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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

The First Martyr

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Acts 7:51 – 8:1
 
St Stephen enlightened before the first stone is cast.Martyrdom is the greatest sign of Christian unity: men and women united in their commitment to laying down their lives for their Saviour.  Regardless of denomination, Stephen holds pride of place, as first among equals.
 
But martyrdom is not only for the saints.  As St Clement of Alexandria explained, “Martyrdom means bearing witness to God.  Every soul that seeks in pureness of heart to know God and obeys the commandments of God is a martyr, bearing witness by life or words.  In fact, even if it is not a matter of shedding blood, the soul is pouring out its faith because it is by faith that the soul will be separated from the body before a person dies."
 
Whatever our situation in life, we are called – like Stephen, our brother in faith – to be witnesses to the gospel of life.  Each of us is called to die to ourselves and to live for God.  In dying to ourselves we find life and become witness to God’s love, mercy and compassion.
 
Lord Jesus Christ, great me a sure grasp of the truth that in dying to self and living for you I may discover the mystery and meaning of life.
 
 
Chris
 
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The Holy Spirit for St Stephen, and for us

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Acts 6:8-15
 
Events began to unfold around Stephen which mirrored the Lord’s Passion and death; false accusations, charges of blasphemy and being hauled before the Sanhedrin.  Like Christ in life, like Christ in death, Stephen becomes the first martyr.  And his witness of martyrdom speaks to every generation of believers, until the end of time.
 
Luke highlights how Stephen was a man full of grace, filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit.  He was God-centred, not self-centred.  Where did this grace and power come from?
 
Some of the answer can be found in the opening verses of Chapter 6: Stephen was selected by members of his community because of his apparent virtues and was presented, along with six others for the blessing of the apostles.
 
Luke informs us that the apostles “prayed and laid their hands upon them” (v. 6).  This was the customary manner in the early Church by which people were invested with the Holy Spirit to carry out special assignments and work.  This must have been the source of Stephen’s Spirit-filled life.
 
We too can be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Without the Spirit we labour in vain as we seek to serve the Lord by the power of our own strength and abilities.  Don’t be afraid to seek out the blessing of being prayed over to receive a fresh outpouring of the Spirit.
 
Bishops, priests and deacons can make this prayer, but so can fellow believers – when two or three gather in Jesus’s name.
 
We are called to be Spirit-filled Christians, men and women who live not for ourselves but for others, not by our own strength but by the power of the Holy Spirit.
 
Lord, fill me with your Spirit; fill me with your joy, hope and love that I many be an authentic witness of the Gospel.
 
Chris
 
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