Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St. Andrew's Day Sermon -- John 1:35-42a

November 30, 2011 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked to Jesus as He walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus…. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.”

First. That is a claim that many want. It is what they strive for. This makes itself clear in many ways. Competitions drive people. There is a quest for the brass ring, the trophy, the blue ribbon. Of course, the competition doesn’t have to be on the athletic field. It can be the race for the corner office, the next stripe on the uniform sleeve, even the bishop’s chair. Or it can be as juvenile and inane as the Internet comment board posters with their one-word message: “first.”

First. That is a claim that Andrew had. He is the first of Jesus’ disciples. You heard how that happened: “The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked to Jesus as He walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” This is earliest days of Jesus’ public ministry. He had received baptism from John in the Jordan River. The Holy Spirit’s descent upon Him and the Father’s Voice from heaven declared that Jesus was the Beloved Son, the Anointed One. And now John had one more action to fulfill: to direct his listeners, his followers to Jesus. That he does by pointing to Jesus as “the Lamb of God” and sending them after Him.

So Andrew goes: “The two disciples heard [John] say this, and they followed Jesus.” And Jesus notices this: “Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are You staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’ So they came and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.” There it is. Andrew is first.

But is he really first? Can he actually be first? Andrew is the first to follow Jesus. Yet that means that Andrew is not first, but is second. He is not the leader, but the follower. He is not the teacher, but the student. He is not the Christ, but the disciple. That was meant to be for Andrew. His calling was not to be first, but to be second. Even among those who would follow Jesus, Andrew would not be first. Note how he is identified in John’s Gospel that you heard today: “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus.” Andrew’s identity is not only wrapped up with being a follower of Jesus, but being connected to Simon Peter, his brother.

Being second is Andrew’s place. He is under authority. That is what it means to be a disciple. Under Jesus’ authority, power is given to him. This is what we remember and celebrate on this day. Andrew’s role is as a follower, a student, a disciple, but also an apostle. He is sent with delegated authority like the prophets of old. He stands in a long line of “seconds” whom the Lord has called to do His bidding. Andrew is one who carries authority for the benefit of others like Ezekiel did: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from My mouth, you shall give them warning from Me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.”

The authority given to Andrew is what he exercised for the benefit of those who were also called to be followers of Jesus. His work began with bringing his own brother to Jesus, as well as Greek people to Jesus on Palm Sunday. Those who were called to be “thirds” and “fourths” and “fifths” by him who were “second” received the same knowledge of Jesus. They got to know who the Messiah is, who the Lamb of God is. They were delivered from the way of death to the way of life. They were taken from a type of life where the goal was to be “first,” to be autonomous and supreme, making their own law to being disciples, followers, people under a rule. This being under the authority of Jesus is what brings salvation.

So it is for you. You are not “first” in your lives. No, you also are under a rule. You have a Lord, a Master. He is benevolent toward you, but He still is superior. Not being first means putting your old self to death. For Andrew, following Jesus would lead to his martyrdom, literally being put to death by crucifixion. But all who follow Jesus take up His cross and put their old selves to death with Him. You have died with Jesus in baptism and have risen with Him to new life. Every day, you put that old self—the old will with its rebellious desire to be its own master—to death by contrition and repentance. And every day, you are raised again to follow in the way that your Master has instituted for you. So you take your place as followers, as those who are always to be second to the First One, Jesus Christ.

As people who have been made disciples of Jesus, who have been given to know Him as the Messiah and the Lamb of God, you cannot be “first”. You cannot be self-governing or autonomous. Any attempt to be so is rebellion and sin. It is what happens when you walk away from the rule and way of life that Jesus has set for you. Every time that occurs, you must return in humility and penitence to be restored. But that is also what Jesus has appointed “seconds” to do. It is the authority that Jesus gave to Andrew and to others who possess the same role and place as he did. So you benefit again from the order that Jesus has established for you.

Remembering Andrew on this day, we can laud and praise Jesus for having such a faithful follower. We give thanks for what Jesus has accomplished through him and others like him: Jesus’ mighty governance and protection of His holy Church, in which the blessed apostles and evangelists proclaimed His divine and saving Gospel. Even now, our remembrance of Andrew, his identity, is wrapped up not in himself, but with whom he is connected. But that is how it is meant to be, for all of us who are gathered to remember Andrew recognize him and ourselves not as “firsts” but as “seconds”. He found the Messiah and brought his brother to Him. And so, the most important part of the Gospel Reading for this St. Andrew’s Day is the statement about the all the “seconds”—John the Baptizer, the apostle, his brother, and us: “they followed Jesus.”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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