A GLIMPSE OF ST. ANDREW
Mark 1: 14-20
The late William Barclay was one of the most beloved commentators on the New Testament. He was the one who wrote the Daily Bible Study series, used by many classes here at Westminster. What you may not know is that he was a Scot; an author, a radio and television presenter, a Church of Scotland minister (which means Presbyterian to us!) and a Bible Professor at the University of Glasgow! In his book called The Master’s Men, he says about Andrew, the first (some gospels say the second) disciple called by Jesus:
Andrew has the very unusual distinction of being the patron saint of no fewer than three different countries:[and the other two countries may surprise you] Russia, Greece, and Scotland. There is not very much direct information, but the information the gospel story does contain is such that it paints an unmistakable picture of the kind of man Andrew was. [He] was a native of Bethsaida (John 1:44). He was a fisherman by trade and it was when he was plying his trade and mending his nets that Jesus called him to be a fisher of men (Mark 1: 16-18; Matthew 4: 18-20). Andrew began by being a follower of John the Baptist, and according to John’s telling of the story, Andrew was the first of all the twelve to attach himself to Jesus, along with John…. No sooner did Andrew discover Jesus for himself that he went to find his brother Peter [really called Simon] to bring him to Jesus. [Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1959, p. 41]
We should add that Dr. Barclay missed an important other fact: Andrew is the patron saint of golf too! In fact he has a course or two named after him!
Tradition says that he was crucified by the Romans on a “Chi” shaped cross (just check out the “Chi” on the front of our lectern; it’s a Greek letter that looks like an X, but it’s the first letter in the word “Christos” for “Christ. ”) Andrew, interestingly, is a Greek name, not a Jewish one! Do you know what it means? Manly! One author put it this way: “He seem[ed] to have a quiet strength of character and a helpfulness on which others could always rely. At the feeding of the five thousand, it is he who tells Jesus of the boy with the five barley loaves and two fish. Again, it is to Andrew that Philip comes to for advice when some Greeks requested a meeting with Jesus.” [Jesus and the Twelve, Good Will, Inc. Gastonia, N.C.]
So we know those things about Andrew directly. But what can we infer about him, and what can we learn from him? What is it after all, that makes Andrew such an honored man to so many groups of people? First, along with the other 11 Apostles, he was called to come as he was by Jesus, to be a disciple. There wasn’t a test; there wasn’t an interview. There was invitation. He just responded and followed! There isn’t a person alive who cannot be a disciple of Jesus. The extraordinary thing that disciples of Jesus do to change them is they accept the invitation! “Come and learn!” we may say to others. “Come and be baptized if you aren’t already, and start a new life following Jesus!” Those words might be part of your invitation. Andrew invited his own brother to follow Jesus according to John 1: 40-42. Listen to the way John’s gospel records it: “One of the two who heard John [the Baptist] speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother, Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah!” [Messiah means “Christ.”] Andrew invited others to find the one who he found too! Yet Andrew was just an ordinary person who followed an extraordinary Savior. He followed; then he invited others to do that too!
That could describe you and me. Ordinary people, like Andrew, turned to his brother, Simon, and said this: “We have found the Messiah.” And this is what he did: “He brought his brother to Jesus.” Two great actions for any of us to do: inviting people to meet Jesus or bringing others to meet him! By that action, Andrew was an evangelist. As we said last week, being an evangelist is just bringing someone to Christ. Then we can let Christ do the rest! How do we do that when Jesus lived ages ago? One of the most common ways is for you to invite someone to, or you bring someone to your church! I met Jesus in church; others often do too! I declared Jesus as my Savior in a church—a common place for such a life-changing declaration. Andrew said it this way according to John’s gospel: “I have found the Messiah.” John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterian Church, wrote this about Andrew:
Andrew has scarcely a spark [of faith], yet, by means of it, he enlightens his brother. Woe to our indolence, therefore, if we do not, after having been fully enlightened, endeavor to make others partakers of the same grace. We may observe in Andrew two things which Isaiah requires from the children of God: namely, that each should take his neighbor by the hand, and next, that he should say, Come, let us go up into the mountain of the Lord, and he will teach us.” (Isa. ii. 3.) [Calvin’s Commentary]
Part of my call and faith story involves a man named Andrew. I share this story with our elders whenever I train them. My first paid position in a church was as “Assistant Janitor.” That was my title! After school in my high school years, I would drive to my large Presbyterian Church, the place where I was baptized, the place where I sang in the choir, and the place where I ushered when the choir was not singing, and I would clean God’s house. I put money in the bank for college and I built ties to my faith that are still with me today. The Head Janitor was a tall black man. His name was Andrew, and he was a man of great faith. After we would take a break from waxing floors or vacuuming carpets, we would sit down and drink a soda. On more than one occasion he said to me: “You oughta be a preacher!” “No I would say quickly.” “I’m going to go into business like my Dad.” And he would look at me and shake his head. It was as if to say, “The Lord has different plans for you!” He did. Thanks to Andrew for inviting me to be a Christian minister.
In my work for the Theological Education Fund of the Presbyterian Church (USA), I was always on the lookout for people to go into the gospel ministry. In less than10 years, Baby Boomers like me will be retired. Who will carry on the preaching, the teaching, the administrating and the Pastoral Care of a church? The need will be great. So people like Elder Tobias Caskey has said “yes” to the call to get the advanced degree and become ordained Minister of the Word and Sacrament. There might be some here today who want to do that. But for the rest of you, all you need to do is be an Andrew; a man of integrity who invites others to meet Jesus. You might say: “Come try my church,” and here they might indeed meet Christ. Invitations can make disciples. Not everyone accepts the invitation. But we know 12 did in the Bible and how many more have followed? I invite people all the time! Last year forty-one persons said “yes” and joined our congregation! Congregations grow in part by doing what Andrew did: “He brought someone to Christ.” I tell this to my elder classes as well: I am a Presbyterian because when we moved to St. Louis we had not found a nearby Methodist Church. Our next door neighbor walked across his back yard to ours and invited my father to bring the family his Presbyterian Church the next Sunday. It was there, a few years later, that I found Jesus Christ, was baptized, and claimed him as my Lord and Savior. And I cleaned pews! Who knows what God has in store?
Remember, in our text from Mark we heard that Jesus invited, and Andrew and Simon dropped what they were doing and followed him. Like Scotland sometimes feels forgotten in the shadow of England and the seat of the queen, Andrew might have felt slightly forgotten. He had been invited first, but Simon Peter got the spotlight. So what did Andrew do? He still followed, and kept connecting others to Jesus. Being an Andrew blessed Jesus and his ministry.
Go and be like Andrew: follow Jesus, and lead others to the Christ.
Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus: many here have learned about you, found you, and followed you. Remind us that not just the Twelve, but also disciples who came after them, have the power of the Holy Spirit in them too. Give them the courage to say what needs to be said, do what needs to be done, and to invite those who might be lost to be found. We will stand in solidarity with them. Amen.
Jeffrey A. Sumner January 21, 2018