Of all the saints to choose as a patron, Stephen is among the most inspiring. But he is also among the most tragic. What were we thinking?
Stephen was the church’s first deacon. That means servant. As the early church grew, our forebears learned what we now know so well. Just because someone is a caring pastor or an effective preacher doesn’t make him or her a good administrator. The Good News was being preached but the widows and orphans were being neglected. So they chose Stephen and six others to care for the needy while the apostles continued their preaching and teaching.
Stephen was good at this, and was well regarded by the community. We read in the Book of Acts that he “did great wonders and signs among the people”. He could also give a clear and compelling account of his faith when challenged by the religious authorities. But this got him into trouble.
Having drawn attention to himself by his good works and persuasive speech, Stephen came under fire by those seeking to discredit the early Christian movement. Stephen was falsely accused of blasphemy and stoned to death by an angry mob. So Stephen became the church’s first martyr, exemplifying in both his life and death the pattern he followed in Jesus his Lord.
This is our patron. He inspires us to preach the Good News, but also to practice it … even if that means giving all we have. Because in the end, it’s about serving.