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Sunday, January 19, 2014

If You See Something

Our call is pretty simple: if we’ve seen the grace of God in Jesus, if this is life to us, we are asked by our Lord to tell others, to say “Come and see!”  Even if we don’t think we’re that important to the enterprise.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen, Second Sunday after Epiphany, year A; texts: John 1:29-42; Isaiah 49:1-7

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

It’s interesting how much we Christians like the apostle Peter.  It was one of his two feast days yesterday, the Confession of St. Peter.  The Conversion of St. Paul is next Saturday, and then the two of them share a day, June 29.  Peter’s the star of the twelve, isn’t he?  Confesses that Jesus is Messiah, leads the twelve, along with James and John.  Becomes, as tradition tells it, the first bishop of Rome.  Two New Testament letters are attributed to him, even if it’s possible he didn’t write them, and even Mark’s Gospel has sometimes been attributed to Peter’s teaching and message.

We love his faults, too.  Every time Peter stumbles, sticks his foot in his mouth, or doesn’t understand a word of what Jesus is saying, we rejoice a little.  If even the great St. Peter can be such an idiot, perhaps there’s hope for me.  Plus, Peter provides terrific comic relief in many of the Gospel stories.  Peter’s great.

And then there’s his little brother, Andrew.  St. Andrew only gets one feast day, not two, and since November 30 is almost always in Advent, it doesn’t get celebrated much.  Overshadowed by a much more colorful and famous brother, Andrew is kind of one of the forgotten of the twelve.  If he wrote any letters, none have survived, none have been attributed to him and made the canon.  The three leaders of the disciples were Peter, James, and John.  It might sometimes escape our notice, but the four Gospels do agree that the first four disciples called by Jesus were the two sets of brothers: Peter and Andrew, James and John.  Somehow, Andrew slipped into second-rate status.  He’s didn’t make the Big Three.

But did you see what happened in John’s telling this morning?  There are two disciples of John the Baptist who take note of his witness to Jesus as the Lamb of God.  Two disciples, Andrew, and an unnamed one, whom we assume to be John, the brother of James and the one from whom this Gospel finds its source.  Andrew and John follow Jesus, and then, at the end of the story, Andrew runs and finds his brother Simon.  He tells Simon that they’ve found the Messiah, and he brings his brother to Jesus.  Jesus promptly changes Simon’s name to Peter, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Andrew steps aside for his brother, probably not for the first time and certainly not for the last, and Peter assumes his starring role.

But do you know what sticks out to me in this story?  The one who doesn’t stick out.  I can’t stop looking at Andrew in this story, and in the ministry of Jesus.  Because maybe we’ve been modeling ourselves after the wrong brother.  Maybe we need to pay attention to the one who draws no attention to himself.

Maybe the good news of this story, and of the twelve, is that we are more like Andrew than Peter.

There are several things that we notice once we start looking at Andrew.

First, though he remains in the background, always, he’s also always an access point to Jesus.  Today, he brings Simon Peter to Jesus, and starts the path of a deeply important disciple, someone Jesus needed very much.  Andrew is the reason his brother believes.  Because Andrew brought him to the One he saw, he recognized, as Messiah.  Peter’s confession doesn’t happen without Andrew’s confession.

But when we look for Andrew in the Gospels we find him pretty much only on lists.  Except in John’s Gospel, drawn from the teaching of the one of the twelve who apparently was Andrew’s best friend, John, John’s Gospel tells this one, and then two other stories of Andrew.

Do you remember the great sign Jesus gives, feeding well over 5,000 people with a couple fish and five barley loaves?  Of course you do.  Do you want to hazard a guess as to which disciple actually had made friends with a little boy who’d brought a lunch, and was able to tell Jesus they had at least a little food?

That’s right.  It was Andrew.  Maybe he didn’t make friends, but it sure looks like Andrew was the guy who paid attention to people; who, because he wasn’t dominating the scene, was able to see things others didn’t.

And a little later, there are these Greek-speaking believers who want to meet Jesus, so they talk to Philip.  Philip is a Greek name, so presumably Philip was a Greek-speaking Jew, probably from a family of Jews who had lived in the diaspora.  But Philip doesn’t take them to Jesus.  Philip takes them to Andrew.  And Andrew leads them to Jesus.

It’s becoming familiar, isn’t it?  Andrew, whom we hardly think of, keeps on bringing people to Jesus.  Andrew, who’s not important, is someone people can come to if they want to know Jesus.

Second, Andrew, according to John, is the first who recognized what he was seeing, who looked at Jesus and saw he was the Anointed One, the Messiah.  He sees, in just one day, what Jesus is all about.  At first he only calls him “rabbi,” “teacher.”  But after he and John stay with Jesus for an evening, the next day he runs to his brother Simon and says, “We have found the Messiah!”

This is the first time Jesus is called the Messiah in John’s Gospel, and this confession of Andrew predates Peter’s by several years.  Andrew’s encounter with Jesus causes him to see the truth.

And third, Andrew witnessed to what he saw.  Just like John the Baptist.  “Seeing” and “looking” are important themes in John’s Gospel.  Again and again, people are looking for truth, looking for God, are invited to see.

