Sunday, June 25, 2017

Windows - Let the Light Shine

In the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

Anyone got dandelions?  I remember as a child that delight of holding a dandelion that has gone to seed.  You make a wish and then you blow.  Whether or not my wish ever came true, the seeds scattered to make new dandelions.  What power there is in a dandelion!

I think of Pentecost as a dandelion.  All that potential in the Upper Room after the Resurrection.  Then a mighty wind bursts it open and the Gospel, carried by the disciples, blows to the corners of the earth.

2000 years later, here we are, the Gospel, planted in Prineville. The long green season after Pentecost invites us to become disciples ourselves, to grow, and once again to carry the Gospel.

Once a week we gather in this place to learn how to do that, to examine the Scripture, take stock of our potential, and once again to pledge our lives to Christ.

I don’t know about you, but every once in a while, whatever the words are that fill this place, at some point my eyes are drawn to the building itself.  During the Holy, holy, holy, I look to the rafters.  During the lessons, I look to the windows.  They are not a distraction.  They are here for that purpose.  The long tradition of church windows is to preach the Gospel in picture form.

Our windows are of the first disciples.  And I wonder if you know the stories they tell.  They are stories about discipleship.  The green season is about growing in discipleship.  Paul said, The death Christ died, he died to sin.  But the life he lives, he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 

What does that life look like, alive to God in Christ Jesus?  Our windows surround us with examples.  So I resolve to tell their stories this summer.  Part One, today is four windows on my right.  Part Two will come in two weeks, wrapping around.  Part Three is the first week in August, ending with our own St. Andrew.

So this plan nearly came to shipwreck at the start when I saw Jude holding that ship.  Why a ship?  Jude isn’t listed among the fishermen that Jesus called.  Later, his missionary journeys to Syria, Mesopotamia, Libya, Persia, we know it now as Iran – all of these destinations are reached by land.

Sometimes Jude holds a club.  The iconography of martyrs often includes the instrument of their death.  Those who lose their life for my sake will find it.  And many of these here did so literally.  But most often you find Jude holding a medallion with the face of Jesus.  The story goes that he used such a medallion in a miracle of healing.  Why a ship?  I didn’t find an answer.

Oh well, Jude is the patron saint of desperate causes.  I thought I could spin something out of that ship with that.  Helen did it for me.  She remembered a trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts.  There is a monument there to all the fishermen who sailed to sea from Gloucester and never came back, with a list of their names, thousands of names.  Names are repeated, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles.  How many of these men cried out to Jude, the patron saint of desperate causes as the waves broke over them?

Some who cried out were saved.  Some drowned.  But as the Gospel promises, not one of them was lost. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one will fall apart from your Father.  Even the hairs of your head are counted.

We, too, cry out, in desperate situations: the failing business, the foundering relationship, the frightening disease.  The waves break over us, and sometimes we do go down.  But we are not lost.  We are never lost.  As Christ’s face was on Jude’s medallion, so our face is held in Christ’s heart.  We are defeated.  But we are held.  We are never lost.

Simon comes next.  It is appropriate that Simon stands next to Jude, because they were traveling companions.  They were both martyred, though by different means.  That saw refers to Simon’s means.  Ew.

Before that, back in the gospels, Simon is called Simon the Zealot.  The Zealots were a political party who advocated resistance and the overthrow of the Roman occupation.  Simon must have been encouraged by Palm Sunday.  It was an overtly political act for Jesus to enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  He evoked a prophecy of the monarchy’s return.  It was a counter demonstration to Pilate’s entrance from the other side of the city, on a grand horse, under a grand Roman banner.  And the crowd ate it up.  The people were with Jesus.  The time was right.  Let the revolution begin!

So Jesus confused Simon a few days later, at the Last Supper, when he said that soon the world would see him no more.  Simon said, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”

Jesus had a different revolution in mind.  And when Simon discovered that his politics were different from Jesus’ politics, guess what he did.  He changed his politics to match that of Jesus.  Simon was a zealot now for the Gospel.  Now there’s a saint for us to study today, examining his own views in the light of Jesus, and when there was a conflict, making the change.

Thomas is one of my favorites.  I have been looking forward to his story.  You know him as Doubting Thomas.  Maybe you don’t know that when the other disciples tried to get Jesus to stay away from Jerusalem, Thomas said that he would go with Jesus.  And if it turned out that way, he would die with him.  So he was the only one not cowering in the Upper Room on Sunday night.  He was out scouting for action.

The Acts of Thomas is an extracanonical work.  That means, when they were putting together the New Testament, it didn’t make the cut.  It expands the story about that time between the Ascension and Pentecost.  The disciples spent those ten days mapping out their missionary strategy, who goes where.  Thomas was assigned to India.  He wasn’t sure about that.

After Pentecost, everybody goes out.  He was walking around the docks on the coast, when Jesus showed up.  "Remember," Jesus said, "which one is the slave, which one is the master.  I hear you’re going to India."

Thomas said, "But I don’t speak the language; I hear it’s awfully hot; I got a tricky tummy – don’t they eat a lot of spicy foods?"

So Jesus approached a ship’s captain.  “You see that guy over there?  He’s my slave.  He’s for sale.”

“A sailor?”

“No, he’s a carpenter.”  [Notice he’s holding a carpenter’s square.]  “He can make repairs while on ship, and you’ll get a good price for him on the resale when you land.”

So the captain made the purchase, then walked up to Thomas.  Pointing to Jesus who was over buying some figs, he said, “Is that your master?”

“Yes, he is, my Lord and my God.”

“Well, your Lord and your God just sold you to me.  We board in an hour.”

“Let me guess,” Thomas said.  “India?”

But that’s not the way Jesus operates, is it, not by compulsion.  He calls, and then he waits.  Before the ship sailed, he gave Thomas the price of his freedom, and let Thomas decide whose slave he would be.

The spear, that’s a story for another day.  On to Bartholomew.

Bartholomew is the patron saint of Armenia, which is where he was martyred.  There is another extracanonical book, the Gospel of Bartholomew.  Hence the pen and the book in his hands.  It doesn’t really tell us anything about Bartholomew himself.  Not much else is known about him.

After striking a blank in my research, I got all excited when I found a hymn for St. Bartholomew’s Day, August 24th.

God of saints, to whom the number of the starry host is known;
Many saints by earth forgotten live forever round your throne.

[Not a promising start…]

                                All his faith and prayer and patience, all his toiling and his strife,
                                All are veiled from us, but written in the Lamb’s great book of life.

So, that didn’t help.  

But it got me to reflect on all the saints by earth forgotten who live forever round the throne.  Not all of us are glamorous, or notorious, or have a great fan club that records our mighty deeds and entertaining idiosyncrasies.  Sainthood doesn’t require those things.  We meet saints everyday who are just doing their job, doing it with honor, honesty, compassion, generosity, courage, graciousness, whatever it is, wherever they are placed in this life.  Blown by the Spirit into the world, they make a witness to their Lord.  They make a difference to our lives.  The light shines through their lives to reveal the Good News of God in Christ.

You can think of somebody like that.  Maybe you are somebody like that.  You, me, Bartholomew, whether anybody remembers us 2000 years from now or not.  Jesus does.

What does your window look like? 

Think about that this summer.

To be continued…

photo of dandelion in public domain
all other photos by author

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