Hello! Today is another difficult day in readings as it features the first martyr, Stephen. Stephen's speech is one of my favorite things in all of the Bible. Not only is a strong representation of canonical context being used within the canon to justify Jesus as Messiah but also the theme of God's movement across multiple prophets. Further, I love this for you, the lay people of the church. Pastors, priests, ministers, or whatever can easily turn our noses up believing we know everything about the Bible and you know nothing, but Stephen demonstrates powerful articulation and study of the Bible to an audience of priests and religious leaders. Plus how can you not love the line "Name me a prophet that you have not killed yourself!" Ahh....so good.
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
What does this reveal to me about the early church and the Holy Spirit?
What do I know of the martyrs? What significance do I hold them to in the church?
There is a video that I have for you from Bible Project today about this section but I also wanted to address an earlier question that I received from one of you regarding the martyrs and their role in the church. The blood of the martyrs is like a fertilizer to the fragile soil of the early church. Jesus might have planted the seed of Christianity, but it was the martyrs that caused it to bloom and spread farther and farther. Stephen's death ignited passion in the disciples and it validated the movement as legitimate. Legitimate enough that people would actually be killed for it. Marrtyrdom stands in direct opposition to the forces of fear. Fear leads us to kill that which we disagree with or don't understand. The Holy Spirit commands us to love and speak boldly to those things that we don't understand or don't agree with. Stephen was a tipping point for martyrdom and would rapidly ramp up through the 3rd century until the Greco-Roman world became primarily Christian. But can you imagine the fear of being a Christian before that tipping point happened? It would be beyond our own words and comprehension. While martyrdom has certainly begun to come to end it still exists in countries where Christianity is not the majority religion or where it is outlawed. And yet, people still go there or worship God there. The same courage that Stephen showed exists even in you and I today - The Holy Spirit.
Praying the Hymns
Our prayer for today is hymn 282 - Tis' Finished the Messiah Dies. Once more, this seems very fitting for today as we remember the first martyr, Stephen. Thank you, Stephen for your courage to speak truth to power and while fear won that day you ignited the light that would defeat the darkness someday.
1. 'Tis finished! the Messiah dies, cut off for sins, but not his own. Accomplished is the sacrifice, the great redeeming work is done.
2. The veil is rent; in Christ alone the living way to heaven is seen; the middle wall is broken down, and all the world may enter in.
3. 'Tis finished! All my guilt and pain, I want no sacrifice beside; for me, for me the Lamb is slain; 'tis finished! I am justified.
4. The reign of sin and death is o'er, and all may live from sin set free; Satan hath lost his mortal power; 'tis swallowed up in victory.