Stephen, Deacon and Martyr — Acts 6:8-7:2a, 51-60
“[Stephen said,] ‘You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do.’” (Acts 7:51, NRSV)
Ouch! What a lovely verse for the day after Christmas! We would much rather bask in the glow of the manger, luxuriate in our gifts, and enjoy our Christmas treats, than consider the life and words of the saint we remember today. However, maybe it is a good time, on our way to Epiphany, to consider the good deacon’s words. How much do we resist the Holy Spirit? Sometimes I wonder if Stephen’s fiery statement was a response to the ever-popular, “But we’ve always done it this way!” The Holy Spirit calls us out, and ahead of, where we are now. The Holy Spirit’s direction is not necessarily where we think we should be going, nor is it necessarily where we would like to go, or where others might go! Having a “stiff neck” indicates we might not be prepared to look in directions other than what we can comfortably see. To be “uncircumcised in heart and ears” may indicate that we have not taken the mark of being God’s upon our hearts and minds. As we approach Epiphany, let us consider, and pray for, flexible necks, circumcised hearts and minds, and the gift in the Light of Epiphany to see, and follow, the Holy Spirit anew!
O God of St. Stephen, and all the saints, give us those gifts we need to be always open to the leading of your Holy Spirit! Amen.
– Mary Parrish, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Falls City