Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sermon: St. Bartholomew – 2011

24 August 2011 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 1:43-51 (2 Cor 4:7-10)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Today the Church around the world honors one of the holy apostles: St. Bartholomew, who is known as St. Nathaniel in John’s Gospel.

When first told about Jesus by his friend Philip, Bartholomew was skeptical: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” He honestly expressed his doubt and was not ashamed to speak the truth even before his excited friend Philip challenged him to “Come and see.”

And Bartholomew did “come and see.”

He would see our Lord proclaim the kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead, die for the sins of the world, and conquer death itself by rising again. Bartholomew would see the Church grow from a small band of frightened cowards to a powerful and mighty kingdom and army of preachers and hearers that would conquer even the mighty Roman Empire and make its way into every land and nation in the world.

Indeed, as our Lord would promise (and as He would fulfill), He tells St. Bartholomew on that single life-changing day: “You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

“Come and see” indeed! Bartholomew would see the fulfillment of Jacob’s ancient vision of the ladder to heaven, only this ladder would truly be the cross. St. Bartholomew would indeed see if anything good was to come out of Nazareth. He was indeed destined to see the word “Nazareth” written at the top of the cross that was to indeed save man and the universe from the decay of sin and the corruption of death.

Our Lord pays Bartholomew a high complement – and our Lord was not one to offer vain flattery. He says to Bartholomew: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit.” Jesus identifies Bartholomew as a true confessor, one who does not waffle or play with his words. And in his words which ring true, St. Bartholomew proclaims the good confession: “You are the Son of God!”

An Israelite in whom there is no deceit, indeed!

And yet, telling the truth can often get one into trouble. For St. Bartholomew will not merely hold a private opinion about Jesus. Nor does he even simply tell the truth when asked. Rather, Bartholomew has been called and chosen to preach, to be a herald of the kingdom, to proclaim to friend and foe alike the universe-changing truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the victor over the devil and the grave, the atonement for sin, and the bringer and deliverer of peace between God and Man.

The apostle Bartholomew knows this truth, confesses this truth, preaches this truth, and in his lack of deceit, he will suffer for this truth. St. Bartholomew will lay down his life and even die for this truth. For he is indeed an Israelite “in whom there is no deceit.”

And Bartholomew the truthful will truly show us what it means to be a “jar of clay.” He tells the truth that the “surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” He will join St. Paul and all of the martyrs in proving with his very lifeblood: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies… in our mortal flesh.”

According to tradition, St. Bartholomew was executed for his Christian faith by being skinned alive, offering his flesh as testimony to the Word Made Flesh, manifesting the life of Jesus in his own body – that of an “Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

Dear friends, it is important to tell the truth about the kingdom. It is a gift of God to be able to tell the truth about Jesus. It is our privilege as “Israelites” who have been redeemed by the One Israelite in whom there truly is “no deceit” – to confess with the apostles and to point the world (who likewise asks: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”) to Jesus and invite them to “come and see.”

For the opposite of deceit is truth. And as our Lord so often says: “Truly, truly I say to you.” We repeat and confess this word “truly” – joining St. Bartholomew in his lack of deceit – every time we use the word “Amen.” For this word doesn’t mean “the prayer is ended,” rather it means: “This is the truth.”

Dear friends, let us follow Jesus, whose Word is truth, by following the example of St. Bartholomew, who spoke true words about the Word Made flesh. And if we are ever required to surrender our flesh for the sake of the kingdom of the one who willingly surrendered His flesh for us – let us join with St. Bartholomew and all the martyrs in willingly proclaiming the truth in word and deed. Let it be said about the whole Church in heaven and on earth that in our confession of Christ, “there is no deceit.”


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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