2014 01 19: Calling All Andrews

Posted on 21 Jan 2014

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

As a congregation, you know you’re in trouble when your pastor climbs into the pulpit and begins the sermon with any one of the following introduction:  My wife doesn’t like this sermon, but I decided to go ahead with it anyway.  Or A funny thing happened on the way to church this morning, or, perhaps, my least favorite, Cereal boxes don’t usually lead to good sermon ideas, but this morning is different.  Introductions have a way of preparing the listener for the message that is to come. In a few words you decide whether or not you should be open to the message. Certainly, this was the story of Andrew and his response to John the Baptist’s odd phrase, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

No doubt, as most Christians you know the familiar story of Andrew’s older brother Simon, of Jesus walking along the Sea of Galilee, and inviting Simon Peter and his brother to become his first disciples with the enticing words, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  But do you know the story of his overlooked brother Andrew?  You may be surprised how much more you have in common with Andrew.

In St. John’s Gospel we read that Simon Peter’s younger brother Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist.  John was living in the wilderness near the Jordan River, some fifty miles from the capital city of Jerusalem. He was an ascetic, religious hermit who dedicated himself to spiritual renewal through prayer and abstinence from all things, and baptism for the forgiveness of sins. But John the Baptist wasn’t there alone.  John had his own disciples, and Andrew was one of them.  And John needed disciples. Throughout scripture, we read that all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all of Judea, went out to hear the words of John and to be baptized him.  And Jesus too went out into the wilderness to be baptized by John. The following day, with Andrew in his hearing, John the Baptist pointed to Jesus again, and said, “There is the one. Right there. The one whom I baptized and is walking before you, he is the one. He is the Lamb of God who will change the whole world.” John’s introduction had piqued John’s interest.  He had said these words in such a way that Andrew felt he had been given permission to abandon his teacher John, and to follow this new rabbi Jesus.  Andrew curiously followed Jesus steadily building the courage to ask him what John’s words, “Behold, the Lamb of God” could mean.  He was moving in closer, but before he could ask his question, Jesus spied him, and said to him, “What are you looking for?”

Of course, that is how a relationship with God often begins.  It is with the question, “What are you looking for? Unfortunately, we’re not always prepared for that question.  Perhaps it is in the sleepless hours of the night.  You have been struggling to makes sense of your past choices and why they have led you to where you are today.  Or perhaps, in the quiet prelude of a worship service, you are wondering what you can with second half of your life.  Or perhaps, your dreams and hopes have not been fulfilled.  And so there you wondering, “Lord, what’s my aim and goal?  God, what am I really trying to achieve?”

Now, you can answer this question in various ways.  You may state that you are searching for security.  You would like to find a place where you are safe to live and work, where the money is sufficient to meet the needs of life and where you may put some away for the time when work is done.  There is nothing wrong with such an aim. It is a respectable and honest goal, but it may also be a low aim. The author Joseph Conrad once wrote, “(Security) enters a house as a guest and then becomes a host and then a master.”

What are you searching for?  You may be searching for what many call a career or a path to a successful future. We live in a world where we must work, but we do have choices.  I am reminded of the words of Pope John XXIII.  “Italians come to ruin most generally in three ways- women, gambling and farming.  My family chose the slowest one.”  But if a career is directed simply by motives of personal ambition than this can be a bad aim. On the other hand if work is directed by motives of service to ones fellow man a career can be a high aim. Remember, nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.

What are you searching for?  You may be searching for some kind of peace.  You may be searching for some faith, some creed, some understanding of God that enables you to live at peace with yourself, at peace with God and at peace with your neighbor. You may be searching for that peace that passes all understanding that allows you to set your questions and concerns to rest.  But remember peace is not the absence of conflict or war- otherwise God wouldn’t have given us children. Peace is the ability to live and work and to promote harmony even in the midst of conflict.

Unfortunately for some people, the hour of introspection comes at a time of personal, emotional or professional crisis. Nearly thirty years ago, while serving as a chaplain at Minneapolis Children’s Hospital, I heard the painful cry of two struggling families.  Even now their words are as poignant as they were then.  One mother said, “When your three-year old daughter is dying of leukemia, the sound of your five-year old pounding his plastic hammer on your new dining room table is barely noticeable.”  Another father whose son had died after three years of costly medical experiments, bitterly lamented, “I would rather have an expensive live son, than a cheap dead one.”  Unfortunately, it is most often in difficult times that we forced to ask ourselves, “What are you looking for?”

