A priest and performer considers religion, the arts, and the often thin space between sacred and secular, church and culture, pulpit and pew.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Second Day of Christmas: December 26 – Stephen, Deacon and Martyr

(This is the feast on which “Good King Wenceslas” - who was actually a duke - looked out and saw the snow lying “deep and crisp and even”.)

On the second day of Christmas, God’s true Love gave to me...a lesson in faithful courage and forgiveness.

The persecution, assault, and murders of prophets are well documented in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Stephen is not commonly referred to as a prophet; he was, in fact, one of the seven individuals chosen by the apostles in the earliest days of the church to give aid to those in need, especially widows and orphans. But in the tradition of the prophets, he told the truth to those in authority, reminding them of their heritage as the people to whom God had revealed the path to salvation, beginning with Abraham. But they paid to have him slandered, and in their anger stoned Stephen. As a result, he became the first Christian martyr, but as he was dying, he forgave his attackers. A bystander at his martyrdom was a young man named Saul, who watched over the coats of Stephen’s killers; Acts 7 tells us Saul approved of Stephen’s killing.

Truthtellers, whistle-blowers, those who expose lies and abuse by those in power and authority – these are prophets. They are not always killed, but they almost always suffer the consequences of their righteous actions. We seldom want to hear the truth about ourselves. I thank God for the courage of St. Stephen, and I hope to learn from his ability to be forgiving, even to those who failed to see the truth and killed him for his honesty.

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