in Gethsemane and asking forgiveness for his persecutors. Witnessing to Jesus by acting like Jesus in every way is thus seen by Luke as of the essence of the Christian life. [Exciting Holiness]


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