Text: Acts 6.8-7.60; Matthew 23.34-39
Let us pray and meditate upon the Word of God just read, upon this season of Christmas, upon the holy martyrdom of the first martyr St Stephen, upon our own sinful condition, but most especially let us pray and meditate upon God's promises and benefits to us.
His mother, a lowly maiden, a servant.
His guardian father, a carpenter.
Royal blood and Priestly blood,
yet a blood-line full of bad blood: prostitutes, violent men, adulterers, and other sinners of countless sins.i
Among the animals in an inconsiderate inn-keepers stable,
announced to a bunch of shepherds out in the country side.
Rejoiced over in heaven,
yet ignored on earth.
His first bed,
a feeding trough,
in the smallest of Judean towns.
His early days,
as a refugee, fleeing for fear of the same fate as the holy innocent boys.
Not too kingly of a start. If this is how it begins, how will it progress, how will it end? The heathen cringe to see it come to fruition, like they're watching a bad movie. We know; it's familiar so we just glaze over it. We should take the heathen for an example.
His despised birth,
his rejected ministry,
and persecuted death;
these must be signs,
If this is what happened to Him, how His life was, the King of kings and eternal Son of the Father, full of grace and love and peace and compassion. If this is His life, what might we expect?
His blessed martyr St Stephen knows, he fell asleep in Jesus with stones as his pillow and blanket.ii The heathen have tucked him in for one last sleep before the Great Awakening when St Stephen and St Mary and all the saints will awaken to the eternal Light breaking forth and commencing the New Day in paradise!
We know, too. We get cancer. We get hurt feelings. We are despised, rejected, and persecuted, too. We make this our plea: that God would keep us faithful also. What do we expect? That He would be our God and Lord and King. That He would love us also, give us His peace, have compassion on us sinful men who also have a blood-line full of bad blood. We are the adulterers and violent men, we get angry and tell lies and persecute each other. We are sorry: filled with sorrow, eager for forgiveness.
We expect Him to keep His promises to us. When He speaks, we believe Him.
He has come for us,
and He now come to us,
and He will come again.
His good Blood poured out,
He gives us now to drink.
His Blood in our blood,
He gives us His life.
His faithful Word proclaimed,
penetrates into our hearts and minds and souls and gives us faith.
He allows men to revile us on account of our faithful confession of Him,
so we beg Him to confess us also before His Father.
The prophets and wise men and scribes of old were not spared,
they were rejected and persecuted and killed.iii
The Apostles and Fathers and Pastors of the one holy church are not spared,
they are killed and crucified, some flogged in synagogues and others persecuted from one town to the next.iv
And their blood cries out from the ground from all over the world this saying of St Stephen: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Let us pray.
Finally, Lord Jesus, receive our spirits.
to remember your promises now
Give us your benefits then
and relieve us.
You are the Rock of Salvation.v
What can a few stones do to us?
You are the eternal Word of God.vi
What can a few curses do to us?
You are Life.vii
What can death do to us?
You are ours and we are yours.
You are despised for us,
we are embraced in you.
You are rejected for us,
we are comforted in you.
You are persecuted for us,
we are freed in you.
Come, come again, and continue to come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.viii
[Artwork by Ed Riojas]