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Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Reformer Martin Luther was inspired by remembering the saints, and so he wrote, “Next to Holy Scripture, there is certainly no more useful book for Christendom that that of the lives of the saints… For in these stories one is greatly pleased to find how they sincerely believed God’s Word, confessed it with their lips, praised it by their living, and honored and confirmed it by their dying.” Today, we remember the life of St. Andrew.
As a congregation, you know you’re in trouble when the preacher climbs into the pulpit and begins the sermon with any one of the following introductions… My wife doesn’t like this sermon, but I’ve 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, you see, 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 word of the preacher. Certainly, this was true of St. Andrew and his invitation to others to come and meet Jesus.
My friends, I would like to share with you the story of the New Testament’s Everyman. It is a story that begins with a preacher’s odd opening words spoken to an often overlooked brother, and continuing with Jesus’ own invitation to come and see. For it is in the life of St. Andrew, that you and I are reminded that the work of God’s kingdom is not yet complete, as long as there is someone who needs to hear the word of comfort and promise.
It is ironic, how little we know about one of Jesus’ closest disciples. According to scripture, Andrew is the brother of Peter, who was also known as Simon bar-Jonah. Since Andrew is regularly mentioned after Simon Peter, scholars assume that he was Peter’s younger brother. Perhaps, the most striking characteristic of Andrew is his name. It is not Hebrew, as might have been expected, but his name Andrew or Andreas is Greek name. The fact that his father Jonah gave his elder son the Aramaic name Simon and his younger son the Greek name Andrew reflects the mixed Jewish-Gentile environment of his family and their home along the Sea of Galilee. The name “Andrew” itself means “manly” or “valor.”
Andrew, like his brother Simon-Peter, was a fisherman. He was used to working outdoors and was comfortable with labor that was physically demanding. In scripture, the twelve apostles are always listed in three groups of four individuals. The list always begins with the two sets of brothers, the sons of sons of Jonah, Simon Peter and Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee, James and John. They were all fishermen. Andrew, however, seems to be the most distant of these first four from Jesus. Several times in scripture, we read that Jesus went off with Peter, James and John. They had the privileged access to Jesus. They were with Jesus when he was transfigured on the mountaintop, and they were with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night he was betrayed. Andrew remains simply a part of the other nine.
It is odd, though, since Andrew knew actually Jesus before his brother Simon Peter. In St. John’s gospel, we read that John the Baptist was living in the wilderness near the Jordan River, some fifty miles from the capital city of Jerusalem. He was a religious hermit, an ascetic who dedicated himself to spiritual renewal through prayer and abstinence from all things. But John the Baptist wasn’t there alone. He had his own disciples, and Andrew was one of these disciples. And there was a need for disciples. Throughout scripture, we read that the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all of Judea, went out to hear the words of John and to be baptized by him. Great numbers went out. 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, 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 said these odd words in such a way that Andrew knew he had been given permission to abandon his teacher, and to follow this new rabbi Jesus. Andrew curiously followed Jesus steadily building the courage to ask Jesus, 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?” It was a poignant, telling moment. Why you may ask. Simply said, because God’s invitation to be his disciple always begins with the question. “What are you looking for?”
Andrew awkwardly responded to Jesus’ question, with his own question. “Where are you staying?” That question does not really mean, where are you living? But it was really a question to Jesus of “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.” Well, Andrew spent the whole day with Jesus and it got to be about four o’clock in the afternoon. The story suggests that Jesus, his friends, and Andrew spent the whole night together as well. Andrew had twenty-four hours with Jesus. What did they talk about? We don’t know what was said, but something happened in that twenty-four hours that Andrew, being in the presence of God, being in the presence of the Holy Spirit, being in the presence of Jesus, something happened inside of Andrew. He was transformed. Andrew became 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. Andrew, the family’s second fiddle, 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 the way that he, Andrew, had been changed.
It is a pattern of living that we see over and over again in Andrew’s life. Andrew was always leading another friend or stranger to Jesus. 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 was 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, or 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, one by one, 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. Andrew discovered that such a purpose filled and meaningful life was his calling.
From what we know of church history, Andrew kept bringing people to Christ, and that his Greek name became an important part of his identity. While his brother, Peter travelled from Jerusalem to Rome to fulfill his in the Latin world, Andrew turned to the Greek world. He travelled to the Black Sea and established the church in Byzantine, later known as Constantinople. In 60AD, during the reign of Nero, Andrew was ministering in Patras, Greece, where he baptized the wife and brother of the Governor, Aegeus. The Governor was so angered that ordered the death of the Apostle. Andrew was crucified on a cross on November 30th. Like his brother Simon Peter, who refused to be crucified in the same way as Jesus, Andrew was crucified on a cross patterned in the shape of an “X.” He hung for three days on the cross, fixed not by nails but by rope round his hands and feet. Today that cross, known as the St. Andrew’s cross, is found on the flag of Scotland.
And how did St. Andrew become the saint of Scotland? There are various versions of the story. In the most colorful, St. Regulus, a Greek monk and keeper of the saints s relics at Patras, was told in a vision to hide some of the relics. A few days later, the emperor Constantine transferred the remaining bones to Constantinople. An angel then appeared again and told St. Regulus to take the bones he had hidden and go west by ship, and wherever he was shipwrecked, that was where he should lay the foundations of a church. They landed in Scotland. Well, whatever route the bones may have taken, we do know that in AD 908, the only bishopric in Scotland was transferred from Abernethy to St Andrews where the relics of St. Andrew were housed. In another story, the cross of St. Andrew appeared in the night sky to the Scottish kings as a portent of military victory. And so the Apostle to the Greek world became permanently etched into Scottish world and national identity as well. Not bad for a younger brother with an odd, foreign name. Amen.
May the peace of Go which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.