The Feast of Pentecost

pentecost-feast “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” – Acts 2: 42

Pentecost was an ancient Jewish harvest festival. Spring comes early to the Mediterranean. Fifty days after Passover, the first crops of the new year were offered to God. The regulations for the festival are set out in the 23rd charter of Leviticus. Jewish pilgrims from all over the world gathered in Jerusalem to observe Pentecost; “there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven,” says our Sunday’s Epistle lesson.

The offerings of Pentecost; lambs, and kids, and loaves of bread: were signs and tokens of the gratitude and faithfulness of God’s people. They were signs of obedience to God’s commandments. It was a festival in which God was worshiped as the author of “every good and perfect gift.”

In this setting of the Festival of Pentecost, the Christian Church was born. In an upper room, at Jerusalem, the small band of disciples awaited the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of the Comforter. St. Luke describes the scene in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Wind and fire are ancient symbols of divine power and presence – The Breath of God, moving over the waters of chaos, producing the forms of life; breathing into lifeless clay, bringing forth a living soul; the breath of God in the Valley of Dry Bones, making those dry bones live. The fire of God: the refining and consuming fire of God’s wrath and God’s love, “A rushing mighty wind…and cloven tongues, like as of fire,” these are the mystical symbols of God’s coming in power.

Pentecost is for us a kind of harvest festival, an offering of the first fruits, The Word of God, sown in our hearts and minds, by the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, is brought to fruition, and we offer up to God the first fruits of the grace which He has given us.

Sts. Simon & Jude, Apostles

StsSimonJude3 Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the Saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the corner-stone (Ephesians 2:19)

October 28th is the Feast Day for St. Simon & St. Jude, Apostles and I’ll give a little history on both Apostles.

Simon is called Simon Zelotes, Simon the Zealot, in Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. He was one of the most obscure among the Apostles. Little is recorded of him aside from his name.

The name of Simon occurs in all the passages of the synoptic gospels and Acts that give a list of apostles without further details about him.

Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas, the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6:12-16, RSV)
We also know little about St. Jude the Apostle. “Jude of James” is only mentioned twice in the New Testament: in the lists of apostles in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13.

The name by which Luke calls the Apostle, “Jude of James” is ambiguous as to the relationship of Jude to this James. Such a construction commonly denotes a relationship of father and son, it has been traditionally interpreted as “Jude, brother of James”.

The John 14:22 mentions a disciple called “Judas not Iscariot”. This is generally accepted to be the same person as the apostle Jude. In some Latin manuscripts of Matthew 10:3, Jude is called Judas the Zealot. St. Jude is also traditionally recognized as the author the General Epistle of Jude.

According to the Armenian tradition, Saint Jude suffered martyrdom about 65 AD in Beirut, Lebanon together with the Apostle Simon the Zealot, that is why their feast day is connected together.

St. Simon and St. Jude were Apostles and as such are part of the foundation on which the Church stands. Of those who belong to the Church, Paul says that we who have come to Christ are no more strangers and foreigners. Paul uses three analogies in the Epistle reading to describe this relationship.

First, Paul says that we are “fellow citizens with God’s people.” We have entered a new kingdom. We have changed our citizenship and now we are under another authority. We take for granted the rights of American citizenship so much that we have almost forgotten the fact that we are under authority. The government has certain powers over us. We are under authority. That is the first mark of citizenship.

The thing that makes us rejoice in our citizenship is that we have certain privileges. In the kingdom of God we have the protection of a King. There is power available there, the power to raise us from the dead. That kind of power works beyond human thinking and planning. God invites us to call upon Him for that kind of resource, whenever we need it.

Second, we are “members of God’s household.” This is an advance on the first point. We are members of God’s own family. This is the great truth that Paul is trying to bring home to our hearts, which is that we have access to a Father who is the King.

Third, Paul goes on to describe an even closer relationship: you are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Perhaps that seems something of an anticlimax. As an analogy, a building is rather cold and impersonal compared with the relationship of a family, but in the structure of a building, no separation of stones that make up the walls is possible. If the stones are separated, the building crumbles. This analogy hints at the closeness of the structures in the kingdom. It also speaks to the strength of the structure with Christ being the very stone that holds it all together.

Always remember the sacrifice of those who helped build Christ’s Church, men like St. Simon & St. Jude. Remember that you are under authority, belong to a family, and a building, a holy temple which is not of this world. Your citizenship is in Heaven with Jesus and His Saints, so do as Our Lord Commands. Love your neighbor, even though he may persecute you. Finally, pray that God will join you to His Holy Temple, through the unity of the Spirit.

 

Implications of Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven

Ilya_Repin_Last_Supper_700It is now the end of the short season of the Ascension. On the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus told His disciples;

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning (John15:26 & 27).

Jesus tells His disciples to look ahead into the future, “When the Comforter is come.” This text  is from Christ’s farewell address to the Disciples at the Last Supper called the Last Discourse. It spans from John chapters 14 through 17. One of the main purposes of His address is to tell them that He is going to go away from them.

 
On Ascension Day, Jesus told the Apostles to pray for the Holy Ghost to come down. We know the Holy Ghost arrives on Pentecost. Anglicans call this day Whitsunday, named for the white garments worn by those who were baptized on that day.

