Epiphany 2A John 1:29-42; Epiphany 2B John 1:43-51
When you think of the twelve disciples, what are some of the names that you think of? If you were going to list the names of the twelve disciples, you would begin with the name of the most famous disciple, Simon Peter. When we think of Simon Peter, we often think of a person with a big, broad, tan face, burly beard. When we think of Simon Peter, we recall at least three stories. We think of the story when he promised, “I won’t deny you. I won’t deny you. I won’t deny you.” And then he denied Jesus at the sound of the rooster, when the cock crowed in the morning. Or we think of the story of the Mount of Transfiguration. When on the mountain with the other disciples, Jesus was transfigured before them. Like many of us, Peter had foot and mouth disease, and he stuck his foot in his mouth at the wrong time. Peter made a stupid remark like, “Well, shall be built three tabernacles for you?” Or we think of the third story of Simon Peter when he saw Jesus walking on the water, came out to Jesus, and sank into the waves because of his doubt.
Who else is there? There are James and John. Both are called the sons of thunder because of their hot, thunderous tempers. People with hot tempers become disciples. James and John were both fishermen and were two of Jesus’ first disciples. Ultimately, James became a leader of the church in Jerusalem. James was a leader of that church in Jerusalem where there was an explosion of growth of disciples. Tradition tells us that James was killed as a martyr in Jerusalem.
James and John. James and John were brothers, and John was the philosophical type. John, the beloved disciple. John, who wrote the book of John. John, the religious philosopher, the deep religious thinker who gave us the book of John. John, the disciple filled with love, who took responsibility for Mary, the mother of Jesus, when they were at the foot of the cross.
So we have Peter, James and John. Those are the big three disciples. Peter, James and John were on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John were together with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. They were the big three.
Who else? How about Matthew? Matthew, the tax collector. When we think of tax collectors living at the time of Jesus, we think of shysters, crooks, politically acceptable thieves who will steal from your pocketbook with the permission of the government. You don’t want to borrow money from people like Matthew because he will take advantage of you. You don’t want to buy a used car from people like Matthew because he will screw you. Yes, we know the Matthews of life and perhaps at times, we are like Matthew. The Matthews of life become disciples.
Which of the other disciples can you name? Thomas. Thomas, the doubter. Everybody thinks of Thomas and remembers Thomas’ name. We all have doubts. Living in a scientific age, we have innumerable doubts and questions and Thomas often symbolizes all those questions/doubts we have in our hearts. The Thomas’ of life become disciples.
Who else? Yes, Judas. Not many of us have named our children, Judas. In the thirty plus years that I have taught confirmation, I have never met a student by the name of Judas. In my sixty plus years of life, I have never known a person named Judas. Judas betrayed Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss and as a consequence, today, we still leave the name of Judas out of our vocabulary of chosen names for our children.
Anybody else? Any other disciples that you know? How about…Did anybody think of the name, Andrew? Andrew. Andrew is always called Simon Peter’s brother.
Andrew. You see Andrew every day. Andrew is the person who is riding down town Seattle on the bus with you. Or, Andrew is the bus driver. Maybe Andrew is riding in your company van to work or maybe Andrew is the van driver. Or Andrew is the cab driver. Or Andrew is sitting there at the stoplight at 5:00 when you are coming home from work; he is in the car next to you, listening to music. Andrew works over at Albertson’s grocery on the cash register or Andrew manages the produce department and is stocking fruit. Or, Andrew is the person who cuts your hair. Andrew is the man over at Les Schwab who changes your tires or he is the man over at Minutelube who greases your car. Andrew is the teller at the bank.
Andrew is not the two talent person who is at the bottom of the heap and Andrew is not the ten talent person who is at the top of the heap. Andrew is not even the seven, eight or nine talent person. Andrew is what I call “the man in the middle.” Andrew is the five talent man. He is not up in the front of thousands making presentations, but he is in the choir, over there in the middle of the chorus of life.
Andrew is absolutely essential to make the world work. Andrew is absolutely essential to make the church work. If you don’t have the Andrews of life, the world does not work very well. If the church does not have the Andrews of life, the church does not work very well. In fact, much of the problem within the church is because of the lack of Andrews.
Andrew. What do you know about Andrew? Today, let us imagine someone like Andrew.
The first thing that can be said is that Andrew was Simon Peter’s kid brother. So I think of Andrew growing up in his brother’s shadow. Andrew was second fiddle, second chair, second best. Anytime the two brothers would play games, who would chose the game to be played? Simon Peter. When a joke is being told, who is telling it? Simon Peter. When someone asked the two of them a question about fishing, who was the one who volunteered the answer immediately? Simon Peter. When you think about it, Andrew is always in the shadow of his older brother. Second chair, second fiddle, second choice. When you start to think about it, Andrew was left out. Let me explain. You have two brothers, James and John, sons of thunder and then there were the other two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew. The big three disciples were Peter, James and John, and Andrew was not included in the list. Where was Andrew on the Mount of Transfiguration? Where was Andrew at the Garden of Gethsemane? Andrew wasn’t there. When you think about it, Andrew was kind of left out. Why? Because Andrew was the man in the middle, the five talent man.
