Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
LET US GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD
I give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Psalm 9:1
And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Acts 6:8
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Today we commemorate the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr. We read about St. Stephen in the book of Acts. St. Stephen was one of seven deacons, men ordained to help the Apostles in establishing the early church. We read in Acts 6:1-3, that the Apostles were having a hard time balancing their responsibilities of preaching the word of God while also providing for the daily distribution of food to widows. The deacons were brought into assist in the daily distribution, leaving the Apostles the time they needed to preach and teach the word of God and spread the faith.
Saint Stephen was eventually arrested as both Jews and Romans felt threatened by the upstart Christian Church. Under threat of death, Saint Stephen witnessed for Christ in an eloquent oration also found in Acts 6. And following this, he was stoned to death. As he was about to die, he gave a final witness for Christ by forgiving all those who were killing him. He was graced by God to see a vision of heaven. And in his dying breath, he asked for the Lord to receive his spirit.
In Greek, the word for “martyr” is “martyria” and “martyria” correctly translated means “witness.” Many “martyrs” gave their “martyria”, their witness for Christ, like Stephen. They were killed for their faith. We are all called to give “martyria” for our faith. Thankfully, we won’t necessarily be killed for our faith, though in some parts of the world, that is happening. But we are supposed to give witness for our faith. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:14, to “let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” This means that we are supposed to witness for Christ in such a way that others see not only goodness but godliness in us, they see that our good works are not being done as ends to themselves but as a means to glorify God in heaven.
As we celebrate this feastday of St. Stephen, we should evaluate what kind of Christian witness we are offering, what kind of “martyr” we are—do we honor Christ with a grateful heart? A fearful heart? A heart filled with obligation? A heart filled with joy? Do we witness for Christ when there is something to be gained? What about if there is something to be lost? Would we give up our life for Christ if it was demanded of us today? What are we willing to give up in order to witness for Christ?
Tough questions for sure. Our eternal life rests on the answers we give to them.
One last thought—make it a goal for people to see Christ in some way through something you do today. This is a great tool for evaluating ourselves—will people see Christ in what I am doing today?
Lord, You have called each of us to give witness to You in some way. Help me to be a better (insert the roles of your life here—parent, spouse, worker, friend, homeowner, etc, as many as you can think of). May I show witness to You in the way that I am doing these things. May I also give You glory and may others see You through me today. Amen.
Offer some “martyria”/ witness for Christ today.
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