2nd Sunday after the Epiphany
Isaiah 49: 1-7
1 Corinthians 1: 1-9
John 1: 29-42
“Come and See”
In the text we have just heard from John’s Gospel, we have heard how John the Baptist recognized Jesus “out in the world,” how he identified him rightly as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
Last week, we explored what it means to call Jesus the “Lamb of God” – that because he has gone to the cross to bear our sins, that because He has received not only a baptism of water by human hands, but also a baptism of blood by human hands, that He has achieved God’s purpose of “Loving Humility”
This week, I would like to invite us into something very different. Not to ignore the Good News of Christ, or the Good News of the cross but to focus in on some figures mentioned in today’s text (and one figure in particular) who calls us to live faithfully, invitationally, and vulnerably in a complicated world.
Moving back to this morning’s text: after John identified Jesus as the Lamb of God, after John and Jesus have their reunion, The Gospel tells us that the next day John was standing with two disciples and once again he called out “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
The two disciples [having heard John the Baptist’s words] began to follow Jesus along his way.
When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi… where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come and see.” [Then the disciples came and saw where he was staying and remained with him that day]
[Then the Gospel tells us] One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. [Andrew] first found his brother Simon Peter and said to him “We have found the Messiah.” [Andrew] brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas… [Peter… the rock of the church]”
Within this Gospel reading, which at first hearing may sound like a series of names and small conversations, within this Gospel reading is wonderful Good News not only for all of us, not only for the church in the world, but for our church here at 20th and Spadina.
Here in this text:
…We find ourselves reacquainted with John the Baptist… but that is not our Good News
…We are introduced to Simon Peter “the rock” of the church… but that is not our Good News
…We are introduced to two minor characters… and now we are getting close…
The two minor characters we meet this morning are the two disciples originally standing with John; one disciple who is unnamed and one disciple who is called Andrew…
Our Good News this morning is within this character of Andrew; this minor figure; it is within this disciple whose greatest legacy is introducing his brother to Christ; because it is within the figure of Andrew that we find not only our church’s namesake but also its call to mission at home and in the world.
This man named Andrew.
This man Andrew who became one of the twelve followers of Jesus.
This man is the same Andrew who would later be called St. Andrew.
The same St. Andrew who was said to be crucified on an “X” shaped cross.
The same St. Andrew who became the patron Saint of Scotland, the nation that uses the St. Andrew’s cross as its symbol.
And who, following the Reformation, became the name and symbol most closely associated with the Presbyterian church worldwide.
One question I often get from people who are exploring the Presbyterian tradition for the first time is “what is with all of the St. Andrew’s”?
“What is with all of the St. Andrew’s”?
“Why does every Presbyterian church seem to be named St. Andrew’s”?
And even though that is not strictly true – we have, after all, names like Calvin Go-Forth Presbyterian, Knox Presbyterian, Norman Kennedy Presbyterian, Forbes Presbyterian and so on – we do, I should think, have more St. Andrew’s than any other denomination would be able to lay claim to, and I hope, by the end of this message, you will agree that that is something to be proud of.
For myself, as an adult convert, as someone who has been a member of the Presbyterian Church for only 10 years, I now find myself serving and working in my 4th St. Andrew’s already.
I heard the Gospel and became a member at St. Andrew’s Lethbridge.
During seminary, I lived and served as a student chaplain at St. Andrew’s Hall in Vancouver.
I served as a summer student minister at St. Andrew’s in Salmon Arm, BC
And I received my first ordained call here at St. Andrew’s Saskatoon. One day, as I am looking back on the whole of my ministry career, I hope that I will be able to say that I only served at churches called St. Andrew’s.
But back to the question, “Why all the St. Andrew’s?”
What is it about “St. Andrew” that makes him so synonymous with the Presbyterian church two-thousand years after introducing his brother to Jesus, and what does this have to do with our call to mission at home and in the world now?
This morning, as we heard John’s version of how Jesus gained his first two disciples, how they literally began following Jesus down the street, we have heard how God’s purposes of calling people to Jesus have not actually changed that much from the beginning to the present day.
In the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, just as today, God calls people to know and to follow Jesus in the simplest and seemingly “most random” of ways.
Just as the unknown disciple in this story felt the urge to suddenly stop following John and start following Jesus, we have among us in this room people who have also left their old lives and habits and decided to follow Christ.
Just as in our text this morning, when Simon Peter came to be called “the rock” of Jesus’ church only through the action and invitation of two disciples before him, we have in this room people who have been invited to follow Jesus by the invitation of friends of friends.
Both in the time of the disciples and now, the action that results in a person following Jesus often appears to be less scripted and more improv.
God has not stopped using simple decisions, gut decisions, friends of friends to call his people together, and he is not likely to stop.
I myself, first walked through the door of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian church in Lethbridge through the invitation of one who already knew Jesus and wanted to introduce me, something I am truly grateful for.
But, my friends, let us not think that the richness of this morning’s Good News ends there, let us not think that “all we have to do” is invite 10 friends, and they will invite 10 friends and so on, life and church are a bit more complicated than that.
The figure of Andrew the Disciple invites us not simply to invite our friends to church, not simply to practice the fundamentals of “home mission,” but also to know him and his faithfulness, and to know God’s faithfulness to not only the star disciples, the Simon Peters of the world, but also their brothers and sisters in Christ, those who, like Andrew, practice a faith that is not so widely celebrated, but no less deeply transformative.
