From Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth:
I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.
I don’t know many who can name the twelve apostles who went out into the world after Jesus died – I don’t know that I could do it – but what they have accomplished is nothing less than a miracle. We are here today worshiping in this Chapel because of what they began 2,000 years ago. Yet, in their time, they were not highly thought of by the masses and were most certainly not treated well. Paul’s description from above is very accurate.
Their lives ended violently. With the exception of perhaps John, they were all put to death for the faith. “How” they were put to death reads something like a Stephen King novel – spears, swords, boiling oil, crucifixions – on and on. In the icons of Bartholomew, he is often seen holding a knife, because it is believed that he was flayed alive, but not before he had accomplished the work that Christ had commissioned him to do.
Certain sources indicate that there is a lost Gospel of Bartholomew. In addition, the Roman historian Eusebius reports that when others visited India, between 150 and 200, they “found there ‘the Gospel according to Matthew’ in Hebrew, which had been left behind by ‘Bartholomew, one of the Apostles.’”
Jesus said in our Gospel reading today, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
Bartholomew and the other Apostles were not looking to gain fame and fortune. There sole intent was to be among us as ones who serve. Ones who through passion and sacrifice served the Gospel.
Also in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?”
Then and now, the answer to Paul’s questions is “No.” Not all of us are Apostles or prophets. Not all of us are Bartholomew’s who go to India to preach the Gospel, but we all have God given gifts. Gifts that have been given to us by God to serve the Gospel. Gifts that should be used as passionately and sacrificially as Bartholomew and the others used theirs.
What gift is God calling you to use for the sake of the Gospel?