Commemorating St Titus is good to do. Commemorating how the early church followed Jesus, remembered Jesus and what he said as taught by the Apostles and eye witnesses and those they appointed to keep the message going (before the New Testament was written and even afterwards) and each generation discovered through faith the wonder that Jesus wasn’t stuck in time moving further away but was with his people always – just as he said – is good to do. The early church, confronted with Jesus and his grace and presence, had to work out what to do in practical terms in towns and cities – day to day discipleship in the Roman Empire – how to meet together and with whom. There were no instruction manuals or legislation libraries dropped down from heaven to consult. There was faith and grace and the presence of Jesus and love – and it’s all rather messy, I think. Faith active in love usually is. But there needed to be agreement too and organisational history emerges about the first big issue – the relation-ship between Jews and Gentiles and their faith. Jesus died for all – so the Gentiles were included – and Titus, a Gentile pastor or bishop, is part of that story.
But this commemorating is an arbitrary thing; today is a product of liturgical committees of Lutherans watching what the Roman Catholics did. Knowing this fact doesn’t make the commemorating less important but context shouldn’t be ignored. Does it matter that some Lutherans commemorate St Titus and others don’t? Not really. We attend to things – remember them – keep learning more about history – because they speak of us and to us today.
Today is Australia Day. I had no choice in the country of my birth and its landscape, attitudes, and history are part of my identity and impact my other identities (Christian, husband, father, pastor, British) in all sorts of ways – most of which I’m not aware. (Everyone else has an accent, not me!) Commemorating today as Australia Day is also an arbitrary thing. The remembering of the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip was first known as ‘First Landing Day’ or ‘Foundation Day’ and it wasn’t until 1935 that all Australian States and Territories used the term ‘Australia Day’ and it wasn’t until 1994(!) that all states and territories began to celebrate Australia Day consistently as a public holiday. This observance isn’t without its controversies – past and present – and is most keenly felt, I think, if people regard Australia as only 226 years old and the history of the prior 40,000 years is unknown or forgotten.
As I listened to the Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, an indigenous Australia Rules footballer, give his speech, other issues of how two communities live together in the one country and which have both a historical dimension and a contemporary reality, came to mind. When we’re in groups – doesn’t matter much which – any other group is viewed cautiously or with suspicion. I understand my sinful self enough to understand why we act as we do in groups. Nevertheless I hope for more harmony and less fear ‘down under’ and wonder what an Australia Day 2114 will look like.
I hope the same for the Church which continues, it seems, to fragment and fragment. What will the Christian landscape look like in 2114? (That’ll be the church of my grandchildren and great grand children.)
For both the church and the world the only true hope is to stand under the cross. (Australia has the Southern Cross permanently in her skies as an aide mémoire.) It isn’t a matter of remembering Jesus for he keeps coming to serve us. Then when we’ve listened, recalled, remembered, received we can go out into our lives – no matter how messy – and follow him. — GS