Lutheran Worship and Resources

Sunday, December 26, 2021

St. Stephen's Day

 

 It is thought that the New Testament uses crown as a reference to the first martyr Stephan, because Stephanos means crown in Greek. This graphic is used in many churches to teach "No cross, no crown."

Bethany Lutheran Church

Holy Communion Service, 10 AM Sunday

Springdale, Arkansas

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson


The Hymn #463                 For All the Saints          
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16

Introit
Princes also did sit and speak against me:
the wicked have waited for me, to destroy me.
Help Thou me, Lord, my God: 
for I have kept Thy testimonies.
Psalm. Blessed are the undefiled in the way:
who walk in the Law of the Lord.

The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19

Collect
Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of Thy truth we may steadfastly look up to heaven and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of the first martyr, St. Stephan, who prayed for his murderers to Thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to help all those who suffer for Thee, our only Mediator and Advocate; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

The Epistle and Gradual   

Gradual

Halleluia! Halleluia! I see the heavens opened; and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Halleluia!

The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #103   To Shepherds   As They Watched


Faith Must Be Primary


The Hymn #94            Hark the Herald Angels           
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #79            Rejoice, Rejoice


Announcements and Prayers

  • Equipment is being set up to improve the Vimeos, including the sound.
  • Thank you for the kindness expressed during Christmas and year-around. I hear from people I have never met and they appreciate our services, books, etc.
  • Medical treatment - Pastor Jim Shrader and his wife Christ, Kermit Way, Pastor K, Dr. Lito Cruz, and anonymous. 
  • Yes, my cataract surgery is scheduled for January 10 and 17.


The Epistle
KJV Acts 6:8-14, and Acts 7:54-60. 8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, wrought great wonders and signs among the people. 9 But there arose certain of them that were of the synagogue called the synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. 11 Then they suborned men, who said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. 12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and seized him, and brought him into the council,13 and set up false witnesses, who said, This man ceaseth not to speak words against this holy place, and the law: 14 for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered unto us. 7:54 Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed upon him with one accord; 58 and 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 they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.

The Gospel
KJV Matthew 23:34-39. Therefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: some of them shall ye kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of Abel the righteous unto the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye ,hall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.



KJV 1 Corinthians 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

KJV James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Faith Must Be Primary



KJV Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, wrought great wonders and signs among the people.

I normally avoid saints' days, because so many quasi-Lutheran pastors strive to be more Roman than the Catholics. If one little item of papal tradition is overlooked, they pick up rocks to throw at their victim, but it is more like being stoned to death by popcorn.

The issue in this passage is faith. Stephen (Greek for crown) is the example of witnessing (Greek - martyr) to his faith, no matter what the threat. All believers are saints, holy, because the Word of God makes us holy by planting and supporting faith in Jesus Christ. Inevitably, the person named a saint by Catholic tradition is turned into a salesman for that tradition. Faith is forgotten or subordinated by works.

Revealing the life and death of Stephen is not an accident. He was a layman, filled with the Holy Spirit, meaning he was filled with the Holy Scriptures. Those who separate the Word from the Spirit are dreamers who make up things to suit the moment. However, those who begin and end with the Word will always bear fruit. We know the apostles did that, but their lives are overshadowed by the Gospel of Christ, even though most of them died for the Faith. 

The institutional church wants to make the top dog the infallible hero who leads the pack, even today. They will sigh and marvel about a man or woman, but get uneasy when someone takes a Biblical passage literally. The first  is idolatry; the second is rationalism, often coupled with out of control institutionalism. I have seen it in writing -
" CFW Walther answers every doctrinal question." (Ironically, LutherQuest sic). No, the Word answers all questions because the Scriptures are clear, efficacious, and infallibly linked together.

Stephen's greatness came from trusting completing in the Word of God. He lived and died in the Apostolic era, so he had reason to be afraid and silent. Instead he applied the Word to the opponents, who were so enraged that he was murdered by stoning, Paul consenting at the time, because he rejected Christ and saw the Faith as danger.

9 But there arose certain of them that were of the synagogue called the synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.

The Word of God, by its nature, revealing our hearts and intentions, stirs up wrath in those who do not believe and especially in those who believe in a corrupted or sick dogma, which is dominant today. Sound doctrine is literally healthy teaching, and the word "sound" is "hygiene" in Greek. But false doctrine is like gangrene or cancer, growing and killing if not treated. 

KJV 2 Timothy 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 17 And their word will eat as doth a canker [cancer, gangrene]: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; 18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

The key is that faith is "access to grace" (Romans 5:2), a verse which demolishes all the efforts to teach justification without faith (Objective Justification) - the ruling dogma of the mainline denominations today, including 99% of the Lutherans.

When we are troubled by various problems, whether outside of our control or within us, faith in Jesus Christ moves us to pray for help, to spell out our needs, and to have patience in how God works. Faith also moves us to pray for others - illness, conflicts, economic turmoil, and so forth. The very act of praying for someone else makes us far more aware of that individual, even one far away we have not met.

Wonders, miracles, do arise from people trusting God, and He shows that He does more than we can even imagine. 

Faith shows us the layers of truth revealed in the Scriptures, and this is chiefly the wisdom, patience, and kindness of God. The hymns of Gehrhardt are so touching because he began as a tutor of children and that taught him how to relate the Word to them. To summarize his best - he shows the essence of Jesus Christ - and - if that is so, how dearly He must love you. A professor's lecture for adults can leave children stunned or asleep. But Gerhardt's hymns reach children and adults. 

11 Then they suborned men, who said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. 12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and seized him, and brought him into the council,

Suborning perjury is a legal term used today. It means using one's persuasion to get another person to lie. In this case they had their witnesses set up to agree to the falsehoods so they could claim - two or more witnesses. But while they witnessed to lies, Stephen witnessed to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

13 and set up false witnesses, who said, This man ceaseth not to speak words against this holy place, and the law: 14 for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered unto us.



Stephen saw the heavens opened up and Jesus enthroned in glory.

KJV Acts 7:54 Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 

Faith in Jesus Christ made Stephen stronger and gave him the strength to tell the angry crowd the truth, even with them bearing down on him. They picked up stones to kill him with great cruelty.

57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed upon him with one accord; 58 and 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 they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.

When I read this passage, I remembered Greek class from 1966-67. Both professors were from the seminary on Zion Hill, Augustana. One taught in faith, the other in grammar. There was no question that the older pastor took this as the Word of God. When Christina was in the hospital, the older pastor showed up to visit, though he was not our pastor. He came to our wedding later, a long drive. 

Even today people are dying for the Faith, across the world. We are more polite here in America, but there are laity, pastors, and teachers who are treated with great cruelty and suppressed or exiled with threats of no pay, no benefits, no friendship except for the sacraments of the stink-eye and shunning. 

Deacons like Stephen are known more for their pay stubs and golfing than faith in Jesus Christ. They love the institution, not the Word, and the institution loves that.



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