Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59; Psalm 30(31):3-4,6,8,16-17; Matthew 10:17-22
While the Jews were stoning him, Stephen, the servant of God, saw the heavens opened; he saw and entered in: blessed is the man to whom the heavens were thrown open.
Even while he was being done to death by a hail of clattering stones, the splendour of God shone upon him in the inmost recesses of the court of heaven: blessed is the man to whom the heavens were thrown open.
Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier.
Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.
Todays feast sums up the whole purpose of Christs entry into our lives - that we might serve. Very few of us are called to witness to this by martyrdom. But do not for a moment think that martyrdom was a feature of the past - in may parts of the world Christians are dying specifically because of their faith, and many more are suffering for it. This week, Christians have died in Gaza, while working for a hospital provided but he Anglican Church, and in Pakistan, Christians have been given a parole for Christmas, but will return to prison today, because they are charged with 'conversion' - enticing others into christianity with gifts which are of course, charitable works helping the poorest.
St Stephen, one of the first Deacons, called to serve the growing christian community died witnessing to his faith and Evan as the stones fell upon him, he prayed for those involved. St Stephen, pray for us.