 
In the Last Discourse, Jesus says that when the Holy Ghost has come He will, “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment.” He will show the world that it was wrong about what is right.
Dosso_Dossi_The_Ascension

 

The world thought Jesus was wrong, so the world killed him. Jesus’ Ascension proves that He was right, when He, “…goes to the Father, and they see him no more.” Who could possibly rise from the earth and enter the cloud of the presence of the Almighty except God Himself? If the one who went up is God Himself, then He must be right after all. Since He is right, we should pay attention to what He says.

 
The Proper Preface for the octave points to a second implication for the Ascension. It says that Jesus “…after his most glorious resurrection manifestly appeared to all his Apostles, and in their sight ascended up into heaven, to prepare a place for us.” That is an allusion to yet another part of Jesus’ farewell address. He says as a matter of introduction of the discourse to the apostles, “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not true, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:1-2).”

 
Those are comforting words. Jesus tells us that one major purpose of His Ascension is to get our places in Heaven ready. We don’t know exactly when He will return. We know from the first chapter of Acts, when the apostles asked Him, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power (Acts 1:6 & 7).” We know that if He bothers to go to Heaven to get our places ready, we can be confident that He will come back to get us. He will come back and take us to those heavenly places where we can be with Him forever.

Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father

Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father

Another purpose of the Ascension of Christ that we typically don’t consider is the completion the cycle of Old Testament sacrifice. God told the Hebrews to sacrifice animals as thank offerings for delivery from the slavery of Egypt and as propitiatory offerings to take away sins. The most important sacrifice came once a year, when the high priest carried the blood of the atonement offering into the Holy of Holies in the Temple at Jerusalem.

 
The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that the Holy of Holies in the Temple was just an earthly shadow of the real Holy of Holies which is the throne room of God in Heaven. It says, “Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24).”

 
In His Ascension, Jesus presents God with the blood of His sacrifice of Himself, just as the high priest presented the blood of the atonement offering. Jesus is both the priest and the victim. He is both the one who offers, the Great High Priest, and He is the sacrifice, the one who is offered. His sacrifice is perfect and not repeatable. God requires no more blood sacrifices.

 
In the Creed we say that Jesus is sitting down at God’s right hand. He can sit down. His priestly work is done. He doesn’t have to stand at any sort of altar. He pleads His sacrifice for us as our mediator and advocate, “…we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14).”

 
Jesus-coming-in-cloudsAs we look forward to Pentecost, and as we look farther into the future toward Jesus’ return, our hearts need not be troubled. Instead, we should rejoice in Christ’s glorious Ascension. He has shown the world who is really right. He finished His sacrificial work as our great High Priest. He has gone back to Heaven to get our places ready, and He will come again.

The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; A Christological Celebration of The Incarnation

The Annunciation

The Annunciation

In 692 AD, the council of Trullo, the Eastern Church set the date for the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary as March 25th. The dates relates to the dating of Christmas on December 25th. Today, March 25th, is nine months before Christmas, our Lord’s nativity.
The word “annunciation” is the anglicized form of the Latin Annuntiatio nativitatis Christi, or the announcement of the nativity of Christ, which you find in Luke 1:26-38. The festival celebrates the proclamation by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her son Yehoshua, which means”YHWH is salvation”. Jesus was named correctly; he is the way of salvation. “Jesus saith… I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).”
The passage from Luke gives the beautiful account of Gabriel’s appearance to Mary. The passage, does not focus on the words of the angel to Mary as much as on the character of Mary herself. Mary asks the angel, “But how shall these things be?” Gabriel responds, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in they womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest.” Mary asked how this could be, for she was a virgin. Gabriel responded to her that the Holy Ghost would come upon her and she would bear a son who shall be called the Son of God. Mary responded by saying, “Be it unto me according to thy word.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the perfect example of a humble acceptance of God’s favor. She trusts in God and is obedient to His will. Mary is the icon of the self-giving response of humankind to God’s redeeming purpose. Romano Guardini, one of the most important Catholic writers and thinkers of the 20th century said of Mary, “No one is like her, because what happened to her happened to no other human being.”
The Annunciation is a festival of our Lord Jesus Christ; a Holy Day celebrates the Incarnation of our Lord. Today, we celebrate a jewel in the midst of our Lenten fast. We celebrate the day that, “…the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. Let us remember the incredible grace given to us freely. Let us return thanks by living lives of humility and obedience. Lives that duplicate the trust and obedience to God’s will, shown us by the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Ember Days

ember-daysThe Wednesday of the First Sunday in Lent, is a day of fasting called an Ember Day. Biblical support for the fasts comes from Zachariah 8:19;

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.

Tradition ascribes the recognition of these days to Pope Callistus I (c. 218-225). By the fifth century, Ember days were associated with Ordination. It was traditional to confer Holy Orders the Saturday of the first week of Lent. In the Collect for the Ember Days, we pray for the Holy Spirit to inspire men to be drawn to the ministry of reconciliation, so that mankind may be drawn to God’s Kingdom. Ember Days fall on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the First Sunday in Lent, the Feast of Pentecost, September 14, and December 13.

The Epistle for Ember Days comes from Acts 13:44-49. In the Epistle, we read of Saints Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia. The Gospel Message is rejected by the Jews, and so the Evangelists turn to the Gentiles who gladly receive the message.

