Acts 7:55-60 (NRSV)
Verse 55But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Verse 56"Look," he said, "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" Verse 57But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Verse 58Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. Verse 59While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Verse 60Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died.
I remember first meeting Stephen as a ten-year-old in those weekly Sunday school color-illustrated Bible stories. I was fascinated by the heroes of the faith. Stephen’s Easter faith inspired him to imitate his Lord in the face of death and, like his Master, even to pray for his enemies. I want to imagine that his witness planted some seed in the heart of a Saul, standing on the sidelines, later to be transformed in an encounter with this Jesus to become a Paul whose witness to the cross and resurrection has shaped Christian communities for centuries.
Among those heroes I count also my parents, whom I remember during this Easter season. They inspired my faith and witness, and both happened to die some years ago during the Easter season—my retired-pastor father on the Sunday of Easter at the very time his local congregation was at worship, and my mother on May 10, the anniversary of which is this coming Sunday.
Who has inspired you with their witness and confession of our resurrected Lord?
God of hope, inspire us with the witness of heroes of the faith who lead us to follow into the future, even in times of fear and uncertainty such as in these days. Amen.