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.
What is in a name? Today is a significant day for me, for it is the 51st anniversary of the day that my mother and father first named me. I remember the amount of thinking that went into naming my own children. This is the first significant act of parenthood.
Today’s Scripture reading is significant for several reasons. Initially, it reads as a Who’s Who of Jesus’ disciples. This is the road-crew who supported Jesus through three years of ministry. Everyone is mentioned by name, bringing in their family histories – largely unknown to us – into the mix of relationships. Some of these relationships were already established, while other relationships were starting to crystallize. By listing each disciple by name, it is as if the Gospel writer, and Jesus himself, is recognising the significance of each person’s family background.
But this list of motley disciples takes shape in other ways. Jesus called them into a specific sort of relationship, one of new sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers brought together in the unique union as family bound together in the union and love of Christ. The old family history is still significant, but is complimented by this new layering of family.
Therefore, to simply see this list as some form of management hierarchy does it a disservice. Instead, it reshapes itself as as a new family tree, with different people organically coming together through Jesus acting as its trunk.
So, Jesus calls us also to join this family. He calls us by the name of our birth and family. In some cases, he will even give us a new name. But he calls us to join this new family – defined by faith, hope and love – with its unique heritage and mission to carry on branching out.
Thank-you, Jesus, for being the source of our growth Wherever we reside in this world, we can spread out and flourish. You call us by name and family, and invite us into new family relationships. You know our background story; by the power of the Spirit, that story can flourish. So spread us out to catch the sun. Help us to reach into every nook and cranny of this good Earth, to bring news of your presence and reign. Amen.
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