We are blessed here at James and Andrew to have not one, but two patron saints. Today we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Andrew, which takes place on November 30th, and in late July we will celebrate the Feast Day of St. James. The first thing we learn about Andrew and James comes from the fourth chapter of Matthew when Jesus notices two pairs of brothers casting and mending their nets. Jesus calls out to the first pair of brothers, Andrew and Simon, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (Matthew 4:19) The brothers immediately leave their nets to follow Jesus. Jesus then calls a second pair of brothers, James and John, to join them. Again, the brothers immediately leave their nets to follow Jesus. These four men that were so eager to follow Jesus became his first disciples.
I did some digging to learn a bit more about Andrew and learned a few things:
Jesus describes those works of compassion in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew. He explains that when he comes again, he will be able to identify his followers by their works of compassion, using a pretty specific list: “...for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25:35-36).
Similarly, he will be able to identify the righteous by their lack of compassion, again, using a contemporary version: “...for I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved” (Contemporary translation by Richard E. Stearns).
Now, mind you, it’s easy to read the paper or listen to the news and be overwhelmed by the great need, by the despair, that at times seems to surround us. Yet as my former Bishop Stephen Lane recently wrote in the Kennebec Journal, “...despair need not overtake us. The antidote for despair is love and compassion, and we have them in abundance. Let the despair of the moment be a clarion call to action, to truly love our neighbors as ourselves.”
I would also add, that as the church, we are called to follow the example of Andrew and Simon, James and John. We are called to go out two by two. The work that needs to be done might feel insurmountable, and yet for the Jesus Movement, nothing is insurmountable.
When I think about Molly’s and my efforts as solo priests in silo parishes, I remember how lonely and tiring that work was. Yet since our two communities recognized we would be better together, we are better when we go out two by two, there is a partner in the ministry, and the energy and possibilities feel infinite.
I see the same thing in all of your efforts to minister to our local community. Most recently in the efforts of our Labyrinth Team, who for a while had more of an inward focus in trying to figure out how to offer a labyrinth to the community on our campus. Yet the moment they looked to partner with people and organizations from the wider community and formed a Labyrinth Coalition, the momentum and energy has been uncontainable. This past week, the Trustees of the Greenfield Public Library, invited them to put a temporary painted labyrinth on the lawn behind the library, so folks could experience walking a labyrinth whenever they want. These new possibilities are emerging because the Labyrinth Team decided they should expand the circle and go two by two with community partners.
Sometimes, we just need to remember we are not in this alone. We do not have to, nor can we, solve our problems all by ourselves. Jesus calls us to go out two by two. He did it when he called two pairs of brothers by the Sea of Galilee; he did it when commissioning those same disciples to go from village to village to spread the good news; and he is calling us to go out two by two as we engage in works of compassion.
...How do you feel you are doing in living a life of compassion?
...Where in your personal life have you been trying to go at it alone, when you need to be partnering with a friend or neighbor?
...Where in our parish life have we been trying to do things in isolation, that we need to be doing in pairs, approaching the work two by two?
...Where in our parish life have we been overly focused on ourselves instead of the work of compassion that Christ very clearly and specifically calls us to?
Today is a special day in the church, but not just because it is Christ the King or the Feast of St. Andrew. It’s a special day in the church because we are going to baptize two brothers today. The oldest of which, has been modeling works of compassion from the moment he could crawl. Liam and Wesley, like Andrew and Simon, James and John, are called to go two by two and live a life of faith. We are called to walk alongside them, to assure them that they are God’s beloved.We are called to show them through our words, and more importantly, our actions, what it looks like to live a life of compassion. We are called to be there with them every step of the way. As we reaffirm our baptismal vows today, remember we are called to join Liam and Wesley, Andrew and Simon, James and John by going two by two to live lives of compassion. Like Andrew, may we readily answer the call of Jesus, and bring those near to us into God’s gracious presence. Amen.
Our Patron Saints: Andrew & James