Sermon for the Feast Day of St Andrew
Readings: Deuteronomy 30:11–14, Romans 10:8–18 & Matthew 4:18–22
The Apostle Andrew was a fisherman, and together with his brother Simon (who we know better as the Apostle Peter), he left his occupation and family behind in order to become a disciple of Jesus. The Greek word for disciple (mathētēs) also means a learner or pupil; in other words, someone who followed one’s teaching. When Jesus said to Andrew and Peter, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people”, he was inviting them to follow his teaching.
The Gospel of John tells us that Andrew was originally a follower of the teaching of John the Baptist, but having heard John himself describe Jesus as the ‘Son of God’, Andrew was curious to learn more about Jesus. One day, while Andrew was following behind him, Jesus turned to Andrew and asked him what he was searching for; meaning what spiritual truth was he looking for. Andrew’s response was to ask Jesus where he was staying, which was an indirect way of asking Jesus if he could spend time with him, so that he could ask Jesus all of the questions that were no doubt on his mind since John the Baptist had told Andrew that Jesus was the Messiah they had all been waiting for. Jesus replied to Andrew’s question about where he was staying with an open invitation, telling him to, “come and see.”
So Andrew went with Jesus and stayed with him that day, and in so doing he became the first recorded disciple of Jesus. He then became the first disciple to record a conversion when he convinced his brother Peter that Jesus really was the Messiah.
The open invitation from Jesus to “come and see”, remains applicable to the world today. All are invited to come and see what his teaching has to offer. And as disciples of Jesus today, members of the worldwide church are encouraged to share the teaching of Jesus with others.
In today’s passage from the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul actually quotes from our first reading this morning, from the Book of Deuteronomy, when he encourages the members of the church in Rome that, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (Rom. 10:8a). The ‘word’ he is referring to is the ‘word of faith’ that Christians proclaim, which of course is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Just as in the passage from Deuteronomy, where Moses declared to the people of Israel that the law of God’s covenant had been given in such a way that each person could know God’s expectations and obey them, Paul is saying in Romans that the good news (or gospel) of Jesus is that God had revealed Himself to the world in and through the person of Jesus Christ, and that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, all people are reconciled to God if they believe in Jesus. Paul says that whoever believes this in their heart, and confesses it with their mouth is saved.
Paul also says that, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But Paul then introduces the dilemma for people who haven’t heard the good news about Jesus. If they haven’t heard the good news then they can’t be expected to know about Jesus. And if they don’t know about Jesus then how can they be expected to believe in Jesus? And if they don’t believe in Jesus how can they be expected to call on his name? It all starts with hearing about Jesus, and hearing requires someone to share the good news. And how is someone expected to share the good news unless they are sent to do so. That is what the members of the church are expected to do: to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul says of those people, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Here Paul is quoting from the prophet Isaiah who wrote during the time of the exile of the Jewish people in Babylon, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Is. 52:7 NRSV)
So how are we to share the gospel of Jesus today? We probably all get very nervous if we think there is an expectation on us to go out and start talking to strangers about our faith. I know I certainly felt that way when I offered myself for ordained ministry. I was terrified that I would be expected to stand on street corners shouting out passages of Scripture, or that I would be required to go into pubs and to start up conversations with people about God. Thankfully that wasn’t, and still isn’t the case for me, and it’s not the case for you either.
Let’s just think for a moment of the example of the first disciple, Andrew. Who was the first person he shared the good news about Jesus with? It was his brother Peter. Perhaps that’s where we can also begin to share the good news – with our families? I imagine that most of our family members have heard the good news about Jesus at some stage before in their lives, and more than likely even attended church for a time as well, but for various reasons have drifted away from the church. Maybe it’s now time for us to gently reintroduce them to Jesus, and the possible need for Jesus in their lives. And has often been said before, maybe sometimes we can even use words!
Our actions, living out our faith, can often be more powerful than words in communicating our faith. Treating other people with respect, kindness, compassion and love, in the name of Jesus, is also a way of expressing our belief in Jesus. And as Paul says in the Letter to the Romans, once again quoting from the Book of Isaiah (28:16), “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”