September 9, 2018

StStephensDay 2018

St. Stephen's Day

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger

 

It’s the Feast of Stephen – our first celebration of our Patron Saint in living memory. Why? Because the Church remembers St Stephen on December 26, and no one wants to come back to church the 2nd Day of Christmas for a big celebration. It’s kind of like kids who have birthdays around Christmas. The celebrations get lumped into one, and they only get one gift, and the dessert at Christmas Dinner is birthday cake, but it’s just not the same. Well, we haven’t even been doing that! So, we moved our Patronal Festival to the Second Sunday of September.


St Stephen is probably best known for Good King Wenceslas looking out to discover that the snow around him was deep and crisp and even on December 26 some time in the 900s. Surprisingly, there is no mention of 2 Turtle Doves, just the snow. But nonetheless, Wenceslas, the Turtle Doves and St Stephen are each referenced on that day in their own unique ways.


Stephen is actually one of those people about whom the media would say, “He made history!” By that they mean that he was the first of his kind to accomplish something, because everything is history and everyone makes it the moment they do or say something. Stephen’s claim to fame is two-fold:


Stephen was the First Deacon o

the Church and the First

Christian Martyr.


The readings are about his martyrdom instead of his service as a Deacon, but I will preach on his being a Deacon.


The term “Deacon” is derived from the ancient Greek word διάκονος meaning “Servant”. In The Episcopal Church, a Deacon is one of the 4 Orders of Ministry, and one of the 3 distinct Orders of ordained ministers – Priest and Bishop being the other two. A Deacon is distinct from a Priest or Bishop, neither less-than or greater-than. In the early church, Deacons were ordained “not to the priesthood but to the servanthood of the Bishop.” Christian Deacons became agents of the Bishop, often with the oversight of charity. Deacons from the 20C to now have focused on social care and service, and many Bishops in The Episcopal Church call upon their Deacons to promote care of the needy outside the Church.


So, if St Stephen, who stands watch over us in the back window as we worship, is to be a role model for us…in his life, rather than in his death…we should care for the needy outside the Church. So,


the humble folk of St Stephen’s

Episcopal Church, as Servants of

God, endeavor to be Servants of

One Another and Servants of

God’s People in SLO.


We are also celebrating the installation of our new steeple and refurbished bell with a plethora of bells and bell music. We are very excited about the steeple, which replaces a worn-out one that was built after the fire of 1970.


“What does a steeple and a bell have to do with St Stephen?” you ask. Well, nothing. But…St Stephen did recognize the importance of a building set aside for God and Godly things. The majority of Acts Ch7, which is not included in today’s reading, contains Stephen’s Sermon which he recites when he is accused. He recounts the history of the Hebrew People, from Abraham to the death of Moses once the Holy Land is conquered for the Israelites. At the end of the sermon, Stephen says a short bit about David, Solomon and a dwelling place for God. Solomon built that house for God, the Temple. So, in a way, St Stephen gives us an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for this building which is set aside for the praise and giving thanks to God, for the ask of forgiveness and for the praying for others that we do. St Stephen gives us an opportunity to invite and welcome people into this building, and to go forth from it to do the work of Deacons, Servants of the City.


As the St Stephen’s Family, following the model of the Church’s First Deacon, first commissioned servant, we go from this place of worshiping God out into the community for service. Some of the organizations we support will be at the Non-Profit Fair, as part of our celebration after the service. With some, we volunteer, and with others, we donate funds.


It is our small effort to be the

Church every day of the week,

wherever we are.


And this is where we come full-circle back to Good King Wenceslas!!


Does anyone know what the Christmas Carol is actually about? I had no idea…I just thought it was fun to sing. Don’t worry. We’re not going to sing the carol…it’s not even in our hymnal! Bohemian and English legend is that Wenceslas braved the harsh winter weather – though, “crisp and deep and even” doesn’t sound harsh, it sounds like perfect snowboarding weather – to care for a poor peasant. “When a poor man came in sight”, there was some dialog between Wenceslas and his page (who was struggling to walk in the snow), and eventually, “Bring me flesh and bring me wine, Bring me pine-logs hither, Thou and I shall see him dine, When we bear them thither.” Wenceslas was being the Christian definition of a Deacon, caring for the poor and vulnerable, on the Feast Day of the Church’s First Deacon and Martyr, St Stephen, our Patron Saint.


As we celebrate our steeple, our bell, our identity as St Stephen’s, we are reminded that we are called by God and by the Birth, Death and Resurrection of Jesus and by our Baptism to go forth from our worship here and serve all God’s people. We worship God and then go forth to serve the wider community, and spread the Good News, as prophets, sages, and scribes – as Servants.


Therefore, Christian folk,

be sure Wealth or rank possessing
Ye, who now will bless the poor

Shall yourselves find blessing.


Amen!

© 2018 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
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