Worship 6/14/20

Opening Prayer

Loving God, today we remember Andrew, called first among your disciples,
leaving his nets to follow Jesus, leaving his life behind to answer your call.
We thank you for Andrew, an example to all who follow you, trusting in your promise, trusting in a better life with you

We remember Andrew who introduced Peter, the Greek visitors, and the little boy with loaves and fishes, to your Son, Jesus.  May we be like him in sharing friendship and hospitality with others.

We remember Andrew, spreading the gospel in times of persecution and hostility,
when the church was young and regarded with suspicion, inspired by the Holy Spirit to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others, disregarding danger and hardship, doing your will as your apostle.

We remember Andrew, put to death on a cross for his faith, confessing Jesus bravely in pain and fear, trusting in him to the end, leaving us the legacy of God’s good news.

We remember Andrew, whose message traveled to the farthest corners of the world, to make disciples of all nations, to help us more closely follow the Prince of Peace.

God of all nations, as you sent Andrew, inspired by your Spirit to spread your good news into all the world, give us the courage to introduce others to Jesus.  Allow his passion to inspire us to faithfully live out your calling, that our very lives might give witness to your redeeming love.  Amen.

Scripture Lesson/John 1:35-42

35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?”  They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  39He said to them, “Come and see.”  They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day.  It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.  40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).  42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John.  You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Message/Andrew

According to the New Testament, Andrew was the first called disciple.  Early church writings refer to Andrew by the Greek title protokletos, which means “first called.”  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke only list his name among the Twelve.  This is also the way that he is mentioned in the book of Acts, and there he is mentioned just once.  It is only in John’s gospel that we get to know anything about him.

Andrew was a native of Bethsaida, a village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  He was the son of Jonas and brother of Simon, who would come to be known as Peter.  Since Andrew lived in a fishing town on the shore of his country’s main body of water, it was natural for him to take up the life of a fisherman.  Apparently, he was in a partnership with his father and brother.  Theirs was a rugged life.  They would fish all night, struggling with a boat that was often tossed about by wind and waves, wrestling with great nets that had to be repeatedly thrown down into the water.  After a long night of fishing, they would have to take their catch to the marketplace and, after that, would have to go back and mend, clean, and maintain their nets and equipment. 

Most likely, Andrew knew little about the outside world.  Outside of the regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem at feast times, that’s probably the only place beyond his home area to which he had any time to travel.  But it does seem that Andrew had a spiritual hunger of sorts.  When he heard about a peculiar preacher out along the Jordan, John the Baptist, he went to hear his message of repentance.  We know that Andrew must have become something of a disciple of John the Baptist and it’s likely that he saw John as someone anointed by God who was doing something special.  And yet, John the Baptist continued to remind the crowds that someone greater was coming, who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

One day, Jesus of Nazareth came by.  John the Baptist pointed him out, calling him the “Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.”  Immediately Andrew and another fisherman named John, would then go to follow Jesus.  When Jesus sensed that they were trailing him, he turned and asked, “What are you looking for?”  Andrew and John, perhaps feeling a bit vulnerable and on the spot, replied with their own question: “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  Jesus then warmly extends the invitation— “Come and see.”  And they did, following Jesus to his lodging place that day, questioning, learning, listening…

What Andrew does next is something that defines his personality and warm spirit.  He found his brother Simon and said to him “We have found the Messiah.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure, knowing Peter as we do, that I would be going to tell him so quickly about Jesus.  Most of us are familiar with Peter’s type-A personality.  He was bold, brash, boisterous.  He was a man who tended to steal the spotlight.  When people said to Andrew, “it must be fun to live around Simon,” Andrew must have sometimes answered with mock excitement, “Yeah, a real ball.  Just a load of laughs.” 

After spending the day with Jesus, I might just want to keep what I learned to myself.  After all, sometimes when we discover something of great value, we don’t want to let go of it.  We are tempted to keep it to ourselves, bask in the glow, savor the moment.  Don’t spoil it by sharing it.  We often become possessive of persons or of information that are meaningful, special.  And let’s face it, it can often be difficult to share good news even with relatives.  Yet, Andrew goes and boldly shares what he has discovered with his brother.   Notice the urgency with which Andrew goes to Peter— he found him “first.”

