30 November 2010:
Saint Andrew the Apostle
Isaiah 52: 7-10; Psalm 19: 1-6; Romans 10: 12-18; Matthew 4: 18-22.
May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Sunday marked the beginning of the New Church Year. We marked it in Christ Church Cathedral, where we celebrated the First Sunday of Advent at the Cathedral Eucharist and with the Advent Procession.
Although we are using red today, the seasonal liturgical colours have changed from green to violet, we have lit the first candle on the Advent Wreath, and we have turned to the Year A readings in the Lectionary.
But in the midst of change and in the midst of new beginnings, it is important to maintain the link between Saint Andrew and Advent, the beginning of the Church Year. For Saint Andrew is the first-called of the Apostles, the patron saint of mission work. And without mission, there is no church, without discipleship how can people live in the Advent hope, be prepared for the coming of Christ?
Last Wednesday, the mission agencies were represented in strength at our Community Eucharist, and their packs reminded us of the vital link between mission and ministry, the vital link between mission and the Church.
In my work with mission agencies, I have constantly been engaged in that question about the link between mission and the Church. Which came first, the chicken or the egg, church or mission?
The Apostle Andrew may not have realised that he was preparing for the coming of Christ, the Advent of Christ. He was a fisherman, working on the Lake of Galilee with his brother Simon Peter. But he was a disciple of John the Baptist, and as we are going to be reminded once again in next Sunday’s Gospel reading, John the Baptist was the forerunner, the one who prepared the way for the coming of Christ.
In hearing the call of Christ to follow him in the Fourth Gospel, Andrew hesitated for a moment, not because he had any doubts about his call, but because he wanted to bring his brother with him. Recognising his duty to bring others to Christ, he went to Peter and told him: “We have found the Messiah … [and] he brought Simon to Jesus” (John 1: 41, 42).
In answering our call to ministry and mission, we must not forget those who are closest to us, those in our families and those who have worked with us.
But, at the same time, like Andrew, we must be happy about leaving behind the nets of yesterday and not getting caught up in them.
Caught up in the minutiae of commercial life and shopping the other day, I once noticed how they were selling cinnamon-flavoured hot cross buns in Marks and Spencer in Dundrum at the beginning of November. Hot cross buns! At this time of the year? Hot cross buns with a sell-by and best-before date of 29 November!
And yet there is a direct connection. In the end, this first Apostle’s life reached its climax when he met his death through crucifixion. He may have left behind no Gospel or Epistles. But Andrew, the first-called of the Apostles, literally took up his cross and followed Jesus. And he called others to do the same.
Christmas is meaningless without looking forward to the Cross and the Resurrection. Mission and Church must always go together. And this morning Saint Andrew, the first-called of the Apostles, reminds us of the meaning of our call to ministry and mission.
And so, may all praise, honour and glory be to God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This sermon was preached in the chapel at the Eucharist on Tuesday 30 November 2010.
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