The Gospel reading for Ember Days comes from Luke 4:16-21 where we read of Jesus’ appearance in the synagogue of Nazareth. There, Jesus reads Isaiah 61:1-2;

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD

Jesus sits after reading the passage and proclaims, “This day, is this scripture fulfilled in your ears (Lk 4:21).” Jesus is saying he is the Messiah. He is the fulfillment of the prophets. He is God’s anointed one. He is the light to the Gentiles (Is 42:6, Lk 2:32 & Acts 13:47).

On Ember Days, we should pray for those discerning their call to Holy Orders. I also think there is a broader message. Jesus came to “…preach the gospel to the poor (Lk 4:18).” As the Body of Christ, we all have a calling, a role to pray in bringing the saving Gospel message to the poor. We, who are members of the Body of Christ, are a body of many members so that we may do Christ’s work in the world today. During Lent, and during the Ember Days this week, we should all reflect upon our calling to the ministry of reconciliation. We must ask ourselves if we are doing the work we are called to do.

In considering your work, think momentarily upon the Example of Mother Theresa. Mother

Mother Theresa

Mother Theresa

Theresa lived a humble life, feeding, clothing, and living amongst the poorest of the poor. She knew human need and answered God’s call to serve. She said in her book, A Simple Path;

The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Incarnate love every human needs. Jesus Christ is, “…the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever (Jn 6:51)” The Bread of Life is the only food that satisfies the human hunger for love.
People in our world are perishing from hunger. We learn from this week’s Gospel lesson that, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4).” No matter how well fed or hungry a person may be physically, if they do not receive the bread of life, the Word of God, they are perishing. Life comes from God’s Word. We must make every effort “to proclaim the good news to the poor (Lk 4:18).” The poor may be poor in estate, or poor in spirit. Indeed, there is a famine on earth, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD (Am 8:11).”

So, my friends and parishioners of St. James Church, God is love, and we possess the love of God by possessing His life. We receive His Body and Blood in Holy Communion. Jesus said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day (Jn 6:53-54).” The world is starving, starving for love. This hunger can only be satisfied by the love of God. We must share this infinite love of ours and bring life into the world.

Our Lord accepted his role of ministry. He must be the example of how we live in the world. We must pattern ourselves after his ministry of love and reconciliation.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Lk 4:18)

St. Michael and All Angels

St. Michael

St. Michael

There was a war in Heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven,

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Amen.

In from today’s Epistle, Gospel and Lessons for Morning Prayer, we can gather four things;

First, the universe is more complex than it appears. There are unseen forces that are at war with each other. Second and third, those unseen forces consist of Good and Evil. There is a universal battle between God, the Holy Trinity, and the angels of Heaven, of whom the archangel Michael is the battlefield commander in the fight against the spiritual forces of wickedness that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. Those forces of wickedness are that old dragon, Satan, and the demons of hell. Our Lord Jesus clearly took the threat of the demonic seriously. He confronted and vanquished that evil on a daily basis during his earthly ministry. Finally, we understand that it is Satan’s will that people’s minds be closed to the gospel and to the fact that the universe is more complex than it appears. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that open’s the mind to the truth, to the light so that we might be saved.

In our “scientific” age it is common for people to doubt the existence of anything that cannot be tested by the scientific method. In this age, however, developments in elementary particle physics show us that the same particle of matter can exist in two places at one time, that it can appear in one place and reappear in another without traveling the distance in between, and finally that forces in other dimensions or parallel universes have an effect on our universe. The force with trans-dimensional effect is gravity (gravity leakage used to explain why gravity is a “weak” force), the very force which keeps our feet to the ground and which keeps the Earth in orbit around the sun. Those forces sound supernatural, yet science accepts them and the theoretical explanations of their observed nature. Against that background, belief in unseen realms and forces should not seem far fetched.

In our modern age, we tend to think that ancient minds were simple and that they had simplistic ways of understanding the world. Consider however that the Greek philosopher Democritus envisioned the existence of particles that combine to form every type of matter, solid, liquid and gases alike. Without advanced scientific tools or methods, Democritus spoke of the atom, the object of some of the most advanced science of our age. This was 470 BC, around the same time that the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile. The point is that ancient minds could be quite perceptive about the nature of the universe and modern minds have the tendency to see the universe only as our world view allows.

St. Michael, an angel, is on the Church calendar. It is a Prayer Book Holy Day, so what is the deal?

We have no less authority than Jesus Christ Himself as witness that angels exist and that they are vital to our welfare. So the question remains, are angels a mistaken superstition or are they relevant to our age?

This question cannot be answered by scientific inquiry, however, when you turn to the record of man’s experience with these creatures, the positive evidence is overwhelming.

At this week’s Bible study, there were several accounts from modern, intelligent women who gave their testimony of how God had intervened in their lives to save them in time of grave danger.

Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are filled with the assumed factual presence of angels. The word angel means messenger. The Hebrews believed that God created an order of supernatural beings to serve Him. In man’s experience, angels serve as messengers who deliver messages between God and the world of men.

In scripture, the appearance of angels seems quite commonplace. Remember the childless Sarah, who stood laughing in her tent as she eavesdropped on the conversation between three angelic visitors and Abraham. The angels stayed for dinner. Mary, the Galilean peasant girl, learned from an angel that she was chosen of God to give human birth to the Messiah. It was from the angelic host that the shepherds heard that the Messiah had indeed come. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, angels came and ministered to Him. When the Apostles stood in front of the empty tomb at Easter, it was angels who explained to them what they seemed unable to grasp themselves. Again, at the Ascension, it was necessary for angels to tell the Apostles what they had witnessed but not understood. St. Peter may have lived out his days in a Palestinian prison, had not his guardian angel spirited him away for the work of God instead.

