The Twelve Apostles10Then Jesus* summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;* 4Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. Matthew 9:35-10:4
It's been quite a week - hurricanes, mudslides, earthquakes, and a blood moon, accompanied by bombings, plane crashes, and murders. It's almost overwhelming, although why it should be I haven't a clue. Things have been going this way for quite some time now, and it appears to be getting worse rather than better. Mother Nature on her own can be bad enough but humans add their own brand of catastrophe to it. It makes me want to go find a nice quiet island somewhere.
Jesus probably knew the feeling; his job as a teacher, itinerant preacher, and healer kept him pretty busy. I'm sure the human Jesus walked through his world and probably felt overwhelmed at times at what was going on. The divine Jesus probably wanted to fix everything and everyone he encountered, but then there would be no work left for others to do, and others would have to carry on his work after he left them. He gathered a group of followers to do precisely that: to take up the challenges, preach, teach and heal and to pass the ability on to yet other followers who would come after them. The whole idea was to bring the kingdom of God to life on earth.
Jesus' followers were named and also some were given identifiers that made them memorable - James and John, sons of Zebedee, Peter and his brother Andrew, Matthew the tax-collector, Simon the Cananaean, and Judas the betrayer. There might have been others, those who came, those who went, those who supported them in some way but who were not necessarily named.
I wonder -- if Jesus were on Facebook, how many followers would he have? How many names of those followers would people know or even care about? If he posted the ideas he proclaimed in his sermons and stories, how many likes would he get? How many dislikes? And how many comments about how the messages should read or how stupid and simplistic they were? I bet some would even quote the Bible to prove him wrong, but then, that's something followers might do.
Facebook seems to be a game of numbers: how many "friends" (read followers of what that person writes) they have and how many likes they can accrue on any given post. How many comments and what kind? How many people can't wait to share any given post and so it spreads to people with no connection to the originator at all.
This week I think about the shooter at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. He became the 10th victim, although it seems to trivialize the other nine that he killed by including him with the "victims." Whose ideology and teaching was he following? How many followers did he have? I have read his name but choose not to remember it because that gives him more power and recognition than he deserves. His victims deserve that recognition yet so those who commit horrible acts such as this are familiar to most of us if not to the world. Roseburg has asked that this murderer not be named, that he be exiled from memory. He won't be, of course, but there are followers, probably unknown and hopefully never named, who will see him as something he wasn't -- a hero, a role model, one who stood up for something, even if we never really know what that something was.
We Christians claim to be followers of Christ. We'd put him on our FB friends list in a heartbeat, but what would our words and likes tell him about us? What would it tell our other Facebook friends? What would we say that others would share and what message would they get from a soundbyte probably taken out of context and served up as a tidbit?
Think about it. Who is following us and what are we saying to those people? Does it give them something to think about or is it just where we're eating or shopping? Are our comments things that would make people want to hear more or would it be just hitting a like button?
I don't think Jesus intended for us to mention his name in every conversation, but I do rather believe that he wanted us to show by our actions and even our words that we stand for something more than how many likes we get or how many friends we have. Most of all, what are we doing that might influence others? Maybe people won't remember our name even if we are like Mother Teresa or St Francis of Assisi, but what we can do that helps make the kingdom of God more real and more present for those most in need of it.
After a week like this one, I know I could use a bit more kingdom and a lot less bad news. I would like to have a world where not only schools and churches but front yards, communities, and roadways are free of not just the sound of gunfire and the cries of the injured and grieving, but that there be no homeless, veterans, minorities, children or anyone else in need be ignored and left nameless.
I wish the world could follow the Prince of Peace. I wonder how many "likes" he'd get on Facebook? I wonder how many of them would really follow him?
Originally published at Speaking to the Soul at Episcopal Café Saturday, October 10, 2015.