St Bart's Day 2017

Bartholomew's Day 2017

Bartholomew is named in Matthew, Mark and Luke in the list of 12 apostles. His name comes after Philip and before Matthew and Thomas. In John there is no mention of Bartholomew at all. However John writes about Nathanael as Philip’s friend and he is mentioned in the short list of apostles in the fishing boat on the sea of Galilee after the resurrection. Here he is mentioned with Thomas and Peter, James, John and two others. It is therefore acknowledged that Bartholomew and Nathanael are one and the same person.  The most likely explanation for the two names is that Nathanael was his given name and Bartholomew a relationship name, one that identifies his family connection.

 

Nathanael means “gift of God” .What does your given name mean?

 

Do you know why you were given your name?

 

Bartholomew is a surname or family name, meaning ‘son of Tolmai’. Tolmai means “furrow” . . . his name is thus equivalent to ‘son of the ploughman’.

 

What does your family name say about you and your family?

 

What qualified Bartholomew to be one of the twelve inner group of disciples? Obviously it was because Jesus prayerfully discerned him to be a reliable and trustworthy man. Jesus could see his potential for leadership and to be a role model. Leaders are good role models.

 

How can you be a role model for other disciples of Jesus?

 

When Bartholomew and the other ten inner disciples met after the ascension of Jesus to choose a replacement for Judas, they decided that the new 12th man had to meet certain requirements. Firstly the person had to have been with Jesus from the start of Jesus’ ministry and secondly, had to have been a witness to the resurrection.

 

You, as a baptized disciple of Jesus, must be a witness to the resurrection. How do you think you can do this?

 

Bartholomew was certainly a missionary and took seriously his call to take the good news of Jesus out into the world. The heart of that news was that

1      Jesus was the visible image of the invisible God

2      Jesus died that we might have forgiveness and eternal life

3      God raised Jesus from the dead to guarantee this new life

Bartholomew was sent by the Holy Spirit to India and Armenia with the good news.

 

In what contexts are you called to live out the good news that Jesus is alive in you?

 

Kingdom of God

Sowing the Seed of Faith

Jesus talked a lot about the kingdom of God - it's wherever God is active in the world. 

Jesus explained that where God is active then things grow and grow positively. He said that the kingdom of God is like a small seed that is planted and grows into a huge tree. He also said that the kingdom of God is like a crop of grain that is sown in a field. Let's explore that.

Sowing seed by farmers in Jesus’ time was a hit and miss affair. The farmer did his best to prepare the ground and then threw the seed onto the soil. According to the parable of the sower that Jesus told, the eventual yield was very small because of a combination of opportunistic birds, dryness and poor soil. These days the whole process has improved dramatically with better knowledge of soil preparation, weed elimination and seed-planting technology. Some years ago in a country parish one of our farmer-parishioners purchased an air-seeder which was designed to optimize the planting. Other farmers from the district turned up to watch this 20th century marvel at work and very suitably impressed. Trouble was, even the best technology fails at times and when the crop of new wheat shoots emerged from the ground there were regular strips of bare soil between the rows of new wheat.

 

Jesus used the language of a farmer sowing seed to speak of the process of sharing our faith in God.

 

When he was with his disciples he sent them out to share with him in planting the seeds of the kingdom of God and as the resurrected Jesus was departing from them he sent them and their successors into the world with that responsibility. To do our best in faithfully doing what Jesus commanded, we must endeavor to understand the people that we are sharing our faith with. We must try to use words and concepts that they will understand; we must try to ensure that our example of living doesn’t conflict with what we are saying to them.

 

We must then make sure that the seeds of faith that are planted are well tended and watered.

The process of faith planting is a shared activity of the whole Church but each of us play our part; thus Paul wrote (1 Cor 3.6) "I planted, Apollos watered but God gave the growth". That’s right, out task is to faithfully plant seeds and water and ask God to do the growing.

 

Interestingly, Jesus’ life activity was just that, seed planting and watering, and he spoke of his own life as a seed that was planted in the ground – (John 12.24) I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus put his whole life into it as did the prophets before him; they gave their lives to plant the seed of faith in the lives of their hearers and in the same way Jesus died so that God’s kingdom could grow and people could be gathered in to join the risen Jesus in eternal life.

