M. Daniel Carroll R. of Wheaton College wrote: “Honor before God, and eventually the powerful, comes in serving the world. The upside-down way of the Servant is not easy. We must trust God even when we face opposition.” And, Chaplains on the Harbor does face opposition for what we do. People don’t want to hear about the 1000 people who are identified as homeless in Aberdeen-that this number represents 1 in 16 of our residents. People don’t want to hear that often it is not the person’s fault that they have ended up couch surfing or sleeping on the streets. Chaplains on the Harbor has partnered with marginalized people and they have lifted their own voices to speak to the powerful.
I visited a man in jail on Wednesday and he told me that our ministry has been a lifesaver for him. I told him that we really haven’t done that much--it’s not like we have found him a home or a job. He is a smart man who has survived. All we have done is befriend him, empower him, feed him and love him. He got a big hug on Wednesday (and so did I) and I gave him a copy of our jail newsletter, The Holy Hustler, and he found some pix of friends in there. Something to connect to “the outs”, as they say in jail.
What motivated us to go out and feed people on the streets of Aberdeen? Sarah Monroe recognized that people were living rough and she wanted to get to know them. She and Aaron Scott had a dream of reaching out and empowering people to organize so they could have better living conditions, so they could no longer be ignored. But, mainly, we want to get to know people and find out what they want, what they need from the powerful. We have mourned with them and organized and fed them and given some of them jobs and buried too many. So what does any of our 6 plus years of ministry in Grays Harbor have to do with Jesus who was called out by John the Baptist down by a different river in a different backwater place in a different time? I would like to talk about St. Andrew and how he inspires me to do the work I have been given to do.
Those of us familiar with the emblem of the Episcopal Church will recognize the x-shaped cross of St. Andrew. Tradition says he requested to be crucified on such a cross because he didn’t want to be seen the same as Jesus when he was executed by the Romans. He identified with Jesus and followed him because there are all those little snippets of information about Andrew in the Gospel stories. Andrew was from Bethsaida-a city on the Sea of Galilee right where the Jordan River feeds into the lake. It was a place where Gentiles and Jews mingled.
In today’s story, we see that Andrew and Philip become the first Christian missionaries--because once they had spent time with Jesus they brought others to meet him. Andrew is depicted in other places doing just this. I wonder if the personal encounter with Jesus that we just read about is the basis for his faith in Jesus’ ministry.
Andrew is a different sort of man of action than his brother, Simon Peter. Simon is impulsive and Andrew seems more quiet and steady and approachable. I believe he truly lived as Christ in the world.
When Andrew was following John the Baptist, he must have been looking for a life change. We encourage our church people to participate in continuing discernment and I suspect his interview with Jesus involved just that kind of deep discernment. As Jesus said, “Come and see,” and Andrew and Philip answered this call into relationship. Did Jesus ask them how they would feel about people in authority questioning their motives? Did he ask them if they could travel with nothing and not worry about their next meal? Or did he ask where do you see yourself in five years?
Andrew was convinced by whatever was said and brought his brother to meet Jesus. And, he just kept bringing people--it’s possible he was a sort of gatekeeper or handler for Jesus?
Andrew brought the boy with the loaves and fishes when that large crowd got hungry. I have wondered if he was Andrew’s son or nephew. Andrew didn’t take his lunch--he brought the boy to meet Jesus. It is a demonstration of his faith--though it could have been sarcasm. This is the food that we have, Jesus. Andrew expected Jesus would do something and he wasn’t disappointed.
In the days before Jesus was executed, a group of Greeks came to Philip and he consulted with Andrew. The two of them took the Greeks, who may have been Greek-speaking Jews, to see Jesus. The Greeks got to speak with Jesus, and Andrew was instrumental in that. It is an example of Jesus’ ministry going global.
I admire Andrew--that he was trusted to bring folks to meet Jesus. Andrew and Jesus were personal friends.
We do not have the opportunity that Andrew had to live and work directly with Jesus, eat meals with him, and get tired on the road with him. What we have is these Gospel stories and the stories about the apostles, like Andrew and Paul. And, we can experience Jesus in our prayers and the Eucharist. If we want to know Jesus, we can also get to know those who have committed to “this upside-down way of the Servant.”
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. I had Sunday School teachers who poured out an abundance of love to me. And, I will never forget standing in a group when I was a teenager and an elderly woman put her arm around my shoulders and said, “I’m so glad you come to church here. I love you.” This love and acceptance comes from Christ. It also comes from that guy in jail or any one of many encounters I have had with the folks Chaplains on the Harbor counts as congregants. Yes, I am out there in the encampment or in jail or accompanying someone to addiction counseling, but no one has to open themselves up to me in the ways I have experienced. No one has to stop me for a hug, to ask for a blessing or prayer, or acknowledge my presence at all. I think of the times I have heard people say they wouldn’t be alive if God hadn’t helped them. That is real faith when you don’t have a home or income. These are my encounters with Jesus.
When God looks on us, The One sees Christ in us. So I hope I am emulating Andrew by presenting the light of Christ, by giving him the credit for anything I do in the world that is good, I hope that people want to meet Jesus.
I see Christ in the people I meet and I see him 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 between the poor and the wealthy and the ways division kills the soul. We can open our hearts to those we meet and love them for who they are, for how God sees them. 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 we can bring others to meet him. We can be like Andrew. We can turn the world upside-down!