Sermon for the Feast Day of St Andrew
Readings: Deuteronomy 30:11–14; Romans 10:8–18 & Matthew 4:18–22
The discussion at last Monday’s Spiritual Cafe centred on the notion that we are free either to accept the ultimate power or authority of God or reject it. The choice is ours to make, and there are consequences in this life and, if we believe, in the life to come that flow from that choice.
The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis explained it by saying that human beings were divided between those who acknowledged the supremacy of God in their lives, and those who see themselves as the “Almighty Me.” Lewis also said there are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”
This is the issue that Moses addresses in today’s first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy. Moses challenges the people of Israel to keep the covenant that God has made with them – in other words, they are to acknowledge the supremacy of God in their lives and to do His will, rather than to reject God’s supremacy and instead do only what they themselves want to do. Moses tells the Israelites that it’s easy for them to keep the covenant because the word of God is very close to them. He tells them that it’s in their mouths and in their hearts, because the word of God is what Moses himself has given the Israelites in the law and commandments.
The Apostle Paul goes further in the Letter to the Romans when he says that Jesus is the fulfilment of the law and commandments. Paul says that Jesus is now the word of God, and that he is on the lips and in the hearts of the people in the church in Rome as a result of their faith. Paul explains that when people publicly confess that Jesus is the Messiah, and when they believe that God raised him from the dead, then they will be reconciled with God. For Paul says that, “Everyone who calls on the name of Jesus will reconciled with God.”
Paul then asks the members of the church in Rome a series of cause and effect questions: “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?” Here, Paul is talking about evangelism – telling people about the good news of the gospel. Paul talks about how important those people are who deliver the message of Jesus and the gospel. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!”
One of the very first people to deliver the message of Jesus and the gospel, was of course the Apostle Andrew. In today’s gospel reading Matthew tells the story of Jesus calling Simon Peter and his brother Andrew to become his followers. Matthew says that both men immediately left their occupation as fishermen to follow Jesus.
To return to the discussion at last Monday’s Spiritual Cafe, we reflected on the fact that many people in our society today don’t know enough about God to even have to worry about the notion that we are either free to accept the ultimate power or authority of God or reject it. That’s because people today, especially younger people, are not receiving any instruction or teaching in the Christian Faith. And people from previous generations who may have received such instruction or teaching, such as the “Baby Boomers”, perhaps no longer see the relevance of God in their lives.
There are no doubt many reasons, or factors, for this, but I wonder if one reason might be to do with the type of instruction or teaching that people received from the church? I know in my own case, that what I was taught at the Roman Catholic primary and secondary schools I attended, wasn’t conducive to me attending church beyond my early teenage years, or to making sure that I passed on that same instruction or teaching to my own children. And that is not meant to be a criticism of the Roman Catholic tradition. I’m sure it is a phenomenon that is common to all of the major denominations of Christianity.
If young people today aren’t being introduced to the Christian Faith by their parents and/or grandparents, and if they aren’t being encouraged to learn more about the Faith, then how, in the words of Paul, are they to hear about Jesus and believe in Jesus?
That’s where each one of us has a role to play. We can be messengers of Jesus, just like Peter, Andrew and Paul. I’m not suggesting that we should “brow beat” our children and grandchildren into accepting the Christian Faith and attending church, but we can improve our own knowledge and understanding of our faith so that we can feel more comfortable in talking about our faith with family members.
As I said during last Sunday’s AGM, assisting people to grow in their knowledge and understanding of their faith, and helping them to deepen their own personal relationship with God, is ultimately one of my major aims in my parish ministry. And as I said, the ways in which I try to do that are through sermons such as this, through Bible Study programs such as our current Advent Study, and through the weekly Spiritual Reflections in the pew sheet and the associated conversations that take place at the Spiritual Cafe on Monday mornings. I encourage everyone to think about how you might take advantage of resources such as these to become “messengers of Jesus” in your own right.