Sub Dean - Revd Canon Michael Rawson
Tomorrow we honour two of the apostles, Simon and Jude, of whom we know remarkably little
In today's world we expect to know everything about everyone, or at least, about celebrities. At the supermarket checkout you’ll have seen magazines like OK, Hello, and Heat and the myriad of other celebrity gossip magazines. On the covers there are enticing one liners and photographs about your favourite actors and sports stars to tempt you to buy. People expect to know the most intimate details of the lives of the rich and famous. The facts that aren't known are soon made up by the journalists. The notion of having a private life, let alone a hidden life, is anathema to these publications. The recent experience of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex serves to highlight this.
So our celebration tomorrow of Simon and Jude, two of the apostles who kept out of the limelight and about whom very little is known, goes against the grain of our celebrity culture. And yet we honour them today precisely for their hiddenness.
Simon is often referred to as the Cananaean or the Zealot. That's to distinguish him from Simon Peter. So from the beginning he's defined by who he is not! The zealots were a group of freedom fighters. Some would describe them as terrorists who were seeking the overthrow of the occupying Romans. Many a Roman soldier came to a sticky end at their hands up a dark alley. Simon might have been one of this group or he might have simply been zealous for the Jewish law.
And what about Jude? As we have just heard in the second lesson, he too was defined by who he was not; 'Judas, not Iscariot'. And in Mark and Matthew's gospels he is known as Thaddaeus. Jude became the patron of lost causes. Perhaps this was because the faithful were desperate not to get their prayers mixed up with the wrong Judas (Iscariot), that they left him to the bottom of the list, the saint of last resort.
Both Simon and Jude were with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry and they stuck with him through thick and thin. But their discipleship was hidden and out of the limelight. They were zealous for the things of God and were passionate followers of the Way of Christ. After the resurrection of Christ, tradition has it that they travelled far and wide, proclaiming the gospel, including visits to Libya and Armenia. They met a gruesome end as martyrs in Persia around AD65. Their passion for God led to action and they offered even their lives for his kingdom.
Celebrating the lives of two of God's hidden saints might point us in the right direction as to how we should live as disciples of Christ today. Their zeal and passion for the gospel was translated into a practical outpouring of faith and love for the world around them. They might have been hidden but they weren't invisible or silent. The experience of being with Jesus and living out the good news with him urged them on with a zeal to proclaim the gospel to others and to show them by their words and deeds that God's kingdom was dawning up the world.
Each one of us is called, like Simon and Jude, to be apostles, those who are sent out to live out God's kingdom and to look for its dawning light in those around us. I pray that we may discover a new confidence in the message we proclaim and the love of God showered upon our world.