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Friday, February 15, 2013

Telling Simon

I am the rector of St. Andrew's Church. There is a small banner which hangs in our sanctuary. It has our name on it. On the back side, in stitiched lettering, it tells of Andrew finding the Messiah and telling his brother Simon about Him. Each year (the last few years) on Ash Wednesday, I flip the banner around . It is a visual cue to all who enter the church that we have a mission. This year I flipped it around and moved it to a more prominent place. Now it is viewed throughout the entire service by the entire congregation.

Now, I have shared the regular experience of having Morning and Evening Prayer lectionary readings connecting with things I teach or preach on a day or two before. It happened again this week, though I did not write about it. I alluded to a Scripture (like the author of Hebrews I often find myself saying, "somewhere it says...") which we read the next day. These amazing connections are a sign of God at work, as I see it. The lectionary and psalms are predetermined and run in cycles. The law of averages says that such coincidences would be far more rare. So when I reference a Scripture when teaching and the next day it pops up in the service I am doubly aware. Aware of the content and aware of the God who weaves the word into our lives.

On Ash Wednesday I preached on our purpose as church. The reason we exist is to tell people about Jesus and then draw them into the fellowship. The fellowship is disciples (followers). Telling folks is being apostles (sent). The word 'evangelize' is overwhelming to most of my folks. They are not sure exactly what it is they are supposed to be doing. And there is reason for that. I was on a website six months ago where the question was asked, "What is the Gospel?" The variety of answers was stunning. Everyone has their own take. Lets make it clear, there is not a great deal of clarity. Be that as it may, there is still much common ground. While we are not all in the same room of the same house; we are certainly in the same neighborhood, and at worse same town. There is much in common despite our differences. The story of Andrew, which I preached on, is one such a common feature and, therefore, a good starting place to talk about evangelizing.

My paraphrase: Andrew was with John the Baptist [Note well, this story is very different from Mark where Jesus calls them from their nets.] Andrew is probably relatively young, perhaps in his teens or early twenties. There is no filler story on Andrew's  discipleship relationship with John. It is just stated that he is a disciple (and I bet darn few of us ever remember that tidbit). We do not know very much about Andrew. What we know is John says, "Look there is the Lamb of God." So Andrew follows Jesus. Now, one can assume there was all manner of instruction prior to the event and that there well could have been more discussion than the Fourth Gospel records. The brief outline is intended to move the story along, and the multiple meanings of the text invite the reader to reflect deeply on what few words we have. Jesus asks Andrew "what do you seek?" On one level it is another way of asking, "What do you want?" It is also raising the question of our purpose in life. What do we seek, we humans so busy with so many things? What does our heart hunger for? The word  seek (zeite in Greek) occurs 121 times in the NT, 33 of them in John (The other three Gospel Mk9x, Mt 14x, Lk 27x--Lk has the most common features with John). The last appearance of the word is in the Garden, on Easter morning, when Jesus asks Mary "whom do you seek?" So the motiff of seeking can be read at a deeper level.

Andrew responds, "Where do you dwell?" The Greek meno means to stay, to abide, to dwell, to not depart, to remain, etc. John uses it 34 times, once again over a fourth of the total NT usages and three times as many as the other three Gospels combined (11). There is frequent reference to Jesus abiding in the Father, believers abiding in Jesus, or Jesus abiding in believers. So a deeper meaning is also possible here.

Andrew goes and sees. And he decides that Jesus is the Messiah, that he has met The One whom God sent to free (redeem, save) His people. So Andrew goes home to his brother and says, "Simon, you will never guess whom I met!" He had the same excitement that we would have when we see a famous personality.  He had the same excitement that we have when something interesting happens and we want to share.

"I met the Messiah!" I met the One promised of God long ago. I met the One who will save us from our sins (teh Lamb of God). And Andrew invited Simon to meet Him, too.

That is preaching the Gospel, or to use more normal language, that is announcing to someone else some remarkable information. Preach or announce or tell---the verbs do not matter. Gospel or Good News or just plain "something pretty cool"---the noun does not matter. What matters is that we met Jesus, we encountered Him, that we believe He is The One, and so we tell others. We tell people when we find a good deal on shoes or tickets to a movie. We tell people about interesting occurences with weather, or our kids, or our team. We tell all manner of people all manner of things about all manner of people, places, things and events. We are always sharing something. So IF Jesus is Messiah and we know that, should we not share that story as well?

That was in my Ash Wednesday homily (or sermon). And the next day I read the Gospel of the day and it was about John the Baptist. And I read the Gospel assigned for today and it was the exact same story, the story of Andrew meeting Jesus. And on Friday in Lent we gather after Morning Prayer to discuss the readings. So we will do that and I already know that it will tie into my preaching and tie into our mission focus and it will tie into our banner and once again God weaves His web and I am amazed.
How does He do that?

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