So today’s sermon is another Biblically based sermon and I would like to tell you three stories from the life of Andrew. All three stories about Andrew are on the same theme.
Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was out there in the wilderness near the Jordan River, some fifty miles from the capital of Jerusalem. He was like a religious hermit; he was a super strict Jew. No dancing. No smoking. No women. No nothing. All he was doing out there in the wilderness was praying to God. John the Baptist was a super strict Jew. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist.
Jesus had come out into the wilderness and had been baptized by John the Baptist. John the Baptist pointed to Jesus, and said, “Andrew. There is the one. Right there. The one who is walking there. I just baptized him. He is the one. He is the lamb of God and he will change the whole world.” John the Baptist said this in such a way that Andrew was given permission not to follow John the Baptist but to go and follow Jesus.
Andrew approached Jesus and Jesus asked him a question: “What are you looking for?” Now, this is not just a casual question. In John’s gospel, everything has a double meaning, and the question had this meaning. “Andrew, what are you really looking for in life? Andrew, what do you really want out of life? Andrew, what is the core of what you need to make you a happy, contented person? What are you looking for?”
Andrew responded to that question with another question. “Where are you staying?” That question does not mean, “Are you staying at the Motel Six? Are you staying at the Holiday Inn? The Ramada?” You need to look at the double meaning. You need to look at the Greek word which is “menei.” The question means this: “Where are you living, Jesus? What lives inside of you? What is it that gives you such life inside of you?”
Jesus answered, “Come and see.” And the word, “see,” is meaningful. The Greek word is not “blepo” which means come and physically see. Bu the Greek word is “orapo” which is not physical sight but spiritual insight. Do you see can mean sight. Do you see can mean insight. Jesus was saying, “Come and see what you are really looking for.”
Andrew spent the whole day with Jesus and it got to be about four o’clock in the afternoon. The story suggests that Jesus, his friends, and Andrew spent the whole night together. Andrew had twenty-four hours with Jesus. What did they talk about? We don’t know what was said, but something happened in that twenty-four hours that Andrew, being in the presence of God, being in the presence of the Holy Spirit, being in the presence of Jesus, something happened inside of Andrew. He was transformed. Andrew became a disciple of Jesus Christ.
The first thing the next morning, what did Andrew do? Andrew went and found his big brother, the big brother to whom he had played second string, second fiddle, second chair. Andrew must not have resented his big brother too much because the first thing he did in the morning was to go and find Peter. The Bible says, and I quote, “Andrew brought Simon to Jesus.” What a wonderful line. Listen again. “Andrew brought Simon to Jesus.”
Andrew did not try to convert his brother. Andrew did not try to change his brother or convince his brother. Andrew knew that if he brought his brother into the presence of Jesus, that his brother could be transformed just the way that he, Andrew, had been transformed by Christ. That is what happened. Andrew brought his brother to Jesus and Simon gave his life to Christ.
So in this first story about Andrew, we find that Andrew, this five talent man, this man in the middle, had this gift, this knack of introducing people to Jesus Christ. He introduced his brother to Jesus Christ.
So now let us move onto the second story.
It is the story of two Greek people, of Greek nationality. I am not sure if you realize but Jerusalem was on a major highway. Just as you can take I-5 all the way from Seattle to Los Angeles, and Seattle is on a major freeway; so also Jerusalem was on the major road from Rome to Egypt. People from all over the world were going to and through Jerusalem on the way to Rome or on the way to Egypt. It so happened that two Greeks were there and were listening to Jesus preach. They came up after the sermon and approached Phillip and said, “We would like to meet Jesus.” What did Phillip do? He took the two Greeks over to Andrew, and he said, “Would you introduce them to Jesus?” Andrew introduced those two Greek people to Jesus and they became disciples of Christ.
So we find the second story is on the same theme: that is, Andrew was that person who introduced people to Jesus Christ.
So let’s approach the third story. Do you remember the little boy who had five loaves of bread and two fish? We have to recreate this story in our imagination. Would you all please go with me up to the Masonic Home there on Marine View Drive, with the big lawn looking out over Puget Sound? There are five thousand people sitting on that lawn, on the green grass, looking out over the waters of Puget Sound. This setting is similar to the scene of Jesus feeding the five thousand, on a hill, over looking the Sea of Galilee. Jesus has finished his sermon, and there were no 7-11s, Albertson’s or Safeway around in that part of the wilderness. But the people needed to be fed. Remember that there was a little boy with five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus took the bread, broke it, distributed it to the five thousand and there were twelve baskets left over. Now, what part of the story did I leave out? What part of that story is almost always left out? I left out the part of the story of how the little boy got to Jesus. The little boy was probably in the back of the crowd. Who brought the little boy from the back of the crowd to the front of the crowd? Who was it out there in the crowd, looking into the basket of this little boy? It was Andrew. It is always Andrew. Andrew had been talking with this little boy and he said, “I would like you to meet Jesus.” Andrew brought the little boy into the presence of Jesus and it was Jesus who transformed his little life and his five loaves of bread.
