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. In you have I put my trust, O Lord;
I said: “You are my God, my destiny 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
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: 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.
(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:
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.
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: Wisdom 4:7-15
In contrast, those who have done what is right will be at rest, even if they die an early death. Those who are old aren’t honorable simply because time has passed. Old age isn’t measured by counting up a person’s years. Wisdom and a spotless life are the marks of honorable maturity. There was a man who pleased God, was loved by God, and was taken away from living in the midst of sinners. He was snatched away so that evil didn’t pervert his understanding and so that deception didn’t corrupt his soul. Envying what is worthless blinds people to what is good, and the whirlwind of desire undermines an innocent mind.
Those who do what’s right are quickly perfected and live a long life in a short span of time. They are whisked away from the wickedness that surrounds them because their whole beings are pleasing to the Lord. People around them see this, but they don’t understand. It doesn’t sink in that favor and mercy rest upon God’s chosen ones, and that God watches over his holy ones.
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.
Reading: Acts 6:8-7:2a, 51-8:1
Stephen, who stood out among the believers for the way God’s grace was at work in his life and for his exceptional endowment with divine power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose from some who belonged to the so-called Synagogue of Former Slaves. Members from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and Asia entered into debate with Stephen. However, they couldn’t resist the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. Then they secretly enticed some people to claim, “We heard him insult Moses and God.” They stirred up the people, the elders, and the legal experts. They caught Stephen, dragged him away, and brought him before the Jerusalem Council. Before the council, they presented false witnesses who testified, “This man never stops speaking against this holy place and the Law. In fact, we heard him say that this man Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and alter the customary practices Moses gave us.” Everyone seated in the council stared at Stephen, and they saw that his face was radiant, just like an angel’s.
The high priest asked, “Are these accusations true?” Stephen responded, “You stubborn people! In your thoughts and hearing, you are like those who have had no part in God’s covenant! You continuously set yourself against the Holy Spirit, just like your ancestors did. Was there a single prophet your ancestors didn’t harass? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the righteous one, and you’ve betrayed and murdered him! You received the Law given by angels, but you haven’t kept it.”
Once the council members heard these words, they were enraged and began to grind their teeth at Stephen. But Stephen, enabled by the Holy Spirit, stared into heaven and saw God’s majesty and Jesus standing at God’s right side. He exclaimed, “Look! I can see heaven on display and the Human One standing at God’s right side!” At this, they shrieked and covered their ears. Together, they charged at him, threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses placed their coats in the care of a young man named Saul. As they battered him with stones, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, accept my life!” Falling to his knees, he shouted, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them!” Then he died. Saul was in full agreement with Stephen’s murder.
At that time, the church in Jerusalem began to be subjected to vicious harassment. Everyone except the apostles was scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.
HYMN: Cecil Frances Alexander
Tune: Irby https://tinyurl.com/mfptk274
1 Once in royal David’s city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
in a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little child.
2 He came down to earth from heaven
who is God and Lord of all,
and his shelter was a stable,
and his cradle was a stall;
with the poor and mean and lowly,
lived on earth our Savior holy.
3 And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love,
for that child, so dear and gentle,
is our Lord in heav’n above,
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.
4 Not in that poor, lowly stable
with the oxen standing by
we shall see him, but in heaven,
set at God’s right hand on high.
Then like stars his children crowned,
all in white, his praise will sound.
Reading: Luke 11:47-52
Jesus said, “How terrible for you! You built memorials to the prophets, whom your ancestors killed. In this way, you testify that you approve of your ancestors’ deeds. They killed the prophets, and you build memorials! Therefore, God’s wisdom has said, ‘I will send prophets and apostles to them and they will harass and kill some of them.’ As a result, this generation will be charged with the murder of all the prophets since the beginning of time. This includes the murder of every prophet—from Abel to Zechariah—who was killed between the altar and the holy place. Yes, I’m telling you, this generation will be charged with it.
“How terrible for you legal experts! You snatched away the key of knowledge. You didn’t enter yourselves, and you stood in the way of those who were entering.”
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.
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.
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.
DL © Daniel Lawson; used with permission.
EH Exciting Holiness, Ed. Brother Tristram SSF © European Province of the Society of Saint Francis, 1997
WS2 The Worship Sourcebook, 2nd edition, © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources
PIC Prayers for An Inclusive Church. Steven Shakespeare © 2008 Canterbury Press.
The main scripture readings are © 2011 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 © 2022 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.