 

 

Pentecost

Pentecost is the significant festival that denotes the birth of the Christian church
by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost means "fiftieth day" and is celebrated
fifty days after Easter.

Remember before Jesus’ Ascension, he promised that he would not leave us
‘comfortless’, but would send the Holy Spirit to strengthen and to guide us.

The Day of Pentecost is the day that the Holy spirit came upon the apostles and
other believers. The gathered crowd was bewildered, because each heard them
speaking in the native language of each.

This created a sensation and the apostle Peter seized the moment and preached
to the crowd about Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins.
Thus, around 3000 converted and were baptised that day (Acts 2.1-41).

We use the liturgical colour red to recall the Holy Spirit descending like divided
tongues of fire resting upon each of them. Red signifies the work of the Holy
Spirit. Red also symbolises those who were martyred and held firm and true to
their faith from generation to generation and that it cost them their lives.

Pentecost, I would say is the third major festival observed by the church after
Easter and Christmas. God the Father's perfect Christmas gift of God’s one and
only Son, and Christ's Easter victory over the power of sin, death, and the devil
would be of no assistance to us if the Holy Spirit did not give us the gift of saving
faith.

Through the Word and Sacraments, the Holy Spirit gives us the faith which
believes and trusts in Christ as our Saviour. This precious gift of faith in the
saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ is the reason we should observe Pentecost
as the third major festival of the church and why we should celebrate it with such
joy and thanksgiving.

Blessings

Rev'd Pauline

Passionate Spirituality

Seeking for the Heart of the Bible 

What is the heart of the Bible? What is it that gives meaning and balance to the entire Bible and helps to give life, balance and direction in our following of Jesus?

Really, it’s better to ask WHO is the heart of the Bible . . . obviously it’s Jesus. He is the ALPHA, the beginning, eternal Word through whom all things came to be. He is in the endless present moments of life as companion and giver of life and purpose. He is the OMEGA, at the end of all, worshipped now with the Father. Jesus is the heart making sense of the whole scripture, foretold in the Old Testament and proclaimed in the New.

Most of us have a Bible-heart, whether a favourite book of the Bible or a group of verses or a theme.

When a Bible heart is identified and embraced, whether verses or themes, then the ‘heart’ becomes a yardstick, an interpretive medium, a lens through which the entire scripture is viewed, judged and measured.

People’s Bible hearts can be somewhat subjective, chosen and promoted for a variety of reasons.  There is however some Bible-heart objectivity when it comes to the writers of scripture.

 For the Jewish community before Jesus' time, the Bible heart may be seen as the unfolding revelation of God, God’s greatness and uniqueness.  This is reflected in the rewriting of the Bible in response to successive experiences of God such as the exodus, the exile and restoration. Thus the heart of the Bible for the Jewish people may also be seen in their understandings of God and God’s dealing with the world and God’s people . . . God as creator, deliverer, covenant maker, law giver

It’s easier to identify heart themes in the Old Testament rather than particular heart verses, although there are some repetitive formulae that served as heart verses for the Jewish faith communityeg  Deut 6:4Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  This also appears to have been a heart-verse of scripture for Jesus who was formed within that faith community.

Heart verses also emerged for the early church community as a result of their experience of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Heart verses for the early church were those OT scriptures that spoke of Jesus.

The Gospel writers had heart themes that guided their writing. For Mark it was the passion. For Matthew it was the Gospel in the service of the church. For Luke it was the picture of God as compassionate seeker of the lost and for John, it was Jesus revealed as the way, the truth and life.

Today in the reading from John’s Gospel we see the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus where Jesus tells him that he must be born again, and we have the most famous of Bible verses, John 3.16. I once heard Rev Gary Parker thunder this from the pulpit at St George’s Hamilton Sotuh in Newcastle and keen observers of both the summer and winter Olympics will see spectators holding placards on which is written simply, John 3.16.

God in Christ is asking us to think about who Jesus is and then to make a choice to name him and follow him as Lord. We can’t dodge this question by referring to what others say, write or believe. He asks us!

 What is you scriptural heart? Do you have a group of scriptures that nourish you, spread into your relationships, and help you to interpret and make sense of the whole scripture and your life in Christ.