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Sermon for the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude

“And the wall of the city had twelve foundations,
and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb”

The feast of St. Simon and St. Jude completes the annual parade of Apostolic Saints and brings us to the festival of All Saints, the celebration of the Apostolic city and fellowship in the Communion of All Saints.

All that really can be said about St. Simon and St. Jude has to do with their apostleship. They simply belong to the company of “twelve poor men, by Christ anointed,” as a hymn puts it. What more needs to be said than that?

They have, to be sure, lent their names to certain features of human life as patron saints, symbols, we might say, of some aspect or other of the virtues of Christ individually considered. St. Simon is the patron saint of zealots; St. Jude, more curiously, is the patron saint of lost causes, something with which I have more than a passing acquaintance. The zealous passion for a perfect political and social and spiritual righteousness often complements the despair at lost causes that often accompanies such worthy and necessary aspirations. Ultimately, such zeal brings us to the true righteousness of Christ, realized in the city of heavenly Jerusalem. What we have here is only “the unreal city” as T.S. Eliot memorably puts it, a lost cause.

“Zeal for thine house hath even consumed me,” the psalmist says. Yet through the myriad of lost causes, the deeper yearning for peace and righteousness is glimpsed, the deeper yearning which belongs to a peace, “not as the world giveth,” but as Christ gives.

The readings concentrate our attention on the Apostolic Foundation of the Church and the end of our humanity. Apostolic Foundation and Apostolic Fellowship are two realities which we are badly in need of recovering and reclaiming. Without them our parishes, our communities, our institutions either become the mental ghettoes of passive nihilism, empty, angry and in despair, or the activist sects and cells of active nihilism trumpeting one of a myriad of the social and political agendas of the day at the expense of the spiritual vision of redeemed humanity which is ours to proclaim. We are too much with ourselves because we are not with God.

What unites Apostolic Foundation and Apostolic Fellowship is the Holy Spirit. “He carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.” That vision complements the coming down of the Holy Spirit “whom the Father will send,” Jesus says, “in my name” and who “will teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance.” The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the birth of the Church. That same Holy Spirit which unites this apostolic beginning and this apostolic ending enables our apostolic participation in the communion of saints. It means that we have to live the vision.

“You are,” as St. Paul puts it, “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Eph. 2.19ff). We share in the foundation and participate in the life of heavenly Jerusalem. In the midst of the unreal city and the unreal church, it is good and necessary to remember this.

Recalling the Apostolic Foundation and our Apostolic Fellowship is essential to our being found in Christ and to our being restored to wholeness and completeness. It can only happen through our attention to those apostolic realities proclaimed and celebrated in our midst. That and that alone is the Church. The Church comes to be by the Word and Spirit of God and, in turn, the Church is sent forth to proclaim that Word and to be the place of that Spirit. The life of the Church, if it is to be the Church and not some sociological configuration of our own devising, is grounded in the life of God himself, in the going forth and return of the Word and Spirit. We live in the mission, in the sending.

In the fellowship of the Trinity, we find the true end and meaning of our humanity. The vision of heavenly Jerusalem is that of a walled city with twelve gates, twelve angels, twelve tribes, twelve foundations, and the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. Twelve here is a biblical number signifying perfection and completeness. It is, in short, a picture of redeemed Israel, an image of restored humanity. All is complete, “having the glory of God,” complete by sharing in the fullness of the life of the Blessed Trinity.

It is all wonderfully captured by the 17th century scholar and bishop, John Pearson.

This is the communion which the saints enjoy with the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity; this is the heavenly fellowship (represented unto entertaining Abraham, when the Lord appeared unto him, and three men stood by him:) for our Saviour hath made us this most gracious promise, If any man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him. Here is the soul of man made the habitation of God the Father, and of God the Son; and the presence of the Spirit cannot be wanting where those two are inhabiting; for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. The Spirit therefore with the Father and the Son inhabiteth in the saints; for know ye not, saith the Apostle, that ye are the temples of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”

The end of man is life in God, “endless Godhead endlessly possessed,” as Austin Farrer puts it. The feast of St. Simon and St. Jude ushers us into that vision and celebration and recalls us to the Apostolic foundation as the principle of our life in Christ. We have only to live it in our lives.

“And the wall of the city had twelve foundations,
and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb”

Fr. David Curry
St. Simon & St. Jude
October 28th, 2014