Similarly, virtually every culture in the ancient world accepted the existence of evil spirits. In the New Testament demons are referred to more than seventy times. They are most frequently referred to as daimonia, literally “little demons,” reminding us of their relative powerlessness before the awesome might of God’s only-begotten Son. In the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, demons are often associated with physical illness, including blindness and symptoms that look very much like epilepsy to the modern reader. Even more frequently demonic possession is described in ways that strongly resemble what we would call “mental illness,” ranging from catatonia to self-destructive behavior to uncontrolled outbursts of violence. Jesus directly confronts demons that cause these physical and mental problems and He expels them by a word of command, just as He cures physical ailments by His word and His saving touch.

Satan’s desire to deface the image and likeness of God borne by mankind prompted his temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden, and our First Parents tragically chose to betray the divine likeness they already possessed and joined in the demonic rebellion. The results of their Fall has been catastrophic for us, their children. We were meant to care for God’s world, yet we became weak and ill. We were intended to partake of the Source of Life and Light, yet we have inherited death and darkness. Satan and his minions have been highly effective in their wretched task. For millennia they have toyed with us before we return to the dust from which we came.

And it is not only the human race that suffers the effects of the Great Rebellion. St. Paul, in the eighth chapter of Romans, tells us “that the sufferings of this present time (Romans 8:18).” are part of the subjection of the whole created order! The whole Universe, not just mankind, groans in bondage to decay as a result of the fall (Look up the 2nd law of thermodynamics to see the results of the fall on all of creation).

It is now our turn to take our place in the line of battle. You and I are heirs through faith, repentance, and the waters of baptism to Christ’s authority to tread over “all the powers of the enemy (Luke 19:19).”

The enemy would have you be ignorant of this battle. That way he has the advantage of surprise in his attack. In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, it states that, “…if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not…” The devil is the god of this world to whom Paul is referring. But to those who have knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, this is a war that is already won. As is states in today’s epistle reading, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” The fact that the war is won does not mean that our battle will be easy. Our triumph only comes from our being conformed to the divine image of the One who sent us. St. Paul, one of the greatest of the spiritual warriors fighting at our side, no doubt had this in mind when he said in Galatians 6:17 that “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Let us not forget that you and I, like Paul, were sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever in our baptisms. And if we take up our crosses daily and follow after Christ; that will leave a mark on our hearts, and minds, and souls as well. And if we are transformed by our Savior’s cross, when the spiritual forces of darkness see us coming, they will see Christ and they will quake in fear and be subject to us in His holy Name. In Luke chapter 10, verses 16-20, Jesus addresses seventy people that he had sent forth in his name, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me. And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”

Long ago Satan and his demonic cohorts refused to bow to the image of God that is present in man. The powers of Hell have done everything they can to keep the divine image in Man from shining forth in the world again. But now Satan has no choice. For in Christ’s perfect obedience, even to death on the cross, the once defaced image of God has been fully restored in Him. The image of God radiates flawlessly from the Body that still bears the scars of perfect Love. Therefore, as it states in Phillipians Chapter 2 verses 9-11 “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Let us go forth as Christian Soldiers and do God’s work in this world. By going forth in His name, we tread Satan under our feet.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Role of Memory in Perceiving the Future

Memory, how does it serve us?  Why do we remember and what does memory do for us? While memory may serve a sentimental function, I believe that God made us in such a way that our memory serves to define us. It has an active function. Memory gives us a sense of who we are, as individuals and as a people, as a church and as a nation.  Memory also serves the function of giving us vision for the future.  When we are aware of our past, we can predict somewhat what the future will look like.  Without that memory, we lose our ability to envision the future.  That is why as a country we have national days of remembrance such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Veterans Day.  That is why as a church we celebrate Christmas, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost.

Josh Weiner, a seventh grade student at Southhampton Middle School in Bel Air, Maryland was asked to write an essay on, “Why we should honor America’s Veterans.”  It was published on a website for American ex-prisoners of war along with works by veterans and their family members.  From his letter, you can tell that the memory of America’s Vets is not lost to Josh.  Not only that, but the memory of America’s veterans has helped Josh develop a remarkable understanding of the cost of freedom and how that may impact his future.

He begins, “Veterans played a vital role in the freedom of American and in many other civilizations.”

Josh goes on to explain the hardships faced by America’s veterans in every conflict;

…in WWI and WWII, many young men joined the Armed Forces and were willing to give their lives and shed blood for their country. They also played a vital role in this century, and in centuries before.

In the Revolutionary War and every conflict to date, men gave their lives to ensure that America would have freedom. Freedom was not easily achieved. Many veterans suffered from various hardships that included starvation, severed body limbs, imprisonment and other horrendous tortures. Other wars brought different tortures. For instance during WWII, our veterans suffered excruciating pain during the Bataan Death March. Only the very strongest survived and many of our strongest died. Soldiers were taken to prisoner of war camps where they were barely fed. Strong soldiers were reduced to mere skeletons. Sacrifice was commonplace.

