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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Sermon for the Feast of St. Andrew

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

Preached 11/30/2021 for the Feast of St. Andrew at St. Thomas Episcopal Church Glassboro.

Readings: Deuteronomy 30:11-14, Psalm 19, Romans 10:8b-18, Matthew 4:18-22

We are in the season of Advent, a time of anticipation. We anticipate Christmas with all its celebrations, feasts, decorations, and time spent with our family, whether in excitement or dread or a bit of both. Children anticipate Santa’s annual visit with presents. In the life of the Church, we anticipate the arrival of Jesus. We think back to Israel’s anticipation of a coming Messiah, a Savior whose coming we remember at Christmas. We glean lessons from them while we await His return to usher in His new creation.

We all wait for many things, in our lives and our communities. We wait for the day everyone is respected and valued equally, no matter the color of their skin. We long for the day men and women equally feel safe from harassment in the workplace and are equally valued as contributors to our community. We wait for the day we can see our family without the threat of a deadly virus. We wait for the day the guilt and shame of our failings finally leave us. We wait for the day we are reunited with those we have lost. We wait for the day the doubts and anxieties we wake up with every day are silent. The Feast of St. Andrew at the start of Advent is a window into how God works in our anticipation.

In our first reading, Israel stands on the edge of the wilderness, waiting to enter the promised land. Moses, at the end of his life, delivers a lengthy summary of all God’s commands. While he, the great prophet, is leaving them, he promised in Deuteronomy 18 that God would send them another prophet to deliver His word. But as they wait for this prophet and for God to bring them into the land, Moses tells them God’s Word is not far off. They do not have to look far to hear God’s command, to hear God’s promise, to hear God’s comfort, even while waiting in the wilderness, even when there is no prophet to be found.

But where is this Word to be found? The Psalm we prayed together is a reflection on this Word. The Psalmist hears it whenever he looks at God’s creation. The beauty of a sunset, the detail on a leaf, the vastness of the night sky, the complex ecosystem that sustains our lives, all reveal a God who can uphold the wonders of the universe and is lovingly attentive to the smallest details. The Psalmist also hears the Word in the Scriptures. The Word of Scripture shows a God who cares about organizing human life around resisting evil, loving our God and our neighbors, and recognizing the dignity of all people.

But what is it that God is saying in this Word? What does God want us to hear as we wait? St. Paul answers this question in our second reading. He quotes our first lesson and tells us the Word in our hearts and on our lips is our confession that Jesus is Lord. In the creed and our celebration of the Eucharist, we regularly declare that “Christ is risen”. As we believe in His resurrection and confess its truth, we find that God’s posture towards us is one of love. He is a God who fully gives of Himself to us to free us from our selfishness, anger, pain, and hurt.

And so we come to our Gospel and our saint. Here is St. Andrew. It has been centuries since Moses’ promises. Andrew might live in the promised land, but it feels just as much a wilderness as the desert of Sinai. Day in and day out, he mends his nets, tosses them into the sea with a prayer, and hopes to catch enough to provide for his family and pay his taxes to the oppressive Roman Empire, the occupying force who claimed Israel for king Caesar rather than God. Andrew has lived his life out on God’s created sea and with God’s Law on his ears. And he waits until this day. On this day, the Word is near Him in a new way, standing just a few feet behind him. And he hears it, this time not in crashing waves, nor in a sermon, but in two words: “Follow me.” Andrew promptly drops everything, his livelihood, his identity as a fisherman, his plans for the future, and follows Jesus. The Gospel story places Andrew there at all the significant events of Jesus’ ministry. Andrew is there when the resurrected Christ appears to the disciples. Church tradition tells us he kept following Jesus, telling others the good news that God brought new life through Jesus until he too was crucified as a follower of Jesus.

As we wait, it can feel God is far off. But the feast of St. Andrew says He is not. His Word is all around us in the world He has made. It is in the words of Scripture. It is in the life of a church seeking to follow Him. It points us to a God of infinite love who comes down, to live in straw and manure, to die, and to rise to provide new hope and new life for each one of us, now and forever. The Word bids us, “Follow me”. As we wait, our job is to simply listen, to hear the soft voice of love and live as if that is the only voice that matters in the noise of this world and to speak that Word to others. Amen.

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