Choosing disciples.

photo by The Revd Lynn Hurry of Latton Foxes being chosen by St. Francis!

There is an Irish story about a traveller who stopped in a small Irish town to ask the way to a certain place.
After scratching his head a bit, the Irishman looked at the traveller and said;
“To be sure, if I was going to there, I wouldn’t start from here.”

I have been thinking today about the call of the first disciples amongst whom were St Simon & St Jude whose feast day is today.The New Testament reading at Morning Prayer was Luke 6: 12-16

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Very little is known about either St. Simon or St. Jude – they were just numbered amongst the Twelve so we can assume that the experienced the same adventure of faith, its ups and downs, that the other close disciples of Jesus did. Presumably they played a part in building up the infant Church after Pentecost. We don’t really need to know much more about them because they fulfilled the work for which they were chosen, which was to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We notice that before he chose his disciples Jesus spent the night in a quiet place with his Father. Nothing of any importance in Jesus’s ministry happened without first being rooted in prayer and deep communion between them both. That led me to think whether that was true for me and maybe it’s a question you might like to ponder too.

One of the things we know is that the disciples in their own particular way, were flawed human beings. Sometimes they squabbled, sometimes they wanted to be special, they tried to outdo each other in zeal. They were sometimes impetuous. Often they hadn’t a clue what Jesus was on about. They were hot headed, judgemental, disloyal, cowardly and sometimes they shone with glory.

But it can seem a little odd that Jesus chose this motley crew on which to build His Church, his holy people.
To alter slightly what the Irishman said earlier – if I was going to build God’s Kingdom, I wouldn’t start with them!

I don’t know whether you are familiar with the ways of Management Consultants who are used sometimes to interview and provide leaders for business organizations. I have a friend who does this for a living – he’s known as a ‘headhunter’ and it’s a very lucrative business, even in these hard Covid times.
What often happens is that head hunters interview and test a number of possible people and then provide a profile on them.
I believe that a similar system operates today in the choosing of Church of England bishops! (Though with prayer, of course)

Tongue-in-cheek, I offer  for your perusal a document you may possibly have seen before.
It is from the Jordan Management Consultancy, and it provides profiles on a number of people chosen to launch a new venture.
As well as detailed profiles, the Consultants offer their client the following general comments:

“It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right hand man. We wish you every success in your new venture.

So, did Jesus get it wrong in his choice of followers?

Well, let’s be generous in our judgement. Those dear disciples got it right in the end and really did tell out the Good News.
Also we need to be glad that, for whatever reason we can’t really fathom, Jesus goes on calling ordinary folk to follow him, whatever flaws they have.
And, anyway, Jesus sees things very differently than we do. He doesn’t bother much about flaws. He’s delighted with hearts touched by love. He can do a lot with such people. Including us, of course.

[Mr.G]

The Scripture quotation is from The New Revised Standard Version of theBible, Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

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