November 18, 2007 Observance of the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (Mt 4: 18-22)
There is something about this gospel lesson for the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle which seems just right to me this morning, as we here in this parish turn to him again as our patron saint and in celebration of our life, our heritage, our present and our future. Every year as we anticipate this feast on the Sunday before the Thanksgiving holiday, looking to St. Andrew for a hint, for a clue about who we are, about who God calls us to be. He is a rich character, and so the effort is always worthwhile.
What we want to say right from the beginning, and this seems to me to rise to the surface this morning in a really compelling way, is that, from the beginning to the end, the story of Andrew is a story about following Jesus. From this moment, by the Sea of Galilee, as Andrew and Peter step out of their boats and leave their old lives behind--to the moment represented by that simple X-shaped cross lifted high over the back wall of our church. An architectural reminder and symbol of where that path ended for him. Following Jesus not to defeat, but to a magnificent victory, walking the way of the cross faithfully from beginning to end.
And what St. Andrew so much means to me is found in that theme of faithfulness. Of persistence. Wherever this path takes us. Even a kind of stubbornness. Of hanging in there even when the going gets tough. Certainly slipping and sliding from time to time, but always, always, getting back on the path and . . . keeping on.
We live in a world so often these days where people live by ultimatum, “my way or the highway.” Give me what I want, when I want it, right now, or get out of my way. A world of fair-weather friends. A consumer-oriented environment, where we’ll leave the old to buy whatever is shiny and new. Short relational attention spans. Where it seems next to impossible to find a sense of accommodation, a spirit of generosity, a spaciousness, a willingness to live in a reality where even the answers we are sure are the right ones might not be shared by everyone. Where we can admit to the possibility that we might be wrong. That whether we are right or wrong, again, we’re going to hang in there together. With patience. Whatever time it takes.
Near as we can tell in Matthew's telling of the story this morning, Andrew and Peter had no idea what they were getting into. It was not a reasoned decision. A once-in-a-lifetime step, out of the boat and into the unknown. The impulse of the Holy Spirit, the only way to explain it. Something they knew they had to do long before they knew why they had to do it. A leap of faith, as we say in the marriage service: “for better for worse, until we are parted by death.”
The story about Andrew is a story for us about following Jesus the whole way of our lives. Which is going to be one long experiment, with high points and low points, hills and valleys, great accomplishments and catastrophic failures. But never taking eyes off Jesus along the way, all the way to that cross. To his cross, and to whatever crosses, whatever challenges, whatever comfort and consolation may be ahead for us.
In all that then, what a privilege then for us in that, to be “St. Andrew’s Church.” That we might aspire to walk in this way with him, following Jesus. And to walk that way together. A good company of faithful people, doing the best we can, but hanging in there together.
Hymns and memories, wonderful echoing bagpipe and drum, offering our prayers of thanksgiving for what God has done through the generations who have been a part of this parish family, and in and through us—and for what he will do, as the years roll on. I would just on this day find myself feeling an almost overwhelming sense of thankfulness. What a privilege to be here with you, that we would share this together, day in and day out. Sharing holy gifts with holy people. As we grow in that sense of holiness together. In the sense of what he is doing in us to make us holy.
Good people of the Parish of St. Andrew the Apostle, as we follow the one Andrew followed, as we keep our eyes on Jesus, our feet in his path, his friend, his Lord and Master, his compass and guide, may the manifold blessings of Christ fall upon us, may his compassionate generosity inspire us and lead us, support us , heal us, forgive us, transform us, and fill us with a deep understanding and experience of his loving presence, today, and in all the days to come. And Happy St. Andrew’s Day! It really is great to be here with you.
Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.