Sermon for the Feast of St. Andrews
Welcome to our celebration of Saint Andrew the Apostle, one of the patron saints of our community. I would like, first, to share some of what I learned about Andrew. As many of you know, he is the patron saint of Scotland. He is also patron saint of Barbados, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Sicily, Greece, and Cyprus and many more. Additionally he is the patron saint of fisher persons, fishmongers, and rope makers, as befits his early life as a fisherman; yet he is also the patron saint of singers, miners, farm workers, and pregnant women. Until I began researching Saint Andrew, I was unaware of how many groups of people might claim a saint.
In today’s Gospel, we learn that Andrew and his brother Simon, called Peter, were the first disciples called to follow Jesus. That they quickly left their fishing and followed Jesus may seem a bit crazy. But there is a different memory of how Andrew became Jesus’ follower found in John 1:35-42, where we learn that Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist. Andrew and another of John’s followers were standing next to him when he watched Jesus walk by. John said, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” Andrew and the other disciple immediately turned and began to follow Jesus. Ultimately they went with Jesus to the place he was staying. They ended up staying the night and listening to Jesus, after which Andrew immediately went and found his brother, Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah,’ and brought Simon to Jesus. I think that likely makes Andrew the first missionary, as he brought the first new follower to Jesus.
We don’t often hear of Andrew in a prominent leadership position. He is not part of the “inner circle” (Peter, James and John). Much of the time that we hear of Andrew in scripture, we hear him referred to as the brother of Simon Peter, almost as though he has no identity apart from that. Still, Andrew was a leader, if a quieter and more unassuming one. For example, it was he who brought the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus. Later, when some Greeks ask Philip if they could be introduced to Jesus, Philip appeals to Andrew for help. Andrew is a quiet leader. He seems to simply do what the occasion calls for.
The more I read about Andrew, the more I liked him. He seemed to me to be unassuming, yet willing to do whatever was needed. His leadership style might be less dramatic than Peter, James and John, but I don’t think he lacked the ability to lead. I think I became a bit of a fangirl for Andrew, due in large part to my impression of him as a man deeply rooted in faith and love. I think that he went to find Simon Peter and bring him to Jesus because Andrew was convinced that Jesus was truly the messiah, and his love for his brother made him want to share this amazing discovery.
Third century church historian Eusebius wrote that Andrew traveled north to Scythia after the resurrection, but little is known of his life beyond that. Tradition holds that Andrew was crucified in about the year 60CE, on a diagonal cross as he believed he was not worthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus was.
Still, my impression of Andrew reminds me of the importance of saints on our faith. My impression of Andrew’s faith rooted in love, inspired me to think about the need to spread Jesus’ love to everyone we meet - not through words, but through acting in love as Jesus did, and as I believe Andrew did. We need our saints to set an example for us, to show us how to be our best selves.
As I noted earlier, today’s Gospel was pretty straightforward. The second lesson was puzzling to me. How do we become more like Andrew? How do we step out in faith and love to serve others as Andrew did? Clearly, if we are following Andrew’s example, we do not need to make a big production of what we do. We just need to remember that our loving and generous God expects us to follow the example of Jesus and of Andrew.
One of the people I spoke with about Andrew and about remembering how lucky we are to have such a loving and generous God, told me that she had simplified this down to three sentences during Covid. She was determined not to be about fear and sadness throughout the pandemic. Instead she repeated three simple phrases to herself, “I am grateful. I am blessed. And it will be okay.” As I thought about it, I realized it was a very reasonable mantra for anyone who has a bit of apprehension in the face of trying to step out in love to serve God’s people. Thank you Cheri Ann.
It seems to me that the reading from Romans speaks to God’s love for God’s people, and God’s desire for us to spread that love generously as we were taught by the way Jesus lived his life on earth. The reading from Romans says, “‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.” This is the way of Jesus; this is the way Andrew learned from him. This is the way of leading with love.
I believe that we are the children of a generous God. A God who so loves us that he sent his son to teach us how to live. Jesus lived a life of love and service, and that is the life we are called to as well. In the second half of the reading from Romans, we hear that there are all kinds of obstacles to people calling on God’s help when needed. How can they call on a God they do not know, and how can they come to know God unless someone tells them of God’s existence? Romans again, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” It is up to those who have heard the word of Christ to share it with others. This does not mean we have to stand on street corners and preach. It means we have to walk out in love to serve our brothers and sisters, no matter who they are.
When we began Emmaus Companions, we knew that preaching on street corners was not a good way to let people on the margins know that they are loved. By accepting our brothers and sisters on the margins with love, not judgment; remembering to listen, not preach; accept that we do not understand all that they are going through, but trying to learn how to walk with them, made us companions on their journey; trustworthy and caring. Sometimes we have seen people fall off the wagon or get involved in a fight with someone who used to be a close friend or die from an overdose or freeze to death because they had no shelter. It seems to me that we need more people walking out in love to help folks find food or shelter or an agency that deals with whatever problem they have. I know Emmaus Companions could use the help, and so could the Sunday Sandwich ministry or Second Helpings. These are just a few ways that we can spend our love.
We have a wonderful church community, with so many amazing ministries. We are a people with big hearts. We follow the examples of our patron saints and step out in love. There is great reward in doing the work of Jesus. In fact, it can change our lives. I have never regretted a moment spent in the prayer corner or at table on Monday night’s Second Helpings meal; or walking on the street to listen to the many people we have been privileged to meet through Emmaus Companions. Those are the ministries I know most about, but there are many more at James and Andrew. Just look around a bit and I suspect you will be able to find a ministry suited to your talents.
Once again I think of our reading from Romans, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” My prayer for you and for me is that we find a way to bring good news to all who long to know that they are loved - regardless of who they are.
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