St. Bartholomew 24th August 2014
The church asks us today to remember St. Bartholomew.
What do we know about him? We’re not even sure of his name – either Bartholomew or Nathaniel. Various sources have him working as a missionary in India, and Armenia and that he died a martyr in Armenia. But perhaps the most outstanding thing about Bartholomew is that we really know very little about him. He was a regular guy, a normal bloke, not one of the outstanding well-known disciples. Just like one of us. Yet he was still faithful to God’s call.
Perhaps that is why the Anglican lectionary asks us to read Luke 22: 24-30 as the Gospel passage on the feast of St. Bartholomew. … The disciples squabble among themselves about who is the greatest and Jesus in exasperation says to them: “The greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
If Jesus is to be our pattern for life, then his call is to serving and not to power, to faithfulness rather than to success, and to giving God’s call first place in our lives. It is a call to being ordinary people at God’s disposal, part of a greater cause – the coming of God’s kingdom.
Jo (my wife) and I follow the Northumbrian office when we pray together in a morning. The reflections that are provided for August focus on Iona. This was Friday’ 22nd August’s reflection:
“Back in 561 AD St. Columba arrived on Iona with 12 disciples (13 ordinary men who set up a small community on Iona) and to their great surprise that faithful action began one of the great missionary movements in history.
Many years later in 1938, George Macleod also arrived on Iona with 12 other people – half were craftsmen without jobs and them other half were students training for the ministry. Together, they began the rebuilding of the abbey and monastery which had been derelict since 1561. A group of ordinary men.
George Macleod recounts that the group needed money to start the restoration. He says:
“I wrote to the richest man I knew. He replied that I should immediately visit a psychiatrist. Then I tried Sir James Lithgow – now I’m a pacifist – Sir James built warships on the Clyde at his Govan shipyard. He was interested but asked me to give up my pacifism in return for a donation of £5000 (a very large sum in 1938). I said ‘Not on your life.’ Then,’ said Lithgow, ‘I’ll give you your £5,000.’ I’m glad I held to my principles.”
“We were working during WW2 and materials were very hard to obtain: the government commandeered all timber for the war effort. But a ship coming from Canada struck a storm and jettisoned its cargo of lumber in the Atlantic. The timber floated 80 miles and finally landed on the coast of Mull just opposite Iona. And it was all exactly the right length. It roofs the library today.”
George Macleod’s ordinary men trusted in our extraordinary God and their faith bore fruit.
St. Bartholomew’s life – the person who we remember today – suggests that ordinary people can achieve important things by being faithful to what God wants, by being faithful to God’s call. The amazing story from George Macleod of Iona is a clear example of circumstances and God’s intervention coming together to allow ordinary men and women on Iona to create something beautiful.
What might be the ordinary thing be that God is calling you, or us, to do? What might turn out to be our ‘Iona’? What might be the place where the ordinary people that we are, see God providing for us and for our community?
Is God calling you to be his ordinary faithful disciple? I hope so and I pray so.