Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday in Pentecost, Proper 15: The fruit of the first martyr's final intercession

Opening Sentence
I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord." Psalm 122:1
Commemoration: Bernard of Clairvaux
O God, by whose grace your servant Bernard of Clairvaux, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; 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.
Psalter: Psalm 106:1-18

Lessons: Judges 17Acts 7:44-8:1John 5:19-29

Stephen's dying prayer, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them," is an intercession on behalf of all who participated in his execution. As the story unfolds, however, it will be a prayer which bears fruit specifically in the life of "a young man named Saul," at whose feet "the witnesses laid down their garments." Luke is quite intentional in noting that "Saul approved of his execution."

Saul is a man consumed with rage against the disciples until his encounter with Christ on the Damascus road. His introduction as one who was more than a mere passive observer to the slaying of the first Christian martyr is no mere coincidence. Stephen, after all, was set apart by the Apostles to oversee the daily distribution after the Hellenists complained about their widows being overlooked. Saul's subsequent conversion and ministry is the answer to Stephen's dying prayer. Not only did Saul find forgiveness for his misguided hatred toward the followers of Christ, he was also empowered by the Spirit to carry the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles.

In dying, Stephen exhibited true Christ-likeness, praying for his enemies and pleading for their pardon. The ministry of Saul, also known as Paul, is the fruit of the first martyr's final intercession.


Sing with All the Saints in Glory