St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Transferred)
Sunday, August 25, 2019
Trinity, Worcester

Photo: The newest members of Trinity Church who made public Affirmation of their Baptisms on the Festival of St. Bartholomew. 

Watch Here (Minute 16:40)

In the name of Jesus. AMEN.

The church commemorated Bartholomew yesterday, but we transferred the commemoration to today in order to have a festival Sunday of baptism and reception of new members. When I searched the Bible for references to Bartholomew, I found only four. Three of the references to Bartholomew came in the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

In these references, Bartholomew is named as one of the first 12 disciples, called and chosen by Jesus for mission. Bartholomew doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but he is named as one of the original 12, Jesus called and sent:

  • to have authority over unclean spirits
  • cure every disease and sickness
  • proclaim the good news
  • cleanse lepers
  • and cast out demons

The fourth referencde to Bartholomew is found in the first chapter of Acts. Bartholomew was among the apostles who experiended the ascension of JEsus into heaven and was on of the 11 apostles at that time “constantly devoting themselves to prayer” and who cast losts to choose the successor to Judas.

So put those references together and here’s what scripture tells us about Bartholomew: he was called and sent by Jesus to have authority over unclean spirits, to cure every disease and sickness, to proclaim the good news, to cleanse the lepers, to cast out demons, while in a community constantly devoted to prayer.

With that in mind, we come to today in the life of Trinity Church.

This morning we celebrate the baptisms of Patrick and Joscelyn.

After they are baptized, we celebrate that James, Tom & Marc, Georgena & Yasmin, Jeff, Dave & Karen, Suzanne for herself and for her sons Matthew and Benjamin, will make Affirmation of Baptism and will join this congregation as members.

In our baptisms, we are called like Bartholomew! In our baptisms, Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, names us, claims us, and sends us as apostles, joining us to the mission of the original 12 disciples that continues to be lived out in the church today.

Parents, you are not getting your kids done today. This is not a “dunk and dash” that provides a magical covering for Patrick and Joscelyn so that they can be protected in whatever lives they choose for themselves. Today, like Bartholomew, like each of us in our own baptisms, Jesus himself chooses the lives Patrick and Joscelyn are called to live.  Lives that will have authority over unclean spirits, to cure every disease and sickness, to proclaim the good news, to cleanse lepers, to cast out demons, to join the community of the church in prayer to experience the resurrected Christ living among us.

And new members, as you join Trinity today, and people of Trinity as we receive these new members, we are reminded that this is not an induction into a social club.  This is not the Viking Club, or the Swedish Heritage Club, as important as those organizations might be. Trinity Church is a community of disciples, called like Bartholomew, to have authority over unclean spirits, to cure disease and sickness, to proclaim the good news, to cleanse lepers, cast out demons, and in constant devotion to prayer to experience the living Christ among us.

In these baptisms and in these affirmation of baptisms this morning, we experience today the new ways in which the Holy Spirit calls and sends disciples of Jesus today, like Bartholomew and the original 12 apostles, in mission, service, and in prayer.

This summer, I preached on the theme of hospitality. Sunday after Sunday, the scriptures presented various themes of hospitality. But today, inspired today by the call of Bartholomew, and those baptized and making affirmation of baptism today, I am announcing that my sermons going forward will focus on the theme Discipleship.

 My sermons will focus on completing the sentence:  Disciples of Jesus … (fill in the blank). 

Today, in this first sermon of that series, we recognize and celebrate that disciples of Jesus are called like Bartholomew.  We are called like Bartholomew to exhibit authority over unclean spirits, to cure disease and sickness, to cast out demons, to proclaim the good news, while being a community of prayer.

How do we do that? How do we do those seemingly impossible sounding things? Here’s a proposal.

The ELCA has recently produced materials for conversational study and reflection on matters of race. Beginning in September, the ministry staff, Mark, Jena, and I, will each be leading a session throughout the week using these materials for conversation and study. We’re offering these three sessions of the same materials, to make it as convenient as possible for each of you to attend.  The sessions will be held Sundays at 9:00am and 11:45am and Wednesdays at 7:15pm.

It has been said that racism is this country’s original sin and it is clear that matters of race continue to hurt, wound, and kill – as we saw a few weeks back in the shooting at the Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, people are dying, are getting shot and killed, because their skin is the wrong color.

A friend of mine, of African descent, just two weeks ago as asked to facilitate a conversation on race in a congregation in a western suburb of Boston. In this liberal suburb in liberal Massachusetts one might have assumed issues of race would not be an issue. The black pastor in that congregation in that white liberal town, however, experienced such racism in the town, he finally ended his call and moved out of the Commonwealth.

Racism is this country’s original sin and we need to talk about it. In this day and age, an “I’m not racist” is not enough. Race continues to be a defining feature in this country and we need to be aware of its full impacts.

As a way in which to have authority over unclean spirits, as a way to cast out demons, as a way to proclaim the good news of the unconditional love of Jesus Christ available for all people, disciples of Jesus talk openly, honestly, humbly, courageously, and persistently about race.

Disciples of Jesus don’t just talk the talk, but use the talk to walk the walk of healing the wounds of racism, of taking deliberative and conscious action to restore that which the locusts of racism have eaten and devoured.

  • Disciples of Jesus share power with people of all races in relationships of trust – in so doing, the demons of racism are cast out.
  • Disciples of Jesus refuse to talk for people of color, we keep our mouths shut when it comes to the lived experience of people of color (we as white people do not get to talk about whether or not people of color experience racism). By listening to, and learning from people of color, we cast out the unclean spirits of racism.
  • Disciples of Jesus receive the leadership of people of color, not casting suspicion or doubt on the motives and backgrounds of people of color, but we cleanse the leprosy of racism in this country when we honor and support leaders of color.

Disciples of Jesus talk about matters of race and invite you to choose one of three weekly conversations we will lead in September and October on matters of race.

The Good News today, is the Good News of Christ who called Bartholomew, and Christ who calls us, to have authority over the sin and evil that ruins relationships and destroys community today.  

In this call, we celebrate that it is the will of God, working in Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, to defeat sin and lead people into wholeness.

The Good News, is that announced in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have a God of life! We have a God, who in the working of Christ and the Holy Spirit, unites, reconciles, and heals. We have a God, who in baptism, names us, calls us, and authorizes us to be the kingdom of God bringing life and healing to the world.

  • With Patrick and Joscelyn, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, let us use the authority we have been given to speak life and healing into existence!
  • With James, Tom & Marc, Georgena & Yasmin, Jeff, Dave & Karen, Suzanne, Matthew and Benjamin filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, let us use the authority we have been given to proclaim the good news of God’s healing and life poured out upon all peoples through the unconditional grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.
  • In the power of the Holy Spirit, joined in mission with Bartholomew, let us go forth in the Good News, living, speaking, and acting with authority from God to bring life, honor, healing, respect, and dignity to all peoples of the world in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thanks be to God.