Oremus for Sunday, December 26, 2021

Saint Stephen, Byzantine, 11th century

Saint Stephen
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

Antiphon 1

Ant. In you have I put my trust, O Lord;
I said: “You are my God, my destin-y is in your hands.”
V. Let your face shine on your servant. *
Save me in your merciful love.
Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, *
for I call on you;
let the wicked be shamed! *
Let them be silenced in the grave! Psalm 31

Almighty God,
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.

Music: https://tinyurl.com/ycn4djk5

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: Heinrich Theobald Schenk; trans. Frances Elizabeth Cox
Tune: All Saints https://tinyurl.com/y2t4kuy6

1 Who are these like stars appearing,
these before God’s throne who stand?
Each a golden crown is wearing;
who are all this glorious band?
Alleluia! Hark, they sing,
praising loud their heav’nly King.

2 Who are these of dazzling brightness,
these in God’s own truth arrayed,
clad in robes of purest whiteness,
robes whose lustre ne’er shall fade,
ne’er be touched by time’s rude hand?
Whence come all this glorious band?

3 These are they who have contended
for their Savior’s honor long,
wrestling on ’til life was ended,
foll’wing not the sinful throng;
these, who well the fight sustained,
triumph thro’ the Lamb have gained.

4 These are they whose hearts were riven,
sore with woe and anguish tried,
who in pray’r full oft have striven
with the God they glorified;
now, their painful conflict o’er,
God has bid them weep no more.

5 These, like priests, have watched and waited,
off’ring up to Christ their will;
soul and body consecrated,
day and night to serve him still:
now in God’s most holy place
blest they stand before his face.

PSALMS

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.

Psalm 119:145-176 (Karl Kohlhase:
http://oremus.org/chant/Psalm-119-145-176-KH.mp3)

I cried with all my heart; answer me,
O LORD! I will keep your laws.
I cried to you; please rescue me,
and I shall keep your teachings.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I wait upon your words.
My eyes wait for the night watches,
to meditate on your word.
Hear my voice according to your love;
revive me, O LORD, by your judgments.
Those who love to do evil draw near;
they are far from your law.
but you also are near, O LORD,
and all your commandments are truth.
Your testimonies from of old,
I know you have founded forever.

See my trouble and rescue me,
for I will not forget your law.
Plead my cause and redeem me;
revive me by your word.
Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they do not seek your ways.
Great are your mercies, O LORD;
restore me by your decrees.
O how many who stand against me,
yet I will not leave your teachings.
I see treacherous ones whom I loathe,
who do not abide in your word.
Please consider how I love your precepts;
revive me, O LORD, by your love.
The sum of your word is truth,
all your righteous laws are eternal.

Princes hate me without reason,
but my heart is in awe of your words.
So I rejoice at your word,
as one who finds great spoil.
I hate and despise all falsehood,
but I love your law.
Seven times daily I praise you,
because of your righteous decrees.
Those who love your law have great peace,
and nothing can cause them to stumble.
LORD, I hope for your salvation,
and keeping your commands.
My soul keeps your testimonies,
exceedingly I love them.
Your precepts and teachings I’ll keep,
for all my ways are before you.

Let my cry reach you, O LORD;
help me understand by your word.
O let my prayer come before you;
deliver me by your word.
Let my lips flow with your praise,
for you teach me your statutes.
Let my tongue speak of your word,
for all your commandments are just.
Let your hand be ready to help,
for I have chosen your precepts.
O LORD, for your salvation I long,
your law also is my delight.
Let my soul live that it may praise you,
and let your judgements help me.
Seek your servant, a straying sheep,
let me not forget your commands.

PRAYER

Eternal God,
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: Isaiah 30:8-18

Go now, write it before them on a tablet,
   and inscribe it in a book,
so that it may be for the time to come
   as a witness for ever.
For they are a rebellious people,
   faithless children,
children who will not hear
   the instruction of the Lord;
who say to the seers, ‘Do not see’;
   and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right;
speak to us smooth things,
   prophesy illusions,
leave the way, turn aside from the path,
   let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’
Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel:
Because you reject this word,
   and put your trust in oppression and deceit,
   and rely on them;
therefore this iniquity shall become for you
   like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse,
   whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant;
its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel
   that is smashed so ruthlessly
that among its fragments not a sherd is found
   for taking fire from the hearth,
   or dipping water out of the cistern.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
   in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
But you refused and said,
‘No! We will flee upon horses’—
   therefore you shall flee!
and, ‘We will ride upon swift steeds’—
   therefore your pursuers shall be swift!
A thousand shall flee at the threat of one,
   at the threat of five you shall flee,
until you are left
   like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
   like a signal on a hill.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;
   therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
   blessed are all those who wait for him.