Of course, we know what happens next.  Peter, the vociferous one, became part of Jesus’ inner circle…and later, the foremost of the Twelve, always ready to speak, usually the loudest, sometimes erratic, but nevertheless the acknowledged leader of the group.  As for Andrew, who had brought Simon Peter to Jesus, he was back in the crowd, taking his place as a supporting player.  I can’t help but wonder if Andrew ever got bitter over this development.  I wonder if he said, “Now look at him?  He’s the big man on campus.  If it weren’t for me, he wouldn’t even have met Jesus.”  Understandably, we probably have all felt this way about a brother or sister or a friend or neighbor, envious of their position or authority, feeling a little left out as they stepped forward into positions of leadership or ahead of us in some way.  It is easy to become resentful, and yet, Andrew, at least from what we can derive from scripture, isn’t deterred from inviting his brother to come and see Jesus.

In chapter six of John’s Gospel, we hear the second story about Andrew.  Five thousand plus folks followed Jesus to listen to his teaching.  All of a sudden, the question arises about feeding all these people.  Jesus asks Philip, how should we feed these folks?  The incredulous Philip gives a sensible, answer—it would take six months’ wages to buy bread for a crowd like this!  Into this moment of confusion, Andrew shares “There’s a boy here who has a lunch of five loaves and two fish.”  But then apologetically adds, “but what are they among so many?” 

It seems just like something Andrew would do.  While he didn’t know exactly what could or would happen, he at least offered something practical—which is more than the excuses Philip offered or the other disciples who seem silent in the moment.  It was just like Andrew to bring someone to Jesus and, even with his own questions and uncertainties, think that Jesus might be able to do something about the situation.  Andrew, whom I like to call the “great introducer,” does it again.  As with Peter, so Andrew introduces the boy and his lunchbox to Jesus.  It becomes the source from which a great feeding miracle takes place.  It was the spark from which a fire could grow to warm and comfort, a seed from which a vine might grow to offer its abundance, an acorn from which a mighty oak might take root.  The faithful, yet background disciple, Andrew offers yet another example of his ministry of invitational evangelism.

Murillo, the seventeenth-century Spanish artist, painted a picture of Andrew suffering martyrdom on a cross.  In this picture, Murillo includes a little boy in the foreground, head turned away from the gruesome scene, weeping, an arm across his eyes.  While Murillo often included children in his paintings, this one in particular seems to capture the boy who had offered his lunch that day.  It is a powerful testimony to that moment in Andrew’s life when Jesus brought forth abundance out of scarcity, reminding us of the old gospel hymn, “little is much when God is in it”—a profound truth into which Andrew seemed to have at least some insight.

The New Testament offers us just one more story about Andrew, and again it seems to follow suit with the two previous stories.  Some Greeks had come to Jerusalem the time of the Passover and they had heard about Jesus.  They were curious to learn more about this teacher and healer.  So, they approached Philip, probably because he had a Greek name, reasoning that he might be their most likely point of entrance.  So, what does Philip do?  He goes to Andrew, the great introducer, and they both then go and bring the Greeks to Jesus. 

There you have all three New Testament stories about Andrew, the only stories the Bible tells of him with any specificity, and all found in the Gospel of John.  In each one, Andrew invests himself in the moment, personally taking the risk, the time, the energy to bring someone, his brash brother, an unnamed boy, and some outsiders to Jesus.  While Scripture remains silent on the remainder of his life and ministry oral and written traditions pick up the stories of the disciples turned apostles as they are sent out into the world as God’s emissaries, to tell the story of God’s love in Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.  That’s what the word “apostle” means in the Greek— “one who is sent.”  According to tradition, Andrew’s travels took him to Scythia, which would be about the area of modern-day Ukraine, the area north of the Black Sea.  In Andrew’s time, to be called a “Scythian,” would be an insult.  A Scythian was used as a synonym for anyone who seemed rough, uncouth or savage.  The great Jewish historian Josephus remarked that Scythians were “little distant from wild beasts.”  But it seems to me, knowing the story of Andrew’s origins, that this would be the kind of place and the kind of people Andrew might serve.