I pray that in these moments of self-reflection, you may discover that faith plays a far greater role in your life than you first imagined.  For it is here that you can begin to live life again with a greater sense of commitment, energy and pride. I rather suspect that Andrew discovered this in his time with Jesus. Andrew grew to know what he was searching for. He might not have been able to put it into words. But he knew that he was neither searching for material security, career advancement, nor job satisfaction.  He was searching for someone who could challenge him in his complacency; someone who could confront him in his prejudice; someone who could give him a sense of peace and purpose that the world could not give, and who would ultimately offer lasting meaning to his words and deeds.

Andrew awkwardly responded to Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?” with his own question. “Where are you staying?” That question does not really mean, “What neighborhood do you live in?  Uptown or Lake of the Isles?”  Andrew’s real question was, “How are you living, Jesus?  What is it that gives you such life?”  And Jesus answered him, “Come and see.”  Come and experience my life, and you will know.  “Come and see what you are really looking for.”

Andrew spent the whole day with Jesus, and then the story suggests that Andrew and his friends spent the whole night together with Jesus as well.  What did they talk about? We don’t know, but for Andrew something happened in that intense twenty-four hours in the presence of God, amidst the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the face of Jesus. Something happened inside of Andrew. He was transformed, and he chose to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.

And how did Andrew respond to such a change?  Well, the first thing he did the following morning was to run to his brother Simon. Andrew, the family’s second fiddle son, went and found his big brother Peter, and the Scripture says, “Andrew brought Simon to Jesus.” Andrew did not try to convert his brother. Andrew did not try to change him or convince him. Andrew knew that if he brought his brother into the presence of Jesus, that his brother could be transformed just as he was. . And that is what happened. Andrew brought his brother to Jesus and Simon gave his life to Christ.

It is a pattern of living that we see over and over again in Andrew’s life. Andrew is always the silent, but welcoming disciple leads both friend and stranger to Jesus.  He understood the power of a good introduction. During the Passover in Jerusalem, two visiting Greek pilgrims heard Jesus preach. They came up after the sermon and approached Phillip and said, “We would like to meet Jesus.” What did Phillip do? He took the two Greeks over to Andrew, and he said, “Would you introduce them to Jesus?” Andrew introduced those two Greek people to Jesus and they became disciples of Christ.

And then there is the Miracle of the Feeding of the Feeding of 5,000 on the Sea of Galilee.  It was late in the afternoon, and the people needed to be fed.  You may remember that there was a little boy with five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus took the bread, broke it, distributed it to the five thousand and there were twelve baskets left over. But there is one part of the story that is almost always left out.  Who brought the little boy to Jesus?  The little boy was probably in the back of the crowd. Who brought the little boy from the back of the crowd to the front of the crowd? It was Andrew. It is always Andrew. Andrew had been talking with this little boy and he said, “I would like you to meet Jesus.” Andrew brought the little boy into the presence of Jesus and it was Jesus who transformed his little life and his five loaves of bread.

Now you may be wondering: So why is this story of Andrew and his curious pursuit of the Lamb of God so important?  Surely, the story of the fisherman abandoning their nets is more colorful.  Certainly the story of Peter preaching on Pentecost and turning the hearts of 3000 in a single day, is more dramatic.  What is so great about this one younger brother bringing his older brother to Jesus, leading the Greek visitors to the Lord, and the little boy offering his fish and bread for the miracle in Christ’s hands?  Perhaps, you see it already.

The world needs faithful and dedicated Andrews who will welcome the stranger and usher them into the presence of God.  The world needs men and women who believe in the Lamb of God, the one who takes away sin of the world, and gives hope and promise to broken lives.  In that 24 intense hours with Jesus, Andrew discovered that such a call, such a purpose filled and meaningful life is what he was searching for.

My friends, what are you looking for in your life?  Perhaps God is simply calling you to be a faithful Andrew to your neighbor.  Perhaps, even now, he is placing the words into your mouth to share with others, “Come and see.”  Amen.