But what is important here is telling others once you’ve seen.  John sees something new about his cousin Jesus, so new he says he didn’t really know who Jesus was, he sees that he is, in fact, the Son of God.  The Lamb of God.  So he witnesses to it.

Andrew, not knowing Jesus at all before this apparently, also sees this truth.  And tells his brother.  Actually, he does more than tell.  He brings Simon to Jesus.  Just like he brings the little boy with a lunch.  Just like he brings the Greek-speaking believers.

Andrew’s not content simply to know who Jesus is in his life.  He needs to let others know, too.

This, then, is our model: if we have, like Andrew, seen something, it’s time to tell others.

We are made to be servants of God in our baptism, called to witness to what God is doing.  To tell people what we’ve seen.  All so God’s salvation, God’s light, can reach to the end of the earth, Isaiah says today.  Which will only happen when those who have seen tell others to “come and see,” like Andrew did.

Like Andrew, our relationship with our Lord Jesus causes us to see who he is, to know his grace and hope in our lives.  We gather here each week to meet the Triune God who has come to us in this Anointed One, and to be blessed and fed by the grace of God we have come to know.

That is what we have “seen.”

And it’s worth remembering that if we don’t share this, then others won’t see themselves.  What would the Church be like without Peter?  Well, without Andrew, there is no Peter.  If Andrew had kept it to himself, what would have happened?  If Andrew hadn’t been approachable, how many wouldn’t have known Jesus?

If people are to hear and believe, and know God’s saving love, then we, too, need to follow our call.  We need to copy Andrew.  Because how will anyone hear if we’re so involved in our own issues and lives that we forget to invite others, to say “come and see”?

How will anyone know if we act in our lives toward each other and in the world as if the coming of Messiah means little or nothing to how we speak and act in the world?

How will anyone see if we simply keep the Good News of our inclusion in God’s love and the reality that is in our lives to ourselves and don’t share?

If we model ourselves after Andrew, we find that this witness can happen in different ways.  It can happen in our speaking, in telling the Word, as he did: we have found the Messiah, this is the Son of God!  As believers, we have lots of opportunities to speak the Good News to others, to tell them of the joy we know from God.  To tell them they are loved by God.  To do Andrew’s work.

It can happen in our inviting to come, too, bringing people with us to worship, to meet the Lord in Word and Supper, in the community of faith.  This happens around here, probably more than in many places, but we could all take a page from this faithful disciple and take it as our primary role, our call.  We have the privilege of inviting people to come and see God in our midst, in Word, Meal, Community, and to know and see what gives us life.

And, last, like Andrew, our telling can happen in our lives of love and service, being the presence of the Messiah to others.  Something about him led people to trust him and come, hoping to see Jesus.  As we live in love toward each other, live lives of concrete and active love in the world, live transformed lives, we witness again and again, “come and see” what we have found!

Andrew’s greatest gift to us, though, may be the ability to see our importance in spite of seeming evidence to the contrary.

Andrew models faithfulness, not success.  He is the first to confess the Messiah, but Peter gets all the fame, all the notice.  Having grown up with volatile, exuberant Simon, surely he had to know what would happen if he became a disciple, too.  Still, Andrew goes and tells his brother anyway.

Like John the Baptist, who loses disciples to Jesus once he points him out as Lamb of God, as they immediately abandon him, that’s Andrew’s way.  Andrew brings Peter to Jesus, and immediately assumes second (or third, or fourth) place.

Our call is not to “success” in life, in faith, but to faithfulness.  It’s hard to know, but it seems as if Andrew doesn’t mind.  Maybe Andrew already understood what two others of the Big Three, James and John, had to be taught by Jesus much later.  When they wanted honor and privilege and important seats, they were told that being faithful, even unto death, was what being a disciple was all about.

Maybe Andrew already knew that.  Be that as it may, what matters for us is that we faithfully witness to all we meet that we have seen the Messiah.  Not that we’re a success, whatever that means anyway.

It isn’t important that any of us are important.  Because what Andrew knew was that it would be the Messiah himself who would take care of the giving of faith.  You see, he just brought people to Jesus.  Jesus took care of the rest.  Like turning a small lunch Andrew found into a massive feast.  He didn’t think he was a savior, he didn’t think he was a big deal.  But he did know what he had seen, and that he wanted to share.

And that’s our path, too.  It is the Spirit of Christ who will bring others to faith, to life.  All we can do is, if we’ve seen something, tell someone.

It seems kind of simple when we think about it.  Just tell folks what we’ve seen.

But from Andrew’s viewpoint, it’s a source of joy.  He saw God’s Messiah.  And he told people.  And people saw him and trusted him, and through that, they came to Jesus.

And no, he didn’t make the Big Three.  He’s hardly mentioned in the Gospels.  But I suspect that’s what makes him the best model for us.  We, who will likely never make the history books as the greatest evangelists of our age, we who think we aren’t very good at it.

If we follow the little brother here, we learn that’s not the point.  If Messiah is come, that’s all the strength and talent we need, right there.  Our job is just to point and say, “look at that!”  “Come and see!”

It’s not a hard job.  But it is critical.  And all of us can do it.  That’s what Andrew says, anyway.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

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