Then Josh does something remarkable, he shows that he understands that our war heroes started out as ordinary citizens;

Veterans look just like you and me. They have come from every culture, every race, every religion, every city and state. Veterans have carried rifles, fired howitzers, stabbed with bayonets, cared for their wounded and prayed for those in danger. Throughout all of their experiences veterans have displayed great courage and honor. My grandfathers fought in WWII and the Korean War. They were no different than any other veterans and they proudly served.

When writing about what civilians can do to honor our vets, Josh poetically writes;

…citizens can wear red, white and blue on Veterans Day to show that they care for the people who put their lives on the lines for the colors of the Star Spangled Banner. The stars resemble the twinkle of hope in everyone’s eyes; the blue represents the soul and the bravery; the white stripes are hope for a peaceful and bright future; the red represents the blood they shed for our Nation’s freedom; the stitches are all the people who have held the American ideals together.

Finally, the young man shows an understanding of the implications of cost of freedom on his future when he writes, “I don’t know if I will ever be a veteran, but I do know if I am called, I will do my part to keep the freedom of our Nation. It is a calling of honor and duty for all Americans.”

As a church, we must take care to preserve our memory, the memory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We must remember that He came to save us.  We must remember His remarkable works and His words.  We must remember that He shed His blood onCalvaryfor our sins and that He was raised from the dead on the third day, therefore death has no more dominion over those who have faith in Jesus.  We must remember that He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of His father.  We must remember that He will come again to judge both the living and the dead, and we must act like people who believe that.

Jesus, on the Thursday before Good Friday, told His disciples, “…the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

Memory is not something the Disciples could take for granted.  Their memory failed them as evidenced in Mark chapter 8.  When presented with the task of feeding five thousand, they asked, “From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?”  They doubted Jesus ability to feed the people.  These same men had witnessed Jesus cast out demons, heal the sick, heal the man with the withered hand, calm the stormy sea and raise a girl from the dead.  They had witnessed Him walk on water and they had seen him feed a multitude with five loaves of bread and two fishes, and yet when faced with a nearly identical situation a second time, they ask Jesus, “From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?” 

What was their problem?  Why was their memory so poor?  How could they doubt Jesus after all they had seen?  They had yet to receive the Holy Spirit.

In contemplating the passage, , “…the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” I would like to focus on the phrase, “bring all things to your remembrance.”  The Greek word for this phrase is, “hypomimnesko.”  The word is a combination of two Greek roots, “hypo” which translates “under” and “mimnḗskō” which translates “memory”.  This is a verb which literally means, “to cause to remember.”  So Jesus tells the men in the Upper Room that the Holy Spirit will come.  He came at Pentecost, fifty days after Passover, and caused the apostles to remember everything that Jesus taught them.

The Holy Spirit descended upon them as flames upon their heads.  They spoke in languages that were unfamiliar to themselves, but native to the Parthinians, Medes, Mesopatamians, Egyptians, Libyans and Romans that were present inJerusalemat the time.   

The scoffers said the men who spoke in these languages were drunk.  Peter said, it is too early for anyone to be drunk, and he preached that what is happening here is that God is doing what the Prophet Joel said he would do.   That is that, “it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28)

Peter went on, “And it is all happening because of Jesus, the man you connived to put to death just a few weeks ago. God raised him from his grave, just as King David prophesied in the psalms that he would do.”  The Holy Spirit brought this to Peter’s remembrance.

Peter ended his sermon with these words, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear . . . therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

Peter not only explained what was going on, but also in the process accused his listeners of being guilty of the murder of the Son of God.  He brought that fact to the memory of his hearers and they were “pricked in their heart . . . and said ‘What shall we do?'” Peter replied forthrightly, “Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Three thousand people responded.  Three thousand received the Holy Ghost.

In Deuteronomy chapter 6, God tells the Jews;

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

They did whatever they could to remember that God is one Lord and they are to love Him with all their heart, soul and might.  They taught that to their children.  They began their morning and evening prayer services with that passage as a prayer they named the “Shema” which means, “Hear”.  They wrote it on shawls they carried in their hands, they wrote it down on parchment and put it in a box that they tied between their eyes when they prayed and they wrote it in the posts of the doorways to their homes, all so that they would remember.

Can it be a coincidence that God made man in such a way that memory is important to his vision of himself in the future?  Neuroscientists who study the structures of the brain involved in memory have discovered that those same structures are involved in envisioning the future.  The past and future seem different yet they are intimately intertwined in our minds because the regions of the brain used for remembering the past are also involved in imagining future events. 

If we forget God, we lose hope for the future.  It may seem impossible to get out of that place.  In the Old Testament, whenever the nation of Israel forgot God, they fell into exile.  When they remembered God, they repented and their land was restored to them. That pattern occurred multiple times.  The three thousand people who were present inJerusalemat Pentecost repented, and they received the Holy Ghost.  The same is true for us. The only base that will stand the test of time is Jesus Christ.  When you remember the Lord Jesus, when you repent of your sins and build your life upon Him, loving Him and following Him, you are restored to light and life.  You then have a future.

Today, there are people who are actively working to expunge God from our collective memory.  They say that we are too smart a people to believe in old myths and that science contains all the answers we need.  The devil would very much like to see that happen and is working on each of us individually to make Church and the Gospel seem old-fashioned, irrelevant or perhaps just inconvenient.  Don’t make a deal with the devil.

