Sunday, November 18, 2012

St. Andrew's Day @ St. Andrew's, Highland Park

Grace and peace to you, a word of welcome on this always-wonderful Sunday, as we observe the festival of our patron saint, Andrew the Apostle.  

A little like a birthday party, or a homecoming weekend, an anniversary, and certainly a time to pause for a moment to think about how the spirit of this great place, St. Andrew’s--175 years old this year, to talk about anniversaries—about how the spirit of this great place is and has become a part of who we are.  I’ve seen a number of constructions.  St. Andreans is what I prefer, since the name in Greek is “Andreas”-- though there were a few around here for a while who preferred “St. Andrewsians.”  For some reason I remember Ruth Cover always preferring that one.  And I occasionally hear from the direction of the Star Trek section of the Choir, “St. Androids.”  

But in any event, a particular and distinctive and peculiar species, DNA passed down in some mystical invisible way generation by generation, despite all kinds of differences of background, perspective, life experience.  “Every breed of cat,” as I like to say about the parish by the zoo.  Democrats and Republicans, vegetarians and omnivores, people who love baseball and, hard as this is to believe, people who don’t.  Chamber music and country, Handel and Hendrix.  People who will describe their lives and families and communities and interests and even to say their Christian faith in a multitude of vocabularies.  But in the midst of those differences, something shared.  An inclination to be here, to be together, prompted by our Better Angels, I think.  Whispers of encouragement.  Stirrings of the heart that take place in such quiet ways that we don’t even notice them at first.

Grace and peace then, St. Andreans, St. Andrewsians, St. Androids.  As Dickens’s Tiny Tim will solemnly pronounce again this year, “God bless us, every one.”  And welcome old friends and new, with a special greeting and appreciation again this year to our friends of the Syria Highlanders.  Thank you for the gift you bring us in stirring up these ancestral memories on this St. Andrew’s Day, and thank you for the opportunity you share with us in support of the wonderful work of the Shriners’ Hospital.   Certainly the pioneers of this place back in 1837 were aware of St. Andrew’s role as patron saint of Scotland.  Perhaps they were recognizing and honoring in those days the large Scotch-Irish population that had been such a large part of the first European settlers in this region.  And so to hear the pipes again across the neighborhood and ringing through the church—it is for us an old and familiar song.

Andrew is the patron saint indeed of Barbados, Scotland, the Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Patras in Greece, Amalfi in Italy, Luqa in Malta, Esgueira in Portugal.  Patron saint of Prussia, and of the Order of the Golden Fleece (I looked that up in Wikipedia—an order dating from the 15th century comprising members of the royal families and high nobility of old Europe). And the emblematic St. Andrew’s Cross appears on the flags as well of Scotland, and so on the British "Union Jack," and then Australia, New Zealand, Nova Scotia, Tenerife, Galicia, and the state flags of Florida and Alabama, among others.  Andrew is also, to note this one week after our observance of Veterans Day, the patron saint of the U.S. Army Rangers.

So he got around, apparently.  This St. Andrew of ours.  How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!—as St. Paul writes in Romans 10.

We’ve heard one story about the calling of Andrew and Peter, here in St. Matthew this morning.  Leave your nets and come, fish for people . . . .  The story in St. John has Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist, who with another John the Baptist follower hears John speak about Jesus and follows after him to see what he’s all about, and who then goes and finds his brother Peter to say, “come and meet the person we've been waiting for all our lives.”  Then again in St. John, when the multitudes have followed Jesus into the countryside to hear his teaching, and when evening has come and the people are beginning to get hungry, and nobody seems quite sure what to do, Andrew brings to Jesus a little boy who has brought his lunch from home, five loaves of bread, and two fish.  And later still, at a moment of crisis on the journey toward the cross, some Greeks come, seeking Jesus, and it is Andrew to whom they speak first, and he brings them to him.

All we know about what happened for Andrew after Pentecost Sunday is pious tradition, but certainly it must have followed along the same pattern. Meeting people where they are, and leading them to Jesus.  A ministry, we might say, of introduction and evangelism.  Commending Jesus.  Inviting others who haven’t met him yet to come into his presence, to experience for themselves his tender mercy, his forgiveness, and the healing and new life and real and substantial hope that flow from the knowledge of his resurrection.  Andrew, always ready to say a good word about Jesus.  How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

For 175 years under his banner as this community of Christian people.  Pilgrims.  Men and women, boys and girls.  All sorts and conditions.  And somehow here good Andrew keeps doing his work, his team, fishing for people, taking them by the hand and bringing them to his friend.  "Come, let me introduce you to the person you’ve been waiting all your life to meet."  Inspiring us, at this font and at this Table, sustaining us, equipping us,  as the Word is proclaimed and studied, as we meet Jesus here, and as we continue to meet him and to walk with him then from this great place to all corners of the neighborhood and city and region around.

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!  Blessings on this St. Andrew’s Day, friends, for those of us who are here today, and for those whose first Sunday in this great place will be next Sunday, or the Sunday after that.  Perhaps the neighbor who slips in by the side door a few weeks from now to watch and listen as our children tell in their pageant the story of the Savior’s birth.  Perhaps the friend who accepts our invitation to attend the beautiful offering of Lessons and Carols.  Perhaps the one who decides after years of frustration and resistance and sadness and hurt to give the Christian message and that Bethlehem Baby another hearing at midnight on Christmas Eve.  Perhaps a neighbor in Lima Peru, in a conversation with John and Susan Park, or in a time of prayer with a community Five Talents solidarity circle.  Perhaps a neighbor right around the corner, whose hard road to recovery is made a little easier by the friendship and helping hand of one of our Off the Floor Pittsburgh Saturday mornings.

How beautiful indeed are the feet of those who bring good news—and the news that Andrew had to share, the news that we have to share, the best news ever.  Come and meet him.  He is the one we have been waiting for.   May the next 175 years of our life together continue the story and announce the good news in great and new ways, always to bring honor, glory, and praise, through Christ our Lord.

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