November 26, 2017

The Feast of St. Andrew (transferred)   

Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Psalm 19: 1-6; Romans 10: 8b-18; Matthew 4: 18-22

The Rev. James M.L. Grace


            In the name of God: Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.  AMEN.

            In the late nineteenth century, an Episcopal priest named Benjamin Rogers started a parish church here in the Heights neighborhood.  It was recognized by Bishop Kinsolving as St. Stephen’s Mission on May 29, 1895, and was admitted for the first time to Diocesan Council in 1896.  St. Stephen’s held the first religious services that we know of in the Heights neighborhood, meeting in what was then Cooley Public School Building no. 3 on 17th and Rutland.

            St. Stephen’s Mission later dissolved, and many of its founding members were responsible for starting this congregation, becoming charter, or founding members of this church.

When it became time to identify a name for this church, which started officially in 1911, 106 years ago, the founding members decided on the name “St. Andrew’s.”   The name “Andrew” was selected, in part, to honor the saint we remember today, but also in homage toward the Rev. Benjamin Rogers, whose middle name was…Andrew.

            Today we honor and celebrate St. Andrew’s Day, a day which honors the patron saint of this parish.  According to the Gospels, Andrew was one of the first disciples called by Jesus to follow him.  He is sometimes given the honorary title of “The first-called” or “the first missionary” because it was he who went and brought his brother Simon to meet Jesus. 

            We don’t know much about our saint, except that he was a fisherman.  It appears that Andrew remained with Jesus throughout his ministry.  Scripture informs us that Andrew was present at the feeding of the five thousand.  Tradition suggests that after Jesus’ death, Andrew travelled to modern day Kazakhstan where he brought the Gospel.  Eventually, Andrew was crucified upon an X-shaped cross.  He later became the patron saint of Scotland because of a legend that some of his relics were brought there in the eighth century. 

            Today we hear the story of Andrew’s call as he was approached by Jesus.  Seeing that Andrew was fishing with a net, Jesus called out “follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” I continue to be struck with Andrew’s response at this chance encounter with Jesus.  Andrew dropped his net and followed him, until he himself died.  Andrew left a stable career with guaranteed revenue, he presumably left his family, all to follow this young traveling rabbi or teacher. 

            For many in the church Andrew stands as an icon of what a call means.  A call means that you devote yourself to a cause, whatever that cause might be, and you stick with it through thick and thin.  That is what Andrew did.  That sense of duty and call permeates the Bible, as we see this theme of devotion echoing throughout the Bible.

            One of the greatest stories of call comes from the book of Ruth, a young woman who devotes herself to her mother in law Naomi, following the tragic death of Naomi’s son, Ruth’s husband.  Rather than leaving Naomi, Ruth tells her “where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16).

            Perhaps it was that sense of call, that dedication, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, that convinced a group of people to begin a small mission in this neighborhood.  Perhaps people understood then, as we understand now, that when a call is placed on your life by God, you will know it is a true call if the only response to God’s siren call upon your life is to repeat Ruth’s words: “wherever you go, I will go.”  You will know that the sincerity of God’s call upon your life if like Andrew, you know that there is only one response to God’s call – to simply follow, in faith, never knowing where God’s call will take you. 

            Think of all the people in our past with the devotion of Andrew and Ruth who have made this church what it is today.  Though in our past, the saints who began this congregation named for the priest who had the courage to begin a new thing in the Heights, those saints are with us and in our midst as we celebrate St. Andrew’s Day today.

            The amount of faith to build this church, the strength and the resilience of those before us who had the foresight to start this church, without them, without Ruth, without Andrew, we wouldn’t be here today.

            It is difficult to find God in safety and security.  So if you want to prevent yourself from an encounter with the divine and insure that you will never hear God’s call, then never take a risk.  Never step out in faith, make safety and security your God, and you will guarantee yourself a life that is sufficiently stable and boring. 

            God is calling every person to ministry.  All of us are called.  No one is exempt.  What is the ministry God is calling, or has called you to?  Are you doing it?  If so, thank God.  Thank God, because the world is in desperate need for those who are called to restore it.  People like you.  AMEN.