A sermon preached at an online service of St. George’s Anglican Church Calgary (via Zoom), by the Rev. Clara King, October 11, 2020.
Note: during the month of October 2020, we are doing one Saint’s day per Sunday – saints chosen by the children of the parish in their “In the Footsteps of the Saints” program.
The Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle - translated (and Thanksgiving Sunday)
Today we honour the memory of the Apostle Andrew. As Andrew R. mentioned, Andrew was a man with many different sides to his personality. He was a fisherman, a determined provider of food to the hungry, and a devoted preacher.
In the blurb I read at the beginning of today’s service, from an Anglican resources called For All the Saints, it talks about the legendary stories of Andrew travelling to exotic places to preach the Gospel – as if the Gospels give us no hint that Andrew did such a thing. But I think this sells Andrew short.
And so do our readings for today. If only we’d read the Gospel of John – chapter 1 verses 29-42, we’d have had a very different picture of Andrew. Let me summarize.
Sitting in Bethany, John the Baptist sees Jesus walking towards him one day. John turns to his own followers, and says, here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
The next day, John the Baptist sees Jesus again, and again he proclaims, “look: the Lamb of God!”; and two of John’s followers think this is interesting enough to follow Jesus and find out what is going on.
The only one of these followers to be named is Andrew. Jesus says, “what are you looking for?” And they answer, “where are you staying?” And Jesus says, “come and see.” And they went, and saw, and remained with him the whole day.
And whatever they saw, changed Andrew’s life completely. Andrew went and found his brother Simon, and said, “you have to come and see – we have found the Messiah!” – and Simon, roused by Andrew’s preaching – Andrew’s confession of Jesus as Messiah – Simon comes and sees. And Jesus gives him the name Peter, and his whole life changed.
In the Gospel of John, Andrew isn’t just near the top of the lists of disciples; Andrew is the first disciple; the first preacher; the first evangelist; the first to confess that Jesus is Lord.
That Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist shouldn’t be overlooked. John the Baptist had amassed a following maybe even years before Jesus made his appearance. By the time Jesus showed up, John was already dangerous enough that Herod was on the brink of imprisoning him.
John was a messianic, apocalyptic repentance preacher. The fire-and-brimstone preacher of the ancient world. He lived a strictly religious life: strict simplicity, poverty and with a deep care for the poor, and for right living; and we can expect his followers were strictly religious in these same ways too. That he had risen to one of John’s closest followers tells us that Andrew was a devotee of long-standing.
And like John, Andrew was ready and expectant that God would be changing the world, any… day… now.
By the time Jesus came walking across the courtyard that fateful day, Andrew was ready. He was ready to follow. He was ready to be transformed. He was ready to preach the good news to others – including his brother Simon who just hadn’t believed up until now.
God was changing the world… one… day… at a time. Starting now.
At the feeding of the 5,000 in John, it is Andrew who sees the five loaves and the two fish. It is Andrew who believes that even such a small opportunity can be the way for God to act. And it is Andrew who brings this small opportunity before Jesus, and then steps back, expectantly.
Seneca, an ancient Roman philosopher once said that luck is when opportunity meets preparation. When Jesus came along, Andrew had been hoping and praying and preparing for years. Long before his brother Simon Peter believed that God was at work.
All those years, Andrew had been practicing hope; looking for signs of God; living with the poor and caring for them; and honing his expectation that one day he would see God at work in the world.
In those years he followed John, no doubt he witnessed some amazing things; but all of it was preparation. Preparation for the day when John would say, “hey: there he is, the Lamb of God, walking across the street toward you.” Preparation for the day Andrew would let his heart burst open with joy, and he would go and see.
It wasn’t an accident, that day in the courtyard, it was preparation. Andrew had cultivated eyes to see, and ears to hear, and a heart that could recognize the work of God in the world. And the kind of opportunities God likes to find.
While Simon Peter still had that whole journey to go on, Andrew had already done his work.
How do we find ourselves in preparing to see God at work in the world? How do we cultivate our ability to recognize the ways God is already present?
This Thanksgiving weekend, thanksgiving may be hard for a lot of people. There are many reasons to focus on “what is not” this year, instead of “what is”. There is suffering, and hardship, and financial strain, and tragedy. Yet the graces and the gifts of God are sprinkled liberally all around us, even in the darkest of times.
Air. And light. And the beauty of the light on the mountains. And the liberty to worship together this morning without fear of state surveillance. And the likelihood that there’s food in our grocery stores. And the broad Canadian consensus that we must support one another financially at this time. And the many incredible gifts of our healthcare system and the people who make it work.
And there is love: the love of our families; the love of our friends; the love that our St. George’s family shares in our midst.
Hope is a skill we cultivate; and so is gratitude. They are ways we train ourselves to look for God at work in the world.
This Thanksgiving weekend, may the spirit of Andrew the Apostle be with you: may you, like he, keep your eyes and ears and hearts open, to see the presence of God with us here. And now. Amen.