St. Andrew’s X-shaped cross is a prominent feature in the emblem of the Episcopal Church. He, like his brother, Simon Peter, did not want to be crucified in the same way as Jesus. The Christian tradition is that Andrew came from Bethsaida, a city on the bank of the Jordan River where it empties into the Sea of Galilee. This city was known as a place where Jews and Gentiles met daily. In fact, Andrew is a Greek rather than a Jewish name. In today’s gospel, he and Philip become the first Christian missionaries and continue in this vein for the duration of Jesus’ public ministry. Was it Andrew’s experience of a variety of people that made it easy for him to evangelize, or was it a combination of that and his early and personal encounter with Jesus?
My admiration of Andrew comes from his actions in the gospel accounts. He is depicted as a man of action and yet, not the same as his brother, Simon. Simon tends to jump in with both feet without looking. Simon is in the limelight. Simon is a leader. Andrew seems quiet and steady and productive and approachable. Andrew seems always to be bringing someone to Jesus and in my mind and heart that is why we are all here--to bring others to Christ, to bring Christ to the world.
All of our readings today speak of call. As a member of the Bishop’s Advisory Commission on Ministry, I am called upon to discern this call in others and it is a hard and uncomfortable task. I don’t like making judgments about other peoples’ motives or whether they have a call from God for a specific ministry in the church. Yet we are called to support one another in this discernment even here at St. Mark. We are asked to look at one another’s gifts and discern how we can use those gifts--are they better employed here at St. Mark or out in the world? And, really, how those gifts can be used in both places. We will be forming a new discernment group soon, so think about any sort of decision you must make that would be helped by the insight and input of others. It can be mundane or life-changing, or sometimes the mundane can BE life-changing. Andrew was looking for something life-changing or he wouldn’t have been hangin’ with John the Baptist. Perhaps he asked Jesus’ advice about what his next steps would be. And Jesus didn’t say, “Follow me,” he said, “Come and see.” He was inviting them into discernment of a call.
When John the Baptist told Andrew and Philip that Jesus is the anointed one, they acted on the information. They knew John and they trusted his revelation about Jesus. They began to shadow or “stalk” Jesus so he confronted them. “What do you seek?” When Jesus told them to come and see he was inviting them into relationship. After they spent time with him, they each brought someone to meet Jesus, too. Andrew brought his brother, Simon, telling him, “We have found the Messiah.”
We don’t know what they discussed with Jesus. Maybe it was like a job interview. What would an apostle’s job description look like? What was Andrew looking for? “Do you plan to have a large organization when you lead the Jews to overthrow the occupying Romans? Will I be able to have the fish concession?” What was Jesus looking for? “Do you like to travel--but, not too far? How do you feel when people in authority question your motives? What if the religious and political communities view you as an insurgent? Do you find it difficult to function when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from? Have you ever NOT known where your next meal was coming from? Speaking of meals, do you have problems staying awake after an evening of Passover celebrating?” How would he have answered the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”?
All levity aside, Andrew was convinced that this man was the Messiah and he wanted to share him with his brother, and later, with others. Though he may not have imagined how many people would be interested in getting to know Jesus.
It is Andrew who brings the boy with the loaves and the fishes to Jesus. I’ve been thinking about this boy and I wonder if he was Andrew’s son sent out to bring lunch to his dad and uncle. Maybe that is how Andrew knew what he had with him. We can’t know. Andrew didn’t just take the boy’s lunch to Jesus. He brought the boy and his lunch. What a story the boy would have to tell his family when they asked what he had done that day. This story also demonstrates Andrew’s faith--he expected Jesus would do something about feeding the huge crowd.
Maybe Andrew was also one of the people who helped roll the stone from the cave where Lazarus was buried. I wonder if he risked such contamination that he also helped unwind the linens from Lazarus’ body.
Just before Jesus’ crucifixion, a group of Greeks approached Philip, then Philip consulted with Andrew and the two of them took the Greeks to see Jesus. This seems to indicate Andrew was part of the inner circle, one of the leaders of the group. The Greeks were allowed an audience and Andrew was instrumental in this happening. These Greeks may have been Jews who were part of the Diaspora but they symbolize the evangelism of the Gentiles.
This is what I admire about Andrew. These incidents of missionary work are spread through Jesus’ public ministry and at the time of this latter one, Andrew had certainly established a personal relationship with Jesus. He had been traveling and living with Jesus for three years. Since WE cannot know the incarnate Christ in this way how ARE we to know him? If we want to know God we should get to know Jesus. We can read the Gospels and their eyewitness accounts (though they were written years later). We can experience Christ in our liturgy and in the Eucharist. If we want to know Jesus we should get to know his followers. We can look to the whole New Testament to find out the response of the eyewitnesses and the people who knew them.
What about modern day followers? I will say that most of the times I have experienced Jesus on a personal level has been in community with other Christians. First, on my mother’s lap when she told me Jesus loves me. In Sunday School when teachers poured out an abundance of love. When I stood in a small group at a church as a teenager and an older woman who rarely spoke to me put her arm around my shoulders and said, “I’m so glad you come to church here. I love you.” This acceptance, I believe, comes from Christ. It also comes from being blessed by a street person who is appreciative of my presence--of my ability to see him or her.
No matter how cerebral we think we are in our rational thoughts and our ability to be tolerant, unconditional acceptance comes from Christ. We can experience in community what the disciples experienced in the presence of Christ. And in the Eucharist, we can experience the acceptance of Christ in his role as our intermediary to the Divine. When we approach the communion rail, we do so in the state of grace because when God looks on one of us, the One sees Christ in us.
How do we emulate Andrew? Maybe we need to think of the Christians we know who exhibit this ability to bring others to Christ. Maybe it’s as simple as saying, “We found the Messiah, will you come?”
I see Christ out in the world and I see him in here, in this place in all your faces. There is hatred and division in the world and it is disturbing. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to this division and the ways it kills the soul. We can open our hearts to those we meet and love them for who they are. We can be Christ in the world and heal division and bring peace to those who don’t have it. We can put balm on the wounds of division, on the wounds caused by poverty and hunger, and on the wounds caused by distrust and hatred. We can sit with Jesus and bring others to meet him. We can be like Andrew.