Sunday, November 22, 2015

St. Andrew's Day 2015

Observing St. Andrew the Apostle

Good morning and grace and peace-- fellow St. Androids (I love saying that!),  extended family, neighbors and friends.  Always a fun day in the life of this congregation—and the wider neighborhood, as folks up the block and around the corner put down the Sunday paper and come out on the porch to see what all the fuss is.  Bagpipes and drums and smiles and greetings.   And a cookie table!

A special welcome and word of thanks again as for so many years our friends of the Syria Highlanders have blessed us by joining in the celebration.  And as we are reminded by your presence to include in our thoughts and prayers the important work of the Shriners’ Hospitals for Children, which you all continue to serve as your fundraising mission.  It’s an honor for us to have the opportunity to share in that work with you.

Our St. Andrew’s ancestors were sent out on a missionary endeavor in the winter and spring of 1837, to lay the foundations of a second Episcopal Church to serve Pittsburgh’s growing population.  Must have been an exciting time for them.  Energized with a vision for Christian witness, the proclamation of the gospel in a new place and in new ways.  For them in a fresh and new way the echoing invitation and commission of our Lord to our St. Andrew and his brother Peter, from St. Matthew’s Gospel this morning: Come follow me, and fish for people!   The Parish of St. Andrew the Apostle.

 St. Andrew: Called by Jesus.  Taught by Jesus.  Sent out into the wide world by Jesus to share the Good News, to invite people into fellowship under his Cross, to be his hands and in his service as he builds his holy Church. 

I love that very simple description in the Book of The Acts of the Apostles, at the end of the second chapter, describing the days following the great outpouring of Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday.  “And day by day,” St. Luke writes at the beginning of verse 46  . . . “and day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” 

All about sharing prayer and worship, the Holy Communion of the Bread and Cup.  About living wholesome  and attractive lives in their neighborhoods, so that everyone commended them.  About generosity, expansive generosity.   I love that description, “they partook of food with glad and generous hearts.”   Sounds like St. Andrew’s to me!  And day by day, the Lord working in the lives of new friends, drawing them into this fellowship, turning hearts and changing lives.

Of course our St. Andrew was in that apostolic crowd that we read about in the second chapter of Acts.  In John’s gospel we have several wonderful  glimpses of him.  One very familiar, in John 6, when the crowds had followed Jesus out into the wilderness, and the miracle of the Feeding of the Multitudes.  The disciples had no idea how in the world they were going to figure out how to deal with this day—beyond the skills of even the most skillful event planner.  And then the little boy shows up, with his lunch, five small rolls, two fish.  And he is seen first by Andrew--who is keeping an eye out, confident I think that when we’re about the Lord’s business the Lord will provide--and Andrew immediately knows what to do, and brings him to Jesus. 

And then later, in John 12, on the afternoon of Palm Sunday, as the story is headed towards its dramatic turn, when strangers who have come to Jerusalem from distant lands to celebrate the Passover festival, Greek speaking Jews--they come searching for the famous Rabbi, the one everyone is talking about, who made such a stir in the streets earlier in the day.  And the Spirit stirs up a curiosity in their hearts.  They come to Andrew and say, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”  And immediately he brings them to him.  (The great 18th and 19th Century Church of England priest and preacher Charles Simeon had those words carved into the lectern on the pulpit of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, where he was rector for 54 years.

It all reminds me of the prayer that is said daily in observance of St. Benedict in every Benedictine monastic community.  The prayer that through God’s action the community may grow “in number and holiness.”  Those two things together. 
Catching a glimpse of that in John 6 and 12, in Acts 2, and in our gospel reading this morning, the very beginning of the ministry of Jesus,  in this conversation by the lake, as Jesus comes across these old followers of John the Baptist, now back at home and back at work, and invites them to come in a new direction, for a new work, with him.  And they follow:  Peter and Andrew, James and John.  The Lord adds to the fellowship day by day those who are being saved. 

People still come looking for him, and some Andrew or other makes the introduction.   Could be you, could be me.  Any of us.  And it doesn’t really take special skill or training.  Just a willing heart, we might say.  Since it’s God himself, Holy Spirit, who is going to work through us to do whatever it is that will be done.

A simple way of describing “apostolic witness.  ”   And of course ever encounter is unique.  Every conversation fresh and new.  Every story is different.  A bit later in the Acts story Peter and John are going to meet a begger at the Temple gate.  Philip is going to meet an Ethiopian official returning home from a diplomatic visit to Jerusalem.   Paths cross.   It’s like at a wedding, when you might ask someone you don’t know, “so, how are you connected to the bride and groom?”  We could go around the church this morning to ask that question, as we did a bit at our Coffee and Conversation hour this morning.   “How did you get here?”  What’s your story?  Who was it who introduced you to the Bridegroom?

And we would find in telling those stories again and again versions of some story about meeting St. Andrew.  Or one of his spiritual offspring, generation after generation.  Greeting you at the door, or out in the street, or over the back fence, or at work, or at school.  “I’m glad to meet you.  And  there’s someone else  I think you’d like to meet.  I know anyway he’d like to meet you.   In fact, he’s expecting you!  Please allow me to introduce you.” 

The spirit of St. Andrew, our patron, whom we remember today, whose continuing and inspiring work would shape all our lives—and let’s pray that it will continue to do so, that we will be built up as worthy successors to him, his legacy--so that we would know that deep down all Christian people are St. Andreans.  It’s a bustling crowd and a good bunch, and we can be proud to march together under his banner.

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