I have rather enjoyed my Selected Sunday Scriptures posts, and at this point hope to keep writing them as something of a tradition. As I was preparing my next post in that series, I began to read the (first) Book of Maccabees. A found it highly moving, and meaningful, especially in light of the persecution that many Christians face today elsewhere in the world. Maccabees also provides some warning about those among the faith who will give it up in order to “blend in” or coexist with those around them. I will save the rest of my comments for tomorrow’s post, and instead devote this post to something that occurred to me during my follow-up New Testament reading, which was in the Acts of the Apostles (again). A particular story there inspired me to create what I intend to be my next series- the Saturday Saint series.
This series will feature a new Saint every Saturday. They will be brief posts, featuring a small snippet about the life of the Saint (lifted from Wikipedia or some other source) and any thoughts that I might have to add. Starting after this post they will be in alphabetical order, moving from A to Z every week (although I anticipate using up the Saint’s whose names begin with an X fairly quickly).
The first Saint to be featured will be Saint Stephen the Martyr:
Stephen (Koine Greek: Στέφανος, Stephanos; sometimes spelled “Stephan”), traditionally regarded as the first martyr of Christianity, was, according to the Acts of the Apostles, a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. Accused of blasphemy, at his trial he made a long speech fiercely denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgement on him and was stoned to death. His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus (later better known by his Roman name, Paul), a Pharisee who would later become a follower himself of Jesus and an apostle.
54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
It takes great courage to be willing to die for your faith. But it takes even more to be willing and able to forgive your own killers. May we all have that courage if we are put to the test like Stephen.