HYMN: John L Bell ©
Tune: https://tinyurl.com/2p8dzw6w

1 Heaven shall not wait for the poor to lose their patience,
the scorned to smile, the despised to find a friend:
Jesus is Lord; he has championed the unwanted;
in him injustice confronts its timely end.

2 Heaven shall not wait for the rich to share their fortunes,
the proud to fall, the elite to tend the least:
Jesus is Lord; he has shown the master’s privilege:
to kneel and wash servants’ feet before they feast.

3 Heaven shall not wait for the dawn of great ideas,
thoughts of compassion divorced from cries of pain:
Jesus is Lord; he has married word and action;
his cross and company make his purpose plain.

4 Heaven shall not wait for triumphant Hallelujahs,
when earth has passed and we reach another shore:
Jesus is Lord in our present imperfection;
his power and love are for now and then for evermore.

Reading: Acts 6:8-7:2a, 51-8:1

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:

‘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.

HYMN: Jan Struther ©
Tune: Salvation https://tinyurl.com/2p9ac5wj

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 23:34-39

Jesus said, ‘Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” 

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 Joe Milner

For the Church: that Christ may be born in our hearts so that we may bring God’s love and hope to all whom we encounter

For the gift of light: that God will enlighten the lives of all who are searching and help them recognize the path of life and meaning in Christ

For an outpouring of God’s favor in our time: that God will rekindle of a childlike spirit of wonder, awe, and openness to all the gifts that God extends to us

For a spirit of gratitude: that our minds and hearts may recognize and appreciate all that God has done for us

For a greater awareness of our identity: that we may recognize our call to be children of God and manifest God’s love and compassion in our lives

For all peoples on the earth: that Jesus’ presence with us will bring forth peace and goodwill; reconciliation and forgiveness; and an end to violence and terrorism

For healing for the human family: that God who became human may help us recognize the dignity of each person who was made in the image and likeness of God

For all who are recovering from natural disasters, who have lost homes or employment, or who have fled violence: that the coming of Christ may renew their hope, strengthen their spirits, and help them rebuild their lives

For all children: that they may be welcomed into this world with joy, nurtured and cared for as they grow, and encouraged to dream great things

For all who are new parents: that they may recognize the gift of God that they hold and faithfully nurture their child whom God has entrusted to them

For healing of all fear: that the angel’s message, Fear Not, may free all the human family and each of us from the bonds of fear and propel us to live boldly

For all who have no gifts this night (day), particularly children: that they may experience being loved this day and strengthen by the gift of friendship

For all who are ill: that God will relieve their pain, restore them to their loved ones, and protect the human family from the Covid virus

For all who are traveling or away from home this night (day), particularly missionaries and members of the military: that God will guide their movements, preserve them in love, and bring them home safely

For peace in Bethlehem, the West Bank, and Israel: that God will open new communication and understanding between all who live in the Holy Land

(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.

Free and loving God,
unpossessed by any earthly power whatever its sacred claims;
we remember how Stephen challenged the complacency of the holy,
responded with forgiveness to unyielding stones:
may we also follow as our Lord one who spoke with true authority
and overcame hatred by his gift of peace;
through Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God. Amen. PIC, alt.

Music: https://tinyurl.com/y9efvwm5
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


BCW Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., 1993.

DL © Daniel Lawson; used with permission.

EH Exciting Holiness, Ed. Brother Tristram SSF © European Province of the Society of Saint Francis, 1997

PIC Prayers for An Inclusive Church. Steven Shakespeare © 2008 Canterbury Press.

The 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 reading from John is © 2012 Common English Bible.

The traditional-language psalms are from The Book of Common Prayer (1662). The modern language version of Psalm 119 is by Karl Kohlhase http://www.k4communications.com/karl/index.html

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 © 2021 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.

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