Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Festival of St. Andrew, Apostle

Matthew 4:18-22; Romans 10:8-18

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St. Andrew the Apostle was crucified on an x-shaped cross on November 30, 60 A.D. during the reign of Roman Emperor Nero. Legend has it that the Holy Spirit converted a Roman Governor’s wife to the Christian faith through Andrew’s preaching. The Governor was so enraged that he did not have Andrew nailed to the cross, but, rather, bound tightly in order to prolong his suffering. Perhaps it is only a coincidence that St. Andrew’s cross also resembled the Greek letter chi, the first two letters of the title Christ. Thus, St. Andrew was crucified and died a martyr for Christ upon that blessed letter and symbol. Today, the image of St. Andrew’s x-shaped cross is emblemized upon the flag of Scotland, of which nation St. Andrew is her patron saint.
Originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist, St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, was the first disciple to be called by Jesus to follow Him. It was Andrew who told his brother Peter about Jesus, and both brothers became His disciples. In Scriptural lists of Jesus’ disciples and Apostles, St. Andrew always appears in the top four, along with Peter, John, and James. At the Feeding of the Five Thousand, it was Andrew who answered Jesus saying, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” A few days before Jesus’ death, when some Greeks asked that they might see Jesus, Phillip referred the matter to Andrew as to one of greater authority, and then they both went and told Jesus.
The call of St. Andrew appears in all four Gospels. In each account it is Jesus who first sees and calls, and Andrew and the others who respond and leave what they are doing and follow Him. In first century Judaism, discipleship was, literally, the beginning of a new life. Whatever defined you before – relationships, vocations, social status, etc. – was left behind as one assumed the role of a disciple, a student, and followed their rabbi, their teacher. Jesus often indicated this radical change in life and in vocation by giving His disciples new names: Levi became Matthew; Simon became Peter; Saul became Paul. Sometimes Jesus spoke of the disciples’ change in vocation: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This is consistent with significant events in the Old Testament when Abram became Abraham and Jacob became Israel.
Such a change in name and vocation continues to happen in Christ’s Church today. When you were baptized, you literally died with Jesus and were born again in Him. In the Church’s baptismal liturgy, the question is asked, “How is this child to be named?” indicating that a radical change has occurred and that a new spiritual person has been born. This new man needs a name. Also included in the baptismal liturgy is a three-fold renunciation of the devil and all his works and all his ways. This was particularly meaningful in the early Christian Church for nearly everyone was a convert from either Judaism or paganism. Baptismal candidates understood that, by becoming a Christian, they were dying to their former life and committing themselves to a new life in the way of Christ. Becoming a Christian often meant being ostracized from their families and friends, loss of career and income, and even being fined, arrested, and, potentially, executed.
Fortunately for you today, the cost of your Christian discipleship is exceedingly less. However, there is an unseen cost in terms of temerity of faith, treating God’s grace cheaply, and becoming complacent and lukewarm about your faith. The Lutheran pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about this in his book The Cost of Discipleship saying, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” Truly, because of your sinful concupiscence, you need a little trial and tribulation, a little suffering and persecution in order to keep your faith refined, pure, and strong. Indeed, faith is strongest in times of persecution, and all signs are that your Christian faith is less accepted and tolerated in our culture today than even ten years ago, and considerably less than fifty years ago. You may see this as a blessing in disguise, for the Lord is calling you to more faithful discipleship, to die to the world, to your flesh and to its sinful desires and passions, and to live to Christ.
Only the LORD through His Word can create faith in your hearts. Only the LORD through His Word can call you from death to life. Only the LORD through His Word can make you His disciple. Only the LORD through His Word can preserve and keep you as His disciple through times of plenty and times of lean, through times of peace and contentment and times of sorrow, persecution, and tribulation. However, do you hear His Word and receive His gifts? For, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ,” and “with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Therefore, let us follow the example of St. Andrew and all the Apostles and countless saints before us and leave our nets and follow Jesus in heart and life. Let us daily die to our flesh and the world in humility and repentance and live to Christ. He who has begun this good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ. Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly. Come.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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