Sermon for the Feast
of St Bartholomew - Apostle
Acts 5. 12-16
Luke 22. 24-30
Amid the sea of green - which is the colour of the church for
all the Sundays after Trinity, today we are red in honour of
St Bartholomew, whose feast day this is.
How many here are sometimes
known by two names? Maybe one in the family and a different one
at work? When my mother first met my father, she quickly discovered
that although he was always called Jack - his given name was
really John - but he hated being called that, as it made him
think he was being ticked off! He also said that he had one
brother and two sisters. The brother was OK - he was called George,
and nothing else. But his sisters were referred to as both Flo
and Pat; and Lizzie and Lil - Mum found it most confusing to
Well, Bartholomew is like that
- one person with two names - he is sometimes also associated
with the disciple named as Nathaniel in the New Testament, and
was one of the closest friends of Jesus - one of the twelve.
We first meet him in John's gospel as being introduced into the
fellowship of Jesus by Philip. His name, coming from the Aramaic
Bar - Tolmay may simply mean that his father was called Tolmay
- or rather interestingly for us, it may also mean "Son
of the furrows" - suggesting that he came from a line of
ploughmen or farmers! If so, then he is a balance to all those
fishermen traditionally numbered among the apostles He is also
listed by each of the other Gospel writers - always in the company
of Philip - and is definitely among those who witnessed the Ascension.
It seems likely that he was
a down-to-earth sort.... initially rather sceptical that the
Messiah could possibly come from such a remote backwater as Nazareth,
but Jesus immediately recognises him as "a man in whom there
is no deception or guile." Later Nathaniel (Bartholomew)
recognized Jesus as both the "Son of God" and also
as "King of Israel"
After the resurrection, Bartholomew
/ Nathaniel seems to have travelled east and the site of his
martyrdom is in historical Armenia. Some traditions have him
visiting India on a missionary tour, and leaving behind there
a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. Others say that he travelled
to Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia and Lycaonia, then embarked
for India and finally to Greater Armenia, (now in south-eastern
Turkey or Azerbaijan) where his earthly life ended.
Both Eusebius of Caesarea (in
the early 4th Century) and Saint Jerome, writing in the later
4th Century place the apostle in India - and some maintain that
his missionary work was centred on the ancient city of Kalyan
- in the Bombay (Mumbai) region.
He shares patronage of the
Armenian church with St Jude and he is reputed to have converted
Polymius, the king of Armenia to Christianity, which so annoyed
his brother, Astyages that he had him executed. The manner of
his death is suitably gory - so I won't distress you here - suffice
it to say he has become the patron saint of Tanners!
His relics were by various
miracles supposedly appeared in various places in Italy, eventually
being conserved in the basilica of San Bartolomeo in Rome. Because
this church eventually inherited an old Pagan Medical centre,
the Saint's name has with time, come to be associated with medicine
and hospitals - and apart from the church dedicated to this saint
in Penn, in our own deanery, many will have heard of the world-famous
St Bart's Teaching Hospital in London.
There are two rather curious
miracles associated with the Saint - or rather with a Silver
Gilt statue of him from the Cathedral dedicated to him in the
town of Lipari in Italy. Each year - on his feast day - the good
people of that town would process around the streets carrying
the image of the Saint .... (You will have seen pictures of the
sort of religious processions much loved of the Mediterranean
nations!) One year the statue seemed to get heavier and heavier
- so much so, that the men carrying it were forced to put it
down and rest. They tried a second time, and a second time were
forced to stop and rest it. Shortly afterwards, some walls further
downhill of the statue collapsed. If the statue could have been
lifted, many of the townspeople would have been killed. So maybe
the Saint was trying to save the lives of those who so venerated
Then, years later during WWII,
the Fascist regime - getting strapped for cash - thought of melting
down the statue for its silver content. But when the statue was
weighed, it was found to be only a few grams.... so they never
bothered with it and it was returned to the Cathedral in Lipari.
In reality the statue is made from many kilograms of silver and
it is considered a miracle that it was not melted down... although
maybe this has more to do with some faulty measuring devices!
But whatever the explanation,
St Bartholomew is credited with many other miracles having to
do with the weight of objects.
Of course, because the Bible
in fact gives us so little details about the early companions
of Jesus, Bartholomew's 'biography' has been greatly added to
over the years as people have sought to provide interesting detail
to augment the few nuggets of information that we have.
So what are we to make of Bartholmew,
and what can he teach us today about what it means to be a follower
of Jesus of Nazareth? Well, perhaps his basic honesty and integrity
- as recognised by Christ, is the main quality to which we could
Also that we may find that
listening to God's call may take us along unexpected paths -
to places and situations that we would never have contemplated?
