Sermon for St Andrew’s Day
Readings: Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Romans 10:8-18 & Matthew 4:18-22
It’s wonderful that we can welcome a new member into our community of faith on the day of that we celebrate our patronal festival.
Very shortly I will have the pleasure of baptising Fong Yuk Ling, whom we know better by her English name of Lily, and who is the wife of David Wilson. Over the past few years Lily has been attending church services with David when her work schedule allows. Lily has also attended some of our parish social events, such as Pancake Night. Prior to coming to Melbourne to live, Lily regularly attended church services at a large Roman Catholic Church in Hong Kong, so it really is a joy to formally welcome her into our church family today as a baptised member of the church.
And I think it’s great that Lily has made the decision for herself, as an adult, to officially become a Christian. Most of us here this morning were probably baptised as infants, with our parents and godparents speaking on our behalf, and then we were still young children we perhaps became confirmed, which was a way for us to proclaim our faith for ourselves. However I’m sure you would agree that it’s not quite the same as choosing to come to faith as an adult, when you’ve already had a significant amount of ‘life experience’.
If we think about the disciples of Jesus, and most, if not all, of the early Christians who were baptised during the first few centuries of the life of the Church, they were adults who answered the call from Jesus or the apostles to accept the Christian Faith as their own. As we celebrate St Andrew’s Day today, we remember that Andrew was one of the first disciples called by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. And in fact in the Gospel of John, Andrew is actually the very first disciple to be called. What does it mean to be called to be a disciple of Christ?
The Apostle Paul, writing in his letter to the Church in Rome, says that it means to be saved. Specifically, it means to be saved from sin and the power of death. Paul argues that “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” (Romans 10:9–10 NRSV) Each week in church we confess with our lips, when we recite the Niceness Creed, both that Jesus is Lord, and that God raised Jesus from the dead. Whether we believe both in our hearts or not, is obviously something is between each of us and God.
Interestingly, in today’s passage from the Letter to the Romans, Paul goes on to say that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”. Paul then asks a series of rhetorical 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? (Romans 10:14–15 NRSV) They are all really valid questions. But of course Paul already knows the answer to these questions, which is why they are rhetorical. The answer is that each of us, as disciples of Christ, will make the name of Jesus known by professing our faith in him.
In our first reading this morning, from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses was challenging the Israelites to obey the law that had been given to them by God through Moses. Moses was suggesting that because the law was easily accessible to the people. It wasn’t up in heaven, nor was it across the sea, but it had been given so as to be spoken in the mouths of the Israelites.
Writing to the church in Rome, Paul argues that this passage from Deuteronomy has been fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus, who is the ultimate Word from God, has become flesh, and through the faith of those who believe in him, he now abides in the mouths and hearts of his disciples.
As a result of our baptism, Jesus now abides in our mouths and hearts, and we confess with our lips that he is Lord, and we believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead. If we believe in our hearts, then we are restored to a right relationship with God; our wrongdoings are forgiven, and we have the hope of eternal life with Jesus.