So the sermon for today is not about Simon Peter who preached a great sermon and three thousand were converted in one day. The sermon for today is not about James, the great leader of the ancient Jewish church in Jerusalem, one of the greatest leaders that the church has ever seen. The sermon for today is not about John, the philosophical mind, who wrote the Gospel of John which ultimately has touched billions of people.
No, today’s sermon is about the bus driver, the van driver, the butcher, the barber, the clerk at the grocery story, the clerk at the bank. The story for today is about the man in the middle who introduces people to Jesus Christ.
I would like to suggest to you that throughout the history of the church that there have been 10,000 Andrews for every one Peter, James and John. There are always 10,000 people in the middle for every Peter, James and John. These people in the middle are absolutely essential to make our nation work, and these people in the middle are absolutely essential to make our church work.
I have been thinking: Who could be my illustration today? Who can be my Andrew?
I am thinking of a seventh grade confirmation student and her name is Carley Marchitto. Carley brought these three new friends to confirmation. These three friends did not belong to the church nor did their parents. But these three girls did their homework, read their Bibles every night, marked in their Bibles every night, and learned their study material for quizzes and tests. These three girls became part of confirmation, part of our Christian community, part of people who learned about Christ through the community and through their reading of the Bible. Now, when it is all said and done, I am not sure if Carley will ever preach a sermon and three thousand will be converted. I am not sure if she will be elected president of her large congregation in Seattle. I am not sure if she will ever write a theological discourse that will be read by millions and billions of people. But as she grows up, she already knows what it means to be an Andrew. She has introduced her friends to the presence of Christ. She brought her friends to the place where she felt Jesus Christ was present, just like Andrew brought his friends to the place where Jesus Christ was present. Here in the confirmation class. Here in the retreats. Here in the Scriptures. When her friends came into the confirmation class, into the retreats, into the Scriptures, she knew her friends would meet Jesus. If there was any converting going on, Jesus would do it.
Why did she bring her three fields to confirmation? Because of guilt? Get real. Because there was some kind of pressure? Get real. Why? Because she herself knows the Lord and she wants her friends to know the Lord as well. That is just the way she is. She knows that is the way Christians are. When you know the Lord, you want to bring people so they can know the Lord also.
The good news and the bad news. Do you want the good news first and then the bad news or the bad news first and then the good news? Good news. Bad news.
The good news. The other day I received an email from Ruth. In this email, she told me that she practiced what she called “quiet evangelism.” Ruth took the postcard from Grace Lutheran Church about our Sunday before Christmas, about the Voices of Christmas and our Christmas play. Ruth left the church invitational postcard on the counter in her office, right next to the office copying machine. Sure enough, someone copied the invitation and came to church all alone on December 23rd. Ruth was surprised to see her friend from work and went over to sit with her. The friend enjoyed herself. …. The friend also expressed an interest in the Biblical course that Ruth was taking in the four gospels. In fact, this woman wanted a copy of the four gospels and Ruth gave it to her for a Christmas present. This friend’s email, which I have permission to quote, say that “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John will become my close friends.” Here is a woman who does not belong to our church, who takes a course about the four gospels on the Internet, who receives a Bible as a Christmas gift, and says that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John will become her best friends. Cool, eh?
I doubt if Ruth will ever preach a sermon and three thousand will become converted in one day. I doubt if she will ever be elected president of her congregation and be known as the best leader that church ever had. I doubt if Ruth will ever write a religious book and her book will nourish millions and billions of people. But I am sure of this: Ruth knows what it means to be an Andrew, to introduce someone to Jesus Christ. Ruth felt as if she was bringing her friend to the place where Jesus Christ was present; in our worship services, in our Bible classes, in our loving community, and into the Bible so that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John could become her best friends.
Now, why did Ruth extend an invitation to her friend. Because of guilt? Get real. Because of pressure? Come on. No, she invited her friend because she wanted her friend to experience the presence of Christ in the Word and in the community.
You see, as with Andrew in the Bible, we are to bring people into the Presence of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ lives in his Word, and this woman will become close to Christ.
What the Church of Christ needs today is 10,000,000 Andrews to bring people into the presence of Christ. What Grace Lutheran Church of Des Moines Washington needs is a thousand Andrews.
The bad news? Well, there is bad news, at least from my point of view.
The bad news? Our average worship attendance dropped more than 10% last year. Why is our worship attendance down so much for this past year?
The bad news? Pastor O’Neal informs me that our first time visitors is down nearly 50% from the previous year. If our first time visitors are down, so is the attendance at our new member class.
The bad news? The new members for our new member class used to number 25-40 people and now it is 12-15 people.
The bad news. At my adult membership class the other night, a woman showed up. We asked how she found Grace and she just had. She was surprised to see so many of her neighbors belonged to this church and she saw them on Sunday morning. She never knew that they were members of Grace Lutheran Church.
Andrews. The world needs Andrews. This and every congregation needs Andrews. The Church and the world out there cannot survive without Andrews. For every one Peter, James and John, there are 10,000 Andrews. You need to be an Andrew who brings people to meet Jesus Christ. Amen.
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