Later, Andrew’s ministry has been traced to Greece, specifically the areas of northern Greece, Thrace and Macedonia, and then later to Achaea, which was the southern part of Greece where he was eventually martyred.  It is said that Aegeas, governor of the city of Patras in Greece, hated Andrew because Andrew had converted his wife and his brother to Christ, so he condemned Andrew to death.  According to tradition, seven soldiers scourged Andrew with rods, then fastened him to a cross.  It was an “X-shaped cross, or saltire—now known as the St. Andrew’s cross.  Tradition holds that Andrew was not nailed to his cross, rather he was tied to it so that we would die slowly of hunger, thirst, and exposure.  The story goes on to share that Andrew suffered for several days, preaching to all who passed by, and praying.  Legend says that his last words were, “Would, Father, that I had time to teach the truth to my murderers.”

New Testament scholar, J.B. Philips has commented— “The gospel is nothing but a frozen asset unless it is communicated.”  The church is the community of disciples that bears witness to Jesus.   God depends on us to make Jesus known in the world through our life and witness.  God depends on us church to speak the reality of Jesus to the world.  As United Methodists we covenant in our membership vows to uphold the Church with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.  So, we offer our fragile, vulnerable testimony of Jesus, hopefully backed up by our faithfulness and integrity.  The question is, do we love other people enough to share with them our story of faith?  Of how God has changed, transformed our lives…  Have we allowed all the bad news circulating around us to drown out the good news of the gospel?  Maybe the words “evangelism” and “witness” shouldn’t be so scary to us.  Maybe its something just about everyone can do.  Maybe it’s as simple as the three words of Jesus to Andrew the first time they had met—”come and see.”

Prayers of the People

Eternal God, you are the maker of us all, and we are your creation, people formed in your image, as individuals, as community; formed and fed and furnished with understanding of who you are and of who and whose we are.  We worship you today in recognition of your calling, of your communicating, of your caring to invite us to share in your creative and healing work.  We are here because we have heard you speak in us and through others.  Help us, dear Lord, to ever respond to you and your invitation to your grace…

God of all our moments, of our days and our nights, you speak and you act in the world around us, not only to call all people to you, but also to direct and guide us in the way of healing and wholeness.  Awaken us Lord, to hear what you would say to us.  Help us to open our ears, our eyes, and our hearts to your presence.

Help us to know when it is your voice we are hearing and when it is our own prejudices and desires to which we are paying attention….

Lord, we pray that your Church may rise up with renewed commitment in response to your call, that your people may be instruments of your justice, grace, and mercy….

We pray for those who consider themselves inadequate and dismiss or avoid your calling in their lives.  Give them a new vision, a vision in which you are their strength and their hope…

We pray for those who, in answering your call, must leave the known for the unknown, the oasis for the desert, the comfortable for the uncertain.  Grant them courage and steadfast faith…

We pray too, today, O Lord, for those in need—for all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit…

For all around the world who have died from COVID-19 and for the families, friends, and loved-ones who are mourning their loss…

For all whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic. 

For the unemployed and the underemployed…

For those on the front lines, not only the medical staff and the researchers, but also the truck drivers, the grocery store stockers and clerks, the first-responders, and all who are required to take great risks for our needs during this uncertain time…

For those struggling with loneliness and depression from being unable to gather with friends and family.  We pray especially for those in care facilities who are sequestered and unable to be with those whom they love.

For all who are wrestling with the disease of addiction in whatever form it manifests itself…

For our nation that finds itself divided, angry, and frustrated.  Remind us that there is indeed a balm in Gilead…as we look to you in this struggle.

May the victims of systemic racism find comfort and justice.  May those who have answered to call to protect us, serve with integrity and compassion.  May our communities foster the needed conversations to restore mutual trust and appreciation for one another, that all God’s people might honor the image in which we are created.

Loving God, bless us and all those who continue the work of Jesus, who came to heal, save, and deliver us all, and who taught us to pray as one family, saying…

The Lord’s Prayer                                                                          

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

Closing Thought & Benediction

Perhaps we need this reminder as we live out our faith in the world:

“The way from God to a human heart is through another human heart.”

Go now and listen for the voice of the Lord and follow wherever it leads.
And may God be with you and speak through you;
May Christ Jesus be one with you and raise you to new life;
And may the Holy Spirit dwell within you and make you holy.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.  Amen.

Next Sunday, our summer worship series on the first apostles will continue with a look at Simon Peter…