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. EH
Ant. Yours are the heavens, yours is the earth, *
the world and the fullness thereof have been founded by you.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.
V. A God to be feared in the council of the holy ones, *
great and awesome to all around him. Psalm 89
you have poured upon us
the new light of your incarnate Word:
Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts,
may shine forth in our lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
O Lord, open my lips.
And my mouth will declare your praise.
Make haste, O God, to deliver me;
make haste to help me, O Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Praise to you, O Christ, Alleluia!
HYMN: Christina Rossetti
Tune: Gartan https://tinyurl.com/ycks737b
1 Love came down at Christmas,
love all lovely, Love divine;
love was born at Christmas,
star and angels gave the sign.
2 Worship we the Godhead,
love incarnate, Love divine;
worship we our Jesus:
but wherewith for sacred sign?
3 Love shall be our token,
love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
love for plea and gift and sign.
For psalms in contemporary language, https://tinyurl.com/y9tjh7rk
Psalm 119:145-176 (Anglican Chant: https://tinyurl.com/y74yj68g)
145 I call with my whole heart *
hear me, O Lord, I will keep thy statutes.
146 Yea, even unto thee do I call *
help me, and I shall keep thy testimonies.
147 Early in the morning do I cry unto thee *
for in thy word is my trust.
148 Mine eyes prevent the night-watches *
that I might be occupied in thy words.
149 Hear my voice, O Lord, according unto thy loving-kindness *
quicken me, according as thou art wont.
150 They draw nigh that of malice persecute me *
and are far from thy law.
151 Be thou nigh at hand, O Lord *
for all thy commandments are true.
152 As concerning thy testimonies, I have known long since *
that thou hast grounded them for ever.
153 O consider mine adversity, and deliver me *
for I do not forget thy law.
154 Avenge thou my cause, and deliver me *
quicken me, according to thy word.
155 Health is far from the ungodly *
for they regard not thy statutes.
156 Great is thy mercy, O Lord *
quicken me, as thou art wont.
157 Many there are that trouble me, and persecute me *
yet do I not swerve from thy testimonies.
158 It grieveth me when I see the transgressors *
because they keep not thy law.
159 Consider, O Lord, how I love thy commandments *
O quicken me, according to thy loving-kindness.
160 Thy word is true from everlasting *
all the judgements of thy righteousness endure for evermore.
161 Princes have persecuted me without a cause *
but my heart standeth in awe of thy word.
162 I am as glad of thy word *
as one that findeth great spoils.
163 As for lies, I hate and abhor them *
but thy law do I love.
164 Seven times a day do I praise thee *
because of thy righteous judgements.
165 Great is the peace that they have who love thy law *
and they are not offended at it.
166 Lord, I have looked for thy saving health *
and done after thy commandments.
167 My soul hath kept thy testimonies *
and loved them exceedingly.
168 I have kept thy commandments and testimonies *
for all my ways are before thee.
169 Let my complaint come before thee, O Lord *
give me understanding according to thy word.
170 Let my supplication come before thee *
deliver me, according to thy word.
171 My lips shall speak of thy praise *
when thou hast taught me thy statutes.
172 Yea, my tongue shall sing of thy word *
for all thy commandments are righteous.
173 Let thine hand help me *
for I have chosen thy commandments.
174 I have longed for thy saving health, O Lord *
and in thy law is my delight.
175 O let my soul live, and it shall praise thee *
and thy judgements shall help me.
176 I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost *
O seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son :
and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be :
world without end. Amen.
give us insight to discern your will for us,
to give up what harms us,
and to seek the perfection we are promised
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. CW: Additional Collects
THE WORD OF GOD
Reading: Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15
At the beginning of the reign of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, this word came from the Lord: Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord; speak to them all the words that I command you; do not hold back a word. It may be that they will listen, all of them, and will turn from their evil way, that I may change my mind about the disaster that I intend to bring on them because of their evil doings. You shall say to them: Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to heed the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently—though you have not heeded— then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.
The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, ‘You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, “This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant”?’ And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, ‘It is the Lord who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will change his mind about the disaster that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, here I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.’
HYMN: Benjamin Schmolck; trans. Jane Borthwick
Tune: Jewett https://tinyurl.com/ybuuq5ku
1 My Jesus, as thou wilt!
O may thy will be mine;
into thy hand of love
I would my all resign.
Through sorrow, or through joy,
conduct me as thine own;
and help me still to say,
“My Lord, thy will be done.”
2 My Jesus, as thou wilt!
If needy here and poor,
give me thy people’s bread,
their portion rich and sure.
The manna of thy Word
let my soul feed upon;
and if all else should fail,
my Lord, thy will be done.
3 My Jesus, as thou wilt!
Though seen through many a tear,
let not my star of hope
grow dim or disappear.
Since thou on earth hast wept,
and sorrowed oft alone,
if I must weep with thee,
my Lord, thy will be done.
4 My Jesus, as thou wilt!
All shall be well for me;
each changing future scene
I gladly trust with thee.
Straight to my home above
I travel calmly on,
and sing, in life or death,
“My Lord, thy will be done.”
