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Worship and Sermons
Jan. 15, 2017

 

“Come and See” by the Rev. Don Wahlig

Year A / 2nd Sunday After Epiphany - Isaiah 49:1-7  •  Psalm 40  •  I Corinthians 1:1-9  •  John 1:29-42

THEME:  Evangelism is grounded in our own relationship with God, full of humility and reverent awe.  Then let it grow organically through hospitality and simple friendship. 

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        A couple years ago, Beth and I had the extraordinary good fortune to be invited to the Annual Dinner of the St. Andrews Society of New York.  If you don’t already know this organization, it’s a branch of the oldest charitable society in the United States.  Its original purpose was to assist Scottish Immigrants and their descendants who were in financial distress.  That was frequently the case back in the 1700s when the first of these societies was formed in Philadelphia. 

        It was a truly festive night.  The dinner was held in one of those swanky clubs on Fifth Avenue.  There were bagpipes and drums, haggis and scotch, and a notable Scottish author was the main speaker.  Beth had on a spectacular dress.  I wore my tuxedo, but I felt seriously under-dressed without a kilt.  Despite that, it was a great evening.

        Afterward, I did a little homework.  It turns out there are St. Andrews Societies all over the world, from Canada to Hong Kong.  It reminded me that Andrew is, indeed, the patron Saint of Scotland.  

        Most of us know that Scotland’s flag bears the cross of St. Andrew – an X-shaped cross.  I began to wonder, how did the Scots get so enamored of this disciple of Jesus?

        One legend says that St. Andrew’s relics were brought to Scotland from Patras, the Greek city where he was said to have been martyred.

        The relics came to rest at a church in what is now the town of St. Andrews, in the County of Fife north of Edinburgh.  The church became a cathedral.  The cathedral became the center of the medieval church in Scotland and a major destination for pilgrimage.

        There is another, more colorful legend.  It says that in the ninth century, King Angus, leader of a group of native tribes known as the Picts, adopted St Andrew as patron saint after seeing an X-shaped cross appear in the sky immediately before winning an important victory against a far superior force.

        However it happened, Saint Andrew and his Cross were adopted as the national symbols for an emerging Scotland.       

        The Scottish flag, which is the oldest in Europe, is by no means the only flag to bear Andrew’s cross.  You’ll find it on flags everywhere from Alabama and Florida, to Nova Scotia and Jamaica, the United Kingdom and even the Russian and Belgian Navy.

        This week I’ve been wondering why it is that Andrew is held in such universal high regard throughout history, when he’s not terribly visible in scripture.  Indeed, almost all we know about Andrew comes from the gospel of John.  But what we read there is enough to understand why Andrew is so revered.

        The gospels agree that Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter.  They lived in Bethsaida on the shore of Lake Galilee.  They ran a fishing business there. The story we’re most familiar with occurs when Jesus walks along the lakeshore and calls Peter and Andrew to be his very first disciples, to become “fishers of men.”

        Only John gives us is this wonderful prelude to that famous story.

        Before he met Jesus, Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist.  John has been telling anyone who will listen that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the world’s sin.  He knows this because, when he baptized Jesus, he saw the Spirit descend on him.

        One day, Andrew and another of John’s disciples are with John, when he sees Jesus walk by.  “Look,” he says, “Here is the Lamb of God!”
        Immediately, Andrew and another disciple go after Jesus. After spending the rest of that day with him, Andrew is convinced Jesus is the Messiah, Israel’s long-awaited savior.  Andrew wastes no time in bringing this astounding good news to his brother, Peter.        

        He brings Peter to Jesus, who has never met Peter.  When Jesus takes one look at Peter, it’s as if he already knows him and has a mission in mind for him.  He says, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas,” which is an Aramaic word for rock, just like Peter is Greek for Rock.  That’s exactly what Peter will be: the rock on which Jesus builds his church.

        All of that is made possible because of what Andrew does: he brings his brother to Jesus. Andrew is a connector, always bringing people to Jesus.