Andrew, though a “regular” disciple, though not part of Jesus’ “inner three” of Simon Peter, James, and John; though he is not written about extensively as these were in the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of the early church; Andrew was one who mediated his brother’s introduction. He was one who made it possible for Simon Peter and for others to know and to love and to follow Jesus.
And as we read through the whole Gospel story, we realize that this is not just a small fact of Andrew’s life, but rather this is Andrew’s call, his purpose in Christ’s ministry and mission.
Andrew, though celebrated in his own rite as a disciple, an apostle, a martyr, and a patron saint, the Andrew of the Gospels is known most of all as a mediator.
At John 1 – Andrew mediates the meeting between Simon Peter and Jesus
At John 6 – Andrew mediates the meeting of Jesus and a certain boy who shared all the food he had, 5 barley loaves and 2 fish that Jesus multiplied to feed 5000 people
At John 12 – Andrew, as a Greek speaker, mediated the meeting of a group of Greek festival goers who wished to meet Jesus
These three events are the most significant events where Andrew is mentioned directly in the Gospels.
Andrew is not “the rock” of the church, he is not the main character of the story, rather he is one who mediates, who makes it possible for his brother to know Jesus, for a child to be part of a miracle, for strangers from another land to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.
And indeed, one ancient manuscript from the early church credits Andrew as being the reason we know these things and more about Jesus at all:
That as one Apostle was considering what to do with the story he had been telling about Jesus, Andrew encouraged him to fast for three days and then to write down all that he had experienced, the Apostle that Andrew encouraged was the Apostle John and his writings became the fourth Gospel we know today.
Mediation. Encouragement, support, love, mission. These were Andrew’s call, a call that he faithfully achieved as a follower of Jesus Christ.
As to why this particular church is called St. Andrew’s.
As to why so many Presbyterian churches in Canada and beyond are called St. Andrew’s.
It may simply be the outcome of history, the outcome of Scotland’s saintly patronage, and the outcome of the Protestant split that followed; it may all be, more or less, random coincidence, but there is at least one disciple who lived to serve Christ (and his mission) who would be quick to remind us that God’s mission for the world and “randomness” are no so far apart from each other as we may think.
Friends, in addition to leading us to know more about our namesake, St. Andrew; in addition to leading us to celebrate his discipleship, and his mission, and his legacy of mediation, I would like to encourage us to follow his example and to believe that we have already been equipped to follow in his mission in the world.
For some time now, as I find myself thinking and praying about the future of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, as I have been praying about our future and our call and our mission in the great story that is Christ and his Church in the world, I have over-and-again had the distinct feeling that we are being called to follow Christ as Andrew followed; to take on a role of mediating between people, of encouraging conversation, of encouraging discipleship, and the pursuit of Christ.
There is a joke I have been hearing and telling more often lately that the Presbyterian Church is everyone’s second favorite denomination: we are liturgical but not too liturgical, traditional but not too traditional, liberal but not too liberal, conservative but not too conservative; we are a comfortable middle ground for all kinds of different Christians, whenever an ecumenical gathering needs to take place, the word “Presbyterian” comes up quickly and is met with friendly agreement.
In these complicated times, as our denomination discusses and re-discusses divisive doctrines (as we are now doing with “human sexuality”), this “happy middle” identity may call us to be critical. We may become impatient and demand that the Presbyterian church “stand for something”, that we choose a side, that it may actually be worthwhile to alienate half of our people if only it means choosing what is “right” in our hearts.
Andrew invites us to understand ourselves differently.
Andrew invites us to consider that Christ’s call to our church in the world may not be to simply choose a side; to not simply alienate half of the people who love their church as so many other denominations have chosen to do; to simply “choose and side” and pursue impatient division over patient mediation.
Andrew invites us to consider that what God may be calling our churches to do, so many churches that call themselves St. Andrew’s, may be to practice mediation, to practice humility, to accept joyfully the call to not be the centre of attention, to accept joyfully the call to be a church where many different people will come to feel at home: our brothers destined for great things, children who need a miracle to believe the Good News, strangers from a foreign land who want to meet Jesus.
Andrew invites us to remember that the Good News of Jesus Christ takes many different forms; sometimes it calls for heated action; sometimes it is patient and kind; and sometimes it looks like a mediator; a mediator who brings together those who no longer think they have enough in common to go on walking together; a mediator who calls us to remember that we are called to follow Jesus not as individuals or as sects competing for greatness but as the whole body of Christ, in all of its diversity and all of its beauty.
Inviting someone to follow Jesus is a vulnerable act. Doing church as a denomination committed to unity and diversity is a vulnerable act. It is a call to have the vulnerability to point the way to the Lord without demanding that our neighbour follow Jesus and know Jesus in exactly the same way we do. It is a call to have faith; a call to have faith that Jesus is the one who transforms hearts and calls people to Truth and Love, it is a call to believe that our Lord is greater, and more wonderful, and more comfortable with coincidence than we are, it is a call to follow Jesus with the unknown person and to trust by faith that Christ is leading us somewhere, it is a call to be like Andrew.
When Andrew and the unnamed disciple decided to follow Jesus, Our Lord invited them with three simple words “Come and see.”
Friends, as we consider Andrew and St. Andrew’s; and both of their calls to serve the Gospel, let us, above all else, follow Christ.
Let us follow the one who invites us to “Come and see,” and let us invite our neighbours, in a world torn by division, to “come and see” a church and a family united in the love of the one we follow.