Stephen Deacon and Martyr

Image credit: bibleencyclopedia.com

Centuries before Boxing Day ever existed, and the shop-til-you-drop, three-ring-circus, mass hysteria consumerism dominated humankind; Christians remembered—and some still remember—Stephen on December 26.

You can read about him and his martyrdom in The Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7:60. Long story short, he was stoned to death based on false charges of blasphemy. His final words were similar to those of Jesus on the cross; words of forgiveness and love for his executioners spoken as a prayer: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60)

Today as I remember Stephen and his martyrdom, I’m also mindful of my sisters and brothers in Christ particularly in Muslim-majority and communist nations. They are far too often persecuted and falsely charged of blasphemy and imprisoned or worse, wrongfully executed for their faith.

So, in solidarity with these persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, I invite you to pray with me today the following prayers in remembrance of Stephen and those imprisoned or on death-row solely because they are faithful Christians.

We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of Stephen the first martyr, who looked to heaven and prayed for his persecutors. Grant that we also may pray for our enemies and seek forgiveness for those who hurt us, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now forever. Amen. (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 54)

Lord Jesus, you experienced in person torture and death as a prisoner of conscience. You were beaten and flogged and sentenced to an agonizing death though you had done no wrong. Be now with prisoners of conscience throughout the world. Be with them in their fear and loneliness, in the agony of physical and mental torture, and in the face of execution and death. Stretch out your hands in power to break their chains. Be merciful to the oppressor and the torturer, and place a new heart within them. Forgive all injustice in our lives, and transform us to be instruments of your peace, for by your wounds we are healed. Amen.

(Amnesty International, Prayer for Prisoners, Prayers for Peace)

Sing Gloria Concerts at Augustana Campus

This fall I decided to join Mannskor, a community choir organized by Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta. Our very gifted conductor is Dr. John Wiebe, who teaches in the music faculty. Mannskor is a combination of men from the community and university students.

Our Sing Gloria concerts were last weekend—December 7 and 8—in the Faith and Life Chapel, Augustana Campus. In addition to Mannskor, there were two other choirs Sangkor Women’s Ensemble and the Augustana (students’) Choir.

Our choirs were accompanied by Dr. Roger Admiral on organ; Carolyn Olson and Tova Olson on piano; with special guests the Capital Brass Ensemble; Ann Salmon on piccolo flute; Tova Olson and David Salmon on percussion.

The major repertoire was English composer James Whitbourn’s Missa Carolae. Listeners may recognise some of the Christmas carol melodies employed in this composition.

I considered it a challenge, privilege and pleasure to have been blessed by singing in these concerts.

Although this is not our recording of the Missa Carolae, here is a sample of the composition, sung in Latin by the Elysian Singers of London.