        Later in John’s gospel, Jesus is teaching a crowd on the mountainside.  He asks his disciples to find food to feed them all.  It’s Andrew who brings the boy with five barley loaves and two fish to Jesus, who then multiplies them into enough food to feed everyone. 

        And it was Andrew again who, during the Passover Feast, brings a group of Greek Gentiles to meet Jesus, a precursor of the Gentile ministry that will explode in the growth of the church.

        You and I are meant to be connectors, too. 

        In his best-selling book “The Tipping Point,” author Malcolm Gladwell gives us a picture of what that work looks like.

        If you’ve read the book, then you know he writes that ideas spread with the involvement of three kinds of people, each of whom have specific social gifts. 

        These three types of people are mavens, salespeople and connectors. Mavens accumulate in-depth knowledge.  Salesmen are the persuaders.

        Those who make an idea spread through other people are the Connectors.  They’re constantly referring people to the right expert to solve their problem.

        That’s what Andrew does.  He brings folks to Jesus because he’s convinced that Jesus will satisfy their deepest, most urgent need. 

        That’s why he’s the patron saint of, not only Scotland, but also Barbados, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Georgia. That’s why his name is attached to cathedrals, and why his upside down cross is on flags across the globe.  Andrew brought others to Jesus.

        Does that sound like a faithful and effective evangelist to you?  It sure does to me.  But, if we’re honest, it’s a little bit intimidating to think that Christ wants that of you and me, as well, isn’t it? 

        I think that’s because you and I, like many Christians, misunderstand what evangelism is all about.

        The foundation of evangelism is our own authentic and ongoing experience of Jesus Christ – a truly transformative experience.  The reason is simple:  we can’t share with others something we don’t already have – no matter how good it may be for them. 

        That experience is what Andrew had.  He took the time to sit down with Jesus and get to know him.  Can you imagine that conversation?  What did Jesus share with Andrew – what did he teach him? 

        Whatever happened that afternoon and evening, it transformed Andrew.  He left convinced Jesus was the Messiah.  The first thing he did was run and tell his brother, Peter.  You can almost hear the excitement in his voice when he says, “I have found the Messiah!”

        When you’ve experienced Jesus like that, you know you’ve found the source of all peace, joy and love.  You’ve found life that really is life.  You want to share it.         

        This is what people mean when they say that evangelism, at its best and most authentic, is like one hungry beggar telling another where to find food.

         

        Few people I know have more wisdom to offer us about evangelism than Brian McLaren, a popular Christian writer and pastor.

        This is what he says, “the most important thing you can communicate to anyone is something beyond logic and arguments – [it’s] your own humbled sense of wonder, passion and love.”

        There’s no arm-twisting involved here.  It’s not about trying to convince someone with a smooth, 4-point outline of the gospel and the threat of hell if they don’t believe it.  It’s not even about having all the answers:  it’s about being willing to walk with someone else as they wrestle with the questions of faith, just as you do. 

        It’s more like a gentle invitation, just like Jesus offered.  “Come and see.  Come and see what this journey with him is like, because we’re both on this same path together.”

         That’s the real lesson for you and me.  As Brian McLaren puts it, “You don’t start by being religious; you start by being human, relational, neighborly, and friendly.” 

        What does that look like in your life? 

        Maybe you have a friend who’s going through a crisis and they’re asking hard questions about God?  Maybe a coworker – or your boss – is under a lot of stress and in need a kind word.  Maybe the waitress where you have breakfast could use some encouragement and spiritual support, prayer?

        Whatever this kind of relational evangelism looks like for you, let it first and foremost be grounded in your own relationship with God, full of humility and reverent awe.  Then let it grow organically through hospitality and simple friendship. 

        That’s what it means to be a connector, bringing others to Jesus like Andrew did. 

        Where it goes from there is up to the Holy Spirit. It could change someone else’s life forever.  It will definitely change yours.

        And you’ll both be glad it did.

Last Published: July 3, 2017 11:37 AM
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