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The Reverend Canon Michael Smith (Pastor)
Sunday – Ss Simon & Jude – Matins – 28 October 2018
Isaiah 45.18-end & Luke 6.12-16
Today we celebrate the feast day of Ss Simon & Jude. No one is quite sure why they are teamed up for a feast day, it’s possible they were related in some way. They were both members of Jesus’ inner circle of twelve disciples but other than that they seem to have little in common. In the lists of disciples Simon is described as ‘the Zealot’ probably because he was a member of a nationalist resistance movement which opposed the Roman occupation of Palestine. One assumes, therefore, that Simon was passionate and confident, a political activist working for freedom and justice for his people.
There is some confusion about Jude, who may also be the disciple named Judas in the passage from Luke we have just heard, he may also, sometimes, have been referred to as Thaddaeus. He wrote a short epistle which is in the New Testament, the Epistle of Jude. Even though we have some of his writing we know little about him. The letter is all about how what we believe must be manifested in the way we live, we must not fall into hypocrisy, saying one thing and doing another. Despite the fact that we have some of his writing we know very little about Jude, it would seem, reasonable therefore, to conclude that he may well have been a gentle, unassuming and humble person.
So Simon and Jude seem to be two very different people, one probably a fiery, political activist whose faith led him to want to change the world and one a quiet, gentle man whose faith led him to want to ensure that individuals were truly changed by their faith in God.
I think it’s a good thing that we honour two saints who were probably so different on the same day. It is good to be reminded that there is no template for saints. Even a cursory look at the saints, our church’s heroes, reveals that they are all dramatically different. There is impetuous, blundering St Peter, aesthetic, pious, St Francis of Assisi, who gave away everything he owned, courageous and generous St Maximillian Kolbe who volunteered to die in place of another man in Auschwitz, tough and practical Mother Theresa who spent her life caring for the poor and dying in India. It is good to be reminded that every saint is different.
People like me get into pulpits like this on days like today, or later this week, when we will be celebrating All Saints, and say that we should all be striving to be saints. We hear this and immediately begin to think that we have to become something we are not, because clearly we are not saints now. To a greater or lesser extent we are all selfish, jealous, greedy, and inconsiderate to different degrees – we all have many flaws to our characters which result in sin, and we assume this means we are disqualified from being saints. But listen to this, a few words from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, ‘may the Father give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong ….’ Ephesians 3v15. Maybe all these flaws we have in our characters are simply covering up our ‘hidden self’ the self we truly are? Maybe saintliness is all about the Spirit of God giving us confidence to let go of all that we cling to that covers up who we truly are? Maybe what we all truly are, is saints? Maybe our ‘hidden self’ is actually our ‘hidden saint’? The more I have thought about this over the past few days the more I think its right. The Spirit of God should give us confidence to be who we truly are, God made who we truly are and therefore that must be good. All we need to be saints is for the Spirit of God to make our ‘hidden self’ grow strong.
So, striving to be saints is not about us trying to become something or someone we are not. It’s not about trying to attain, learn, or understand something we haven’t yet grasped. No! Striving to be a saint is all about trying to uncover who we truly are, trying to uncover the ‘hidden self’ we constantly obliterate either with an image we think we want to project to the world or with sin.
As Archbishop Rowan Williams said in his book ‘Silence and Honeycakes’ ‘At the Day of Judgement …. the question will not be about why we failed to be someone else: I shall not be asked why I wasn’t Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa, but why I wasn’t Rowan Williams.’ P. 95
Today let us rejoice in fiery, idealistic Simon and quiet unassuming Jude. They remind us that saintliness is not one thing. May the Spirit of God give us the courage to reject sin and the image of ourselves we project and allow our ‘hidden self’ to emerge. That ‘hidden self’ is made in the image of God and is unique to each one. It is not just our ‘hidden self’ it is our ‘hidden saint’. May that saint grow stronger and stronger in us week by week and shine God’s light of love into the world.
Let us pray
God of holiness, you send your Spirit into our hearts and by your grace we participate in your love. Like all the saints, make our lives shine with the radiance of your glory that we may choose life over death, hope over despair, freedom over bondage and rejoice in your blessing for all creation, through Jesus Christ. Amen
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