Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Creating a Martyr: Acts 7 with poem by Sir John Suckling, Upon Stephen Stoned

Daily Readings
Isaiah 54, Genesis 8, Isaiah 8:1-9:7, Acts 7

Daily Text: Acts 7

Creating a Martyr
Stephen’s response to the queries from the high priest concerning the charges against him—that he spoke frequently against the temple and Moses—was a recital of the history of the people of God. In Acts 7 this recital was from a particular understanding of the purposes of God and this understanding said clearly that both the leaders and people of Israel continually rejected the saviours sent by God, as they have done with Jesus and unspoken though implicit, as they are doing with Stephen. In addition, he defends what he and Jesus have said about the temple by pointing out that God does not dwell in houses made with hands, but in the hearts of his people. Here he is making the point that because they are so fixated on the temple they cannot themselves be the temple of God. Certainly, he is making no effort to conciliate the Council, but by telling them the way it is he stirs up their wrath to the point that they stone him without further considerations. Stephen loses his life and the Council loses the ‘war’ by creating a martyr.

Upon Stephen Stoned
Sir John Suckling

Under this heap of stones interred lies
No holocaust, but stoned sacrifice
Burnt not by altar-coals, but by the fire
Of Jewish ire,
Whose softest words in their hard hearts alone
Congealed to stone,
Not piercing them recoiled in him again,
Who being slain
As not forgetful, whence they once did come,
Now being stones he found them in a tomb.


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