24 August 2008
We observed the day of St. Bartholomew today, and I mentioned in the sermon how he is not a very popular apostle. No words of his in the synopics. Of course there is the faithful declaration after Jesus told him He saw him (Bartholomew/Nathaniel) under the fig tree. Not too many people name their kids Bartholomew like John, James, Matthew, Peter, Paul and Thomas.
At our church above the altar and around the crucifix are the symbols of the blessed apostles. If you haven't been you can see a pic on the website http://www.stpaulsbrookfield.com/ but...
St. Bartholomew isn't up there. St. Paul got his spot, being our patron I guess he needed a place. I suppose it would have been quite uneven to have 13 up there, so Bartholomew was chosen somehow to be the one left out. Even, St. Matthias, the replacement, got his shield up there before Bartholomew, one of the first to be chosen.
Now I think I kind of like this actually. His absence on the altar goes very nicely with the Gospel for his day, Luke 22:24-30. Our Lord saying "not so among you"; greatness found in being last, in service, with our Lord being the One who serves. So I've been pondering the Ministry today.
It is OK for us preachers not to be known, to hide ourselves in vestments now and to be hidden in the earth when we die, forgotten. Most of us will not be fondly remembered, and if we are remembered it might be as "oh pastor X, he was strict." We should not wish to be remembered at all I don't think, trying to make a name for ourselves, but rather our office is to serve Christ and have Christ serve those He redeemed through us in the preaching and the ministrations.
Most of us preachers will be lost to history; sure we'll have a little obit in the Lutheran Witness, if there will still be such a thing when we die, and that will be that. Our families might remember us, but after a while they'll die too. We'll be the great-great grandpa who was a preacher. Maybe our name will be in a history book of the parishes we served, but if our parishes endure there will be a time when no one we baptized will be around, no one we preached to will be able to say, "I heard him." And this is all just fine, because it is not we who are to endure, or our memory, but Christ, His Word, His Work, those things will endure and the fruit of all that will be revealed when the Blessed Twelve, Bartholomew included, will be on their thrones in the Kingdom and we'll see them and all those who heard and believed the Apostolic preaching that came out of our own mouths will be there too. And our Lord Jesus Christ will remember us; He has promised that.
For now we should take comfort in being least, in being left out, being derided and rejected by men for such happened to the prophets who were before us, and the apostles too, and much worse. Remember, St. Bartholomew got skinned alive, but he will receive a throne, Jesus promised that. And Jesus promises a place for us too, and He's seen to it that we'll get it.
So as men redeemed to live eternally we can bear this office, knowing that like Bartholomew we might be lost to men, living as servants, maybe dying as the least, maybe with service not remembered, but in this is the greatness of Christ. And this is just fine.