But if we keep with us the
basic message of the Gospel - remember Bartholomew seems especially
close to that of Matthew - then we may have long-reaching and
long lasting influence on others - beyond our wildest dreams.
And if we can keep to all that
- our lasting memorial may be one of healing the wounds in God's
wonderful, but sadly broken world.
August 2014 - Sunday Evening- Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs
Sermon for St Bartholomew's
Day - evening 2014
Ecclus. 39. 1-10
Matthew 10. 1-22
So last night he arrived!
The new Doctor Who....
We have known for months that Peter Capaldi was to take over
from Matt Smith in the eponymous role. But how would they manage
the regeneration? And how would the Doctor's companions react
to his new (and much older) persona?
Now on one level, this is just
a TV programme - and one aimed at children - or at least aimed
at the child in each of us... On another, I have long argued
that the premise of an extra-terrestrial being who is always
looking out for the human race in the face of evil has a lot
of biblical overtones... Indeed it probably only really makes
sense (and holds a deep fascination) to those of us raised in
a Judeo-Christian culture.
Just think about our first
reading tonight - from the Apocrypha, true, but still part of
the Canon of Scripture... A reading that speaks of one who comes
seeking wisdom... one who works to preserve the past ...one who
is at home with mystery .... one who will travel in foreign lands
and who battles with what is good and evil in the human lot.
Are we discussing a prophet,
a priest, a Messiah, or Dr Who?
Now I don't want to push the
analogy too far - because like all metaphor, it eventually breaks
Dr Who is not a human being.
He may have a great affection for the human race and our strange
blue-green planet lurking out here on the arm of the spiral galaxy
that is the Milky Way, but he is undeniably an Alien when all
is said and done.
Jesus - the messiah we worship
- was totally human (as well as being totally divine) His was
a body that truly died, and resurrection is not the same thing
as regeneration - although it seems that in both cases, his
friends have a hard job recognising the new identity!
And what about our second reading
for this, the Festival of St Bartholomew? Well, if the first
reading tells us something about the one we follow, then the
second reading tells us something about what it means to be one
of those followers, to be a disciple. And there is good news,
Bartholomew - one of the 'Bethsaida
boys' - as I remember a biblical archaeologist once describing
the disciples to me, the one who is always a close companion
of Philip and one of the trusted 12. Bartholomew - who might
well have been a farmer - would have been one of those that
Jesus sent out as his special messengers. They are sent first
and foremost as healers - although their mission at this point
in the story is restricted to the lost sheep of Israel. No matter....
Bartholomew would eventually venture far beyond the confines
of the Holy Land.... to India and beyond! But all that is in
the future. For now they are sent out in twos to bring Good News
and healing to their compatriots in Israel. And they are to do
so freely. Both giving and receiving is to be an important feature
of their new life in Christ.
It is a bit like being taught
to drive for the first time. Now they get a turn in the driving
seat.... but they still have the L plates up it seems!
They are to accept hospitality
wherever they find it, and they are not to waste their energy
on those who are not open to the message they bring.
We can imagine 'the lads' listening
with mounting excitement as Jesus tells them of the task they
are to undertake and promises to confer some of his power on
Then comes the downside of
the rollercoaster! Having been built up, they are brought down
to earth with a bump.
Not only are they to take no money with them ('for emergencies'
as my Mum would have said!) but they are to expect a pretty rough
And what is all this about
being "as wise as a serpent and as innocent as doves?"
How can anyone be both?
Well, perhaps what Jesus is
trying to tell us is that both are useful qualities and characteristics
for those who devote themselves to God's work. But without some
innocence, shrewdness - our native intelligence - our craftiness
even, can become manipulative of others.
Equally, without some shrewdness, our innocence can become just
naievety - and nothing is more annoying that one who goes through
life being totally gullible and easily fooled.
No, it seems that if we are
to accept Jesus into our lives - become his disciples, his apostles,
then we have to adopt some of his characteristics also and that
means holding these two aspects - shrewdness and innocence, in
some kind of creative tension within ourselves.
Bartholomew was to go out -
to travel widely in foreign lands, carrying the Good News. His
ministry was to last another thirty years or so after witnessing
to the resurrection - so he must have used both shrewdness and
innocence to survive so long in what was a hostile world to the
Christian message.... as perhaps it still is today? True, at
the end he would meet his fate in martyrdom, but only after he
had travelled perhaps as far as India and taken his message -
taken Jesus' message with him, proving himself to be a 'good
and trusty servant' to his master. And so at the end we can
imagine him embracing death, knowing that he had succeeded in
the task he had been given and would pass to his eternal reward.
May the same be said for each of us in our turn! Amen.