Summary: Stephen is a model saint for us to follow and look up to on this Saints Triumphant Sunday.
November 14, 2004 Acts 7:52-60
Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”
When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
When kids find someone that they look up to - they’ll do whatever they can to emulate him or her. At Halloween we went to school at Wanamaker and saw kids in all kinds of outfits, pirates, queens, ninjas, football players - you name it. They were trying to emulate their heros by dressing up like them. Unfortunately, I also saw some pretty sleazy outfits. It appears that some little girls think that Halloween is the time they can dress up like prostitutes. I don’t know if they were trying to look like Brittany Spears or what, but it wasn’t very impressive. It probably isn’t any better when little boys like dressing up like mass murderers - is that who their role models are? Maybe that’s a bit overstated - but you know what I didn’t see? I didn’t see any kids dressed up as Jesus Christ, Moses, or the Apostle Paul. I know, I’m living in a dream world. But the point I’m making is that our role models in America pretty much stink. They’re usually violent, sleazy, or arrogant.
We need better role models - for ourselves and our children. In the Catholic Church, they talk a lot about former saints - who they want to emulate to their church. They’ll hold up Saint Nicholas who was real generous, Mother Theresa who was a humanitarian, and a bunch of other saints who did other things. There is some good that can come from this, but unfortunately they’ve taken it too far - to the point that they pray to different saints for different things - to help the sick get well - the garden to grow - and a bunch of other things.
We aren’t going to do that today. It is Saints Triumphant Sunday, and in order to do this, we are going to look at Saint Stephen. We don’t have any St. Stephen pajamas to give to our children or any posters to hang - but the Holy Spirit does have a story to tell. I hope that after this story, you will be able to say -
Let’s Get Stoned With Stephen
I. So we can die like him
I remember going to a Catholic Church somewhere in Kansas, that had a stained glass picture up front of some martyr being stoned to death. It seemed kind of morbid and strange to me - to have that vivid picture at the front and center of sanctuary. Here this guy was cowering with his arm up in terror as these angry people were enraged with huge rocks in their hands - ready to hurl them at his head. Yet that’s almost identical to the picture of Stephen that we have in today’s text. It’s a picture of someone getting stoned to death by an angry mob. What is there to look up to in someone getting stoned? Is that really something we want to model or set as our objective in life? I want to get stoned? Hmm. Let’s think about it a minute.