Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bartholomew the Unremarkable

Once again, I am hunting for a noon office reading to go with the scripture and saint of the day and have found something to share. It seems to go well with the Gospel reading for this upcoming Sunday as well (Luke 14:1, 7-14), or at least with what I am working on in writing a sermon. Who knows, I may end up referring to this. 

St. Bartholomew icon
By Urek Meniashvili (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Following St Bartholomew's example 24-8-08 by Rosalind Brown
Like everyone else, I have been marvelling at the achievements of the Olympic athletes. We have been in a fortnight of superlatives when the commentators have run out of adjectives. Greatness is all around us. But in a few years time will we remember the names that trip off our tongues? Will there be other candidates for the title ‘greatest Olympian ever?' What makes a person memorable, even great? As we have been constantly reminded, it is not just the achievements but the years of disciplined training that contributed to their greatness.
In contrast to this month's roll call of great living people, today we remember someone from 2000 years ago whose achievements are pretty much lost to history. There's something delightfully perverse about that, but the church has never been entirely rational by the world's standards and we have a much longer memory than most institution. Great as they are, no one will remember today's Olympic medallists in 2000 years time, let alone set a day aside to celebrate them.  So today, being countercultural, we remember St Bartholomew whose only sure claim to be remembered is his appearance in the list of apostles which we heard in the second reading.
…So in this month when greatness is being defined in terms of athletic achievement, I want to put in a plea for other definitions of greatness as well. What about the greatness of radical discipleship? The greatness of staking everything on the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? That is why we celebrate Bartholomew. He may not have hit the headlines as some of the disciples did but he was one of the twelve, he was there with Jesus for about three years, he gave up everything for what he believed…
And so today we remember Bartholomew, an unremarkable disciple whose memory has outlasted that of Olympic athletes of the ancient world. As we give thanks for him, we celebrate the daily routine of ordinary discipleship, of getting on with the task in hand, perhaps rising to occasional moments of greatness but underpinning them with routine devotion - immersion in God's word, prayer, growth in God's wisdom and, when the occasion arises, being willing to go wherever we are sent, but to do so without great fanfare, just with fidelity.

No comments:

Post a Comment