Reading: Acts 6:1-7:2a, 35-41, 51-8:3
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.
Then the high priest asked him, ‘Are these things so?’ And Stephen replied:
‘Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,
‘It was this Moses whom they rejected when they said, “Who made you a ruler and a judge?” and whom God now sent as both ruler and liberator through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, “God will raise up a prophet for you from your own people as he raised me up.” He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us. Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, “Make gods for us who will lead the way for us; as for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.” At that time they made a calf, offered a sacrifice to the idol, and revelled in the works of their hands.
‘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. And Saul approved of their killing him.
That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.
HYMN: Jan Struther ©
Tune: Salvation https://tinyurl.com/y3l8ftoc
1 When Stephen, full of power and grace,
Went forth throughout the land,
He bore no shield before his face,
No weapon in his hand;
But only in his heart a flame
And on his lips a sword
Wherewith he smote and overcame
The foemen of the Lord.
2 When Stephen preached against the laws
And by those laws was tried,
He had no friend to plead his cause,
No spokesman at his side;
But only in his heart a flame
And in his eyes a light
Wherewith God’s daybreak to proclaim
And rend the veils of night.
3 When Stephen, young and doomed to die,
Fell crushed beneath the stones,
He had no curse nor vengeful cry
For those who broke his bones;
But only in his heart a flame
And on his lips a prayer
That God, in sweet forgiveness’ name,
Should understand and spare.
4 Let me, O Lord, your cause defend,
A knight without a sword;
No shield I ask, no faithful friend,
No vengeance, no reward;
But only in my heart a flame
And in my soul a dream,
So that the stones of earthly shame
A jeweled crown may seem.
Reading: Matthew 1:1-17
Jesus said, ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.’
CANTICLE Te Deum
(Chant by Joe Cox: https://tinyurl.com/ybzyundx)
We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud,
the Heavens and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of thy glory.
The glorious company of the apostles praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise thee.
The noble army of martyrs praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world
doth acknowledge thee,
the Father, of an infinite majesty,
thine adorable, true, and only Son,
also the Holy Ghost the Comforter.
Thou art the King of glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man,
thou didst humble thyself to be born of a Virgin.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death,
thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come to be our judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants,
whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy saints,
in glory everlasting.
THE PRAYERS WS2
We praise and thank you, O Lord,
that you have fed us with your Word and at your table.
Grateful for your gifts and mindful of the communion of your saints,
we offer to you our prayers for all people.
God of compassion,
we remember before you
the poor and the afflicted,
the sick and the dying,
prisoners and all who are lonely,
the victims of war, injustice, and inhumanity,
and all others who suffer from whatever their sufferings may be called.
O Lord of providence
holding the destiny of the nations in your hand,
we pray for our country.
Inspire the hearts and minds of our leaders
that they, together with all our nation,
may first seek your kingdom and righteousness
so that order, liberty, and peace may dwell with your people.
O God the Creator,
we pray for all nations and peoples.
Take away the mistrust and lack of understanding
that divide your creatures;
increase in us the recognition that we are all your children.
O Savior God,
look upon your church in its struggle upon the earth.
Have mercy on its weakness,
bring to an end its unhappy divisions,
and scatter its fears.
Look also upon the ministry of your church.
Increase its courage, strengthen its faith,
and inspire its witness to all people,
even to the ends of the earth.
Author of grace and God of love,
send your Holy Spirit’s blessing to your children here present.
Keep our hearts and thoughts in Jesus Christ, your Son, our only Savior. Amen.
(Plainsong Mode 2: https://tinyurl.com/yctqq8cf)DL
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today the bread of life;
and forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
now and for ever. Amen.
who gave the first martyr Stephen
grace to pray for those who took up stones against him:
grant that in all our sufferings for the truth
we may learn to love even our enemies
and to seek forgiveness for those who desire our hurt,
looking up to heaven to him who was crucified for us,
Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Advocate,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen. EH
Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen. 2 Cor. 13:14
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BCW Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., 1993.
EH Exciting Holiness, Ed. Brother Tristram SSF © European Province of the Society of Saint Francis, 1997
RCLP Revised Common Lectionary Prayers. © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress.
DL © Daniel Lawson; used with permission.
WS2 The Worship Sourcebook, 2nd edition, © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources
The intercession is adapted from the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation.
1 Adam Bartlett, Simple English Propers; audio from https://musicasacra.com/additional-publications/sep-practice-videos/ ©
The three main scripture readings are from the The New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Edition, The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The psalms are from The Book of Common Prayer (1662).
Common Worship: Additional Collects, material from which is included here, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council and published by Church House Publishing.
Musical links are usually either to artists’ albums posted on Spotify or to recordings made available at smallchurchmusic.com. Audio stripped from YouTube videos is footnoted accordingly above.
Compilation © 2020 Stephen T. Benner. All links worked at the time they were created, but I cannot accept responsibility for their content or any damage resulting from their use. The linked content is under the control of the respective content creators and is subject to change at any time. Any copyright texts included in this compilation are provided for non-commercial purposes related to study or worship. Please contact the respective copyright holders for permission to use the texts in other contexts.