We are the Church.  The Holy Spirit dwells in us.  Let us keep that memory.  Not only that, allow the Holy Spirit to work through you, each and every one of you to make the memory of Jesus hypomimnesko to this very age.  Allow the third person of the Holy Trinity to work through you and “bring to remembrance” everything our Lord Jesus taught us to this present age, an age that is trying hard to forget, and that will fall into exile if it forgets. With the Holy Spirit in us, we can bring vision for the future, we can be the very reflection of Jesus and we can help bring light, life and a future to this present age.  Let us keep our memorial.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

The Circumcision of Christ- Sermon for New Year’s Day 2012

The passage for the sermon is taken from the gospel reading;

And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called Jesus, which was called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

This year I was wondering, what are the most popular New Years resolutions.  Like most modern people I started with Google and searched “Popular New Years Resolutions.”  Here is a list of New Years resolutions that came from that search;

Drink Less Alcohol, Eat Healthy Food, Get a Better Education, Get a Better Job, Get Fit, Lose Weight, Manage Debt, Manage Stress, Quit Smoking, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, Save Money, Take a Trip and Volunteer to Help Others

Some of those are pretty good.  Some of those are benevolent.  They show a care for the body, fiscal responsibility, love of your neighbor, care of God’s creation, but without God in ones heart, any resolution to do better or to do good is vanity and does not please God.

The tradition of New Year’s resolutions is really old.  In fact, people started making New Year’s resolutions as early as date 153 BC in Rome.  Janus, a mythical king and God of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar. With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future. He became the ancient symbol for resolutions.  Those resolutions had mostly to do with seeking forgiveness from enemies and doing good to others in the new year.  The Romans also exchanged gifts on New Year’s Eve, usually giving items that were believed to bring good fortune to the recipients.

Not wanting to participate in holiday traditions that stemmed from worship of a pagan god, Christians replaced the tradition of making and gift giving resolutions with prayers and fasting. For example, the council at Tours in 567 AD speaks of The Circumcision of Christ as a fast day to position it counter to the pagan carnival of New Years.

Today is Sunday, and so it is a feast day and not a day of fasting.  It is a day, however, that everyone should prayerfully examine themselves, especially their motivations.

Ask yourself, “What forms my worldview?”  To put that questions another way, ask yourself, “What is it that makes me want what I want and do the things that I do?”

It is New Year’s Day and many of us set goals or make resolutions to behave differently in the new year.  We desire a different outcome in our lives for 2012.  If you have made goals or resolutions, I ask you, what informs your desire to change those behaviors?

Rather than giving us a goal or set of goals, the collect for today tells us how we should live our lives.  The content of the collect is informed by the today’s Gospel, but also by Derteronomy 30:6.

And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

This passage tells of a day when God will change people’s hearts in such a way that they might live.  This change came when God himself entered creation in the person of Jesus.

This gospel reading tells of Jesus’ circumcision.  It is Jesus parents who are obedient in this.  Jesus is marked as one of God’s chosen people, forshadowing His own baptism.  It is in baptism that we are all marked by the Holy Spirit and become one of God’s chosen people.

But the circumsision also shows that Jesus is incarnate.  “Incarnation” comes from the same Latin root “carne” from which we get the words “carnal” and “carnivorous”.  The word means “meat.” “In-carn-ation” means “coming into meat” or “coming into the flesh”. What is coming into the flesh is God, who is pure spirit. God comes into the world in a new and decisive way through the birth of Jesus. He shows himself to us in the way we can most easily understand. He becomes one of us.  His circumcision shows without a doubt that Jesus is indeed flesh.

The circumcision also prefigures baptism.  God tells Abraham in Genesis 17:10 “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.”  That was how men became part of God’s covenant with Abraham.  It was how men became member’s of God’s chosen people.  We become part of Christ’s incarnate body through baptism. As Jesus says himself, “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” We become part of the Church, the Body of Christ, through our baptism.  Then the spirit of God dwells in us and the law is written in our heart, fulfilling God’s promise in Deuteronomy.

In the collect, we are really praying for God to do to us what he promised in Deuteronomy.  We are also praying to be more like Jesus.  Listen to the collect.

Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The content of the prayer comes largely from verse 21 of the Gospel reading.  We ask God’s aid.  We ask to be circumcised of the spirit.  Here we are asking that God change what makes each of us individual; our spirit, our heart, our mind and our body.  We are asking that our heart, mind and body be cut off from, and die to (Remember that’s what it means to be “mortified”) the desires of the world and of the flesh.  Remember that word “carne” or “carnal” means flesh.  Finally we ask that, through Jesus Christ, we may be obedient to God’s will.

A little bit ago I asked you “What is your world view?” What informs what you desire, how you think, what goals you set and how you behave.  If you did everything in Jesus’ name, that is trying to be obedient to God in all things; what would your desires, thoughts, goals and behavior be like?

In Colossians 3:17, St. Paul commends that we do just that.  He says “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Col. iii, 17.)  When we say or do something in Jesus’ Holy name, we are saying, “Through this or in this, ‘God saves’”.  That’s what the name of Jesus means, “God saves.”  The name of Jesus is related to the Hebrew name Joshua.  It takes the Old Testament name for God, “Yahweh”, and combines it as “Yeho” with “shua” which means “saves” into the single name “Yehoshua” or “Joshua” meaning “God saves”.

 

St. John Chrysostom says this of the Holy Name of Jesus.  He says;

If we do this (that is doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him), there will indeed be nothing of evil, nothing impure, in our invoking of the Sacred Name.  If you eat, if you drink, should you marry, if you set out on a journey, do all in the name of Jesus; that is, calling upon Him to help you.  And having in all that you do invoked Him, then apply yourself to the thing at hand.

 

Wherever the name of the Lord is set up, all things prosper.  If it has power to drive way demons, if it can banish illness, much more will it aid your own actions.

 

So this what I ask you to do this day and this year.  While the calendar may say, Janus, or January, separate yourself, your heart, your soul and your mind from the desires of these pagan times.  Instead, seek the Holy Name of Jesus.  Seek to follow the will of God.  Let Jesus help form your thoughts, desires, goals and behavior.  Remember the power is in the name, Jesus, the name of the He who personifies and the name that means this simple statement, “God saves.”

 

In conclusion I’d like to make two points.  First, if you haven’t given your life to Jesus, make this the year and the day that you do so.  Jesus Christ alone has the power to save you.  Second, if you are trying to be a diligent follower of Christ, I ask you to dig deep.  Consider your motivations behind what you are doing with your life.  Ask yourself if they are informed by a deep seated love of God and a humble desire to serve Jesus Christ.  If you do all things in the Name of Jesus you will prosper in being Jesus hands and feet in this community, loving God and your neighbor in humble service.

 

Don’t take this power and calling lightly.  Remember what St Chrysostom said about the Holy Name of Jesus, “If it has power to drive way demons, if it can banish illness, much more will it aid your own actions.”  This year, and every year, go forth and resolve to be powerful servants for Christ.

And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called Jesus, which was called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.  Luke 2:21

This year I was wondering, what are the most popular New Years resolutions.  Like most modern people I started with Google and searched “Popular New Years Resolutions.”  Here is a list of New Years resolutions that came from that search;

Drink Less Alcohol, Eat Healthy Food, Get a Better Education, Get a Better Job, Get Fit, Lose Weight, Manage Debt, Manage Stress, Quit Smoking, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, Save Money, Take a Trip and Volunteer to Help Others

Some of those are pretty good.  Some of those are benevolent.  They show a care for the body, fiscal responsibility, love of your neighbor, care of God’s creation, but without God in ones heart, any resolution to do better or to do good is vanity and does not please God.

The tradition of New Year’s resolutions is really old.  In fact, people started making New Year’s resolutions as early as date 153 BC in Rome.  Janus, a mythical king and God of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar. With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future. He became the ancient symbol for resolutions.  Those resolutions had mostly to do with seeking forgiveness from enemies and doing good to others in the new year.  The Romans also exchanged gifts on New Year’s Eve, usually giving items that were believed to bring good fortune to the recipients.

Not wanting to participate in holiday traditions that stemmed from worship of a pagan god, Christians replaced the tradition of making and gift giving resolutions with prayers and fasting. For example, the council at Tours in 567 AD speaks of The Circumcision of Christ as a fast day to position it counter to the pagan carnival of New Years.

Today is Sunday, and so it is a feast day and not a day of fasting.  It is a day, however, that everyone should prayerfully examine themselves, especially their motivations.

Ask yourself, “What forms my worldview?”  To put that questions another way, ask yourself, “What is it that makes me want what I want and do the things that I do?”

It is New Year’s Day and many of us set goals or make resolutions to behave differently in the new year.  We desire a different outcome in our lives for 2012.  If you have made goals or resolutions, I ask you, what informs your desire to change those behaviors?

Rather than giving us a goal or set of goals, the collect for today tells us how we should live our lives.  The content of the collect is informed by the today’s Gospel, but also by Derteronomy 30:6.

And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

This passage tells of a day when God will change people’s hearts in such a way that they might live.  This change came when God himself entered creation in the person of Jesus.

This gospel reading tells of Jesus’ circumcision.  It is Jesus parents who are obedient in this.  Jesus is marked as one of God’s chosen people, forshadowing His own baptism.  It is in baptism that we are all marked by the Holy Spirit and become one of God’s chosen people.

But the circumsision also shows that Jesus is incarnate.  “Incarnation” comes from the same Latin root “carne” from which we get the words “carnal” and “carnivorous”.  The word means “meat.” “In-carn-ation” means “coming into meat” or “coming into the flesh”. What is coming into the flesh is God, who is pure spirit. God comes into the world in a new and decisive way through the birth of Jesus. He shows himself to us in the way we can most easily understand. He becomes one of us.  His circumcision shows without a doubt that Jesus is indeed flesh.

The circumcision also prefigures baptism.  God tells Abraham in Genesis 17:10 “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.”  That was how men became part of God’s covenant with Abraham.  It was how men became member’s of God’s chosen people.  We become part of Christ’s incarnate body through baptism. As Jesus says himself, “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” We become part of the Church, the Body of Christ, through our baptism.  Then the spirit of God dwells in us and the law is written in our heart, fulfilling God’s promise in Deuteronomy.

In the collect, we are really praying for God to do to us what he promised in Deuteronomy.  We are also praying to be more like Jesus.  Listen to the collect.

Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The content of the prayer comes largely from verse 21 of the Gospel reading.  We ask God’s aid.  We ask to be circumcised of the spirit.  Here we are asking that God change what makes each of us individual; our spirit, our heart, our mind and our body.  We are asking that our heart, mind and body be cut off from, and die to (Remember that’s what it means to be “mortified”) the desires of the world and of the flesh.  Remember that word “carne” or “carnal” means flesh.  Finally we ask that, through Jesus Christ, we may be obedient to God’s will.

A little bit ago I asked you “What is your world view?” What informs what you desire, how you think, what goals you set and how you behave.  If you did everything in Jesus’ name, that is trying to be obedient to God in all things; what would your desires, thoughts, goals and behavior be like?

In Colossians 3:17, St. Paul commends that we do just that.  He says “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Col. iii, 17.)  When we say or do something in Jesus’ Holy name, we are saying, “Through this or in this, ‘God saves’”.  That’s what the name of Jesus means, “God saves.”  The name of Jesus is related to the Hebrew name Joshua.  It takes the Old Testament name for God, “Yahweh”, and combines it as “Yeho” with “shua” which means “saves” into the single name “Yehoshua” or “Joshua” meaning “God saves”.

St. John Chrysostom says this of the Holy Name of Jesus.  He says;

If we do this (that is doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him), there will indeed be nothing of evil, nothing impure, in our invoking of the Sacred Name.  If you eat, if you drink, should you marry, if you set out on a journey, do all in the name of Jesus; that is, calling upon Him to help you.  And having in all that you do invoked Him, then apply yourself to the thing at hand.

Wherever the name of the Lord is set up, all things prosper.  If it has power to drive way demons, if it can banish illness, much more will it aid your own actions.

So this what I ask you to do this day and this year.  While the calendar may say, Janus, or January, separate yourself, your heart, your soul and your mind from the desires of these pagan times.  Instead, seek the Holy Name of Jesus.  Seek to follow the will of God.  Let Jesus help form your thoughts, desires, goals and behavior.  Remember the power is in the name, Jesus, the name of the He who personifies and the name that means this simple statement, “God saves.”

In conclusion I’d like to make two points.  First, if you haven’t given your life to Jesus, make this the year and the day that you do so.  Jesus Christ alone has the power to save you.  Second, if you are trying to be a diligent follower of Christ, I ask you to dig deep.  Consider your motivations behind what you are doing with your life.  Ask yourself if they are informed by a deep seated love of God and a humble desire to serve Jesus Christ.  If you do all things in the Name of Jesus you will prosper in being Jesus hands and feet in this community, loving God and your neighbor in humble service.

Don’t take this power and calling lightly.  Remember what St Chrysostom said about the Holy Name of Jesus, “If it has power to drive way demons, if it can banish illness, much more will it aid your own actions.”  This year, and every year, go forth and resolve to be powerful servants for Christ.

 

Feast of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle

Today, August 24th is the feast day for Saint Bartholomew the Apostle.  We know St. Bartholomew as one of the 12 disciples.  That is why we celebrate his Saint’s Day.  He is named in the Synoptic Gospels, that is in Matthew 10, Mark 3 and in Luke 6 where the 12 apostles are listed.  Bartholomew is a patronymic for “son of Tomai” or “son of the furrows”.  Perhaps he was a ploughman or the son of a ploughman, given his name.  In the Gospel of St. John, Bartholomew is traditionally identified with Nathanael.

In John 1:45 there is an exchange between Nathanael and
Jesus;

Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

Here, Nathanael questions Philip about the Messiah coming
from Nazareth, but he goes to meet Jesus nevertheless.  Jesus
recognizes that there is no deception in Nathanael.  Nathanael recognizes Jesus immediately as Messiah,
the Son of God.

In John 21, Nathanael is with Peter, Thomas, James, John and
two other unnamed disciples at Jesus’ appearance at the Sea of Tiberias, that being Jesus 3rd appearance after His resurrection.

Finally the last scripture reference to Bartholomew appears
in Acts 1:13.  He is there in the Upper
Room in Jerusalem with the other apostles at the time of Pentecost.

Tradition holds that Bartholomew made a missionary journey
to India.  Legend has it that he was an apostle to Arabia.  Finally, there
is an abbey constructed in Armenia where Bartholomew was supposedly martyred. It is there at Albanopolis that Bartholomew is believed to have converted King Polymius to Christianity.  The King’s
brother Astyages had Bartholomew skinned alive and then crucified upside down.  Icons and other art depicting St. Bartholomew show him holding his own skin.

In the Gospel reading for today (Luke 22:24-30), Jesus interrupts an argument among the disciples about who shall be regarded as the greatest among them.  They are there together at the Last Supper,
arguing about titles.  Jesus tells them that the greatest among you shall be as the youngest and the man that shall be chief shall act as a servant.  Asks them who is greater, the master who sits at the dinner table or the man who serves him?  Jesus says, “I am among you as he that serveth.”  I am the servant at that table.

By Jesus’ description, the greatest is not the person with the title.  It is the person who serves.  It is the person who does the will of God

Today, society looks up to rock stars, captains of industry, the intellectual elite, and sometimes even politicians.  The person who is held in high regard in Heaven is not a rock star.  It is through lowly, humble service here on earth, that you receive regard in Heaven.

An so it is with St Bartholomew, one of Jesus twelve, one who recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah, one who labored in travel for the spread of the comfortable Gospel of Jesus Christ and one who  gave his life for the Gospel.  May we be more like St. Bartholomew